Author Archives: AFLFanZone

Stat Pack Attack: Fumbles O’Brian

Week Four is in the books in the Arena Football League, and the Albany Empire have established they dominance as the only undefeated team left in the league.

Columbus has struggled this season, currently the only team without a win, while the other four teams in the league sit at 2-2, which could lead to interesting seeding scenarios for what could be an extremely fun postseason.

This week, Arena Football made it’s first appearance in Columbus, Ohio for the first time in 11 years, Washington and Philadelphia had an absolute shootout in the nation’s capital, and the Blackjacks rolled the dice to their second win in franchise history. Let’s dive in shall we?

Week Four Results:

Washington 53 Philadelphia 46
Atlantic City 48 Baltimore 41
Albany 56 Columbus 40

Nelson and Raudabaugh Light Up the Nation’s Capital

Arvell Nelson and Dan Raudabaugh almost blew the roof off the Capital One Arena with their fireworks. Raudabaugh went 19-of-26 for 7 TDs and 280 yards, while Nelson went 23-of-38 for 5 TD including a 46 yard strike to Josh Reese.

Meanwhile, Tommy Grady did Tommy Grady things for the Empire, going 22-of-32 for 320 yards and 7 TD. Grady also threw for his 800th career passing touchdown, giving him 805 total and moving him to sixth all time and just four touchdowns behind Andy Kelly and cracking into the top five.

Guerra is Good

Last week, I said that Dezmon Epps would need a huge week to help the Valor beat the Soul. I don’t know if he checks out AFL Fan Zone, but he was impressive, with 9 receptions for 113 yards. And while Epps didn’t have any touchdowns, his play helped free up the other Valor receivers like Reggie Gray who had four receptions for 58 yards and two touchdowns.

On the other side of the ball, the Soul receivers had a great day with Aaron Wascha and Darius Prince each finishing the game with 115 yards receiving and a combined five touchdowns. In fact, every player for Philadelphia who recorded a catch scored a touchdown.

In Atlantic City, Kendrick Ings of the Blackjacks and Brandon Collins of the Brigade both hit double digit receptions, with Ings having 10 receptions for 91 yards and two touchdowns, and Collins finishing with 10 receptions for 116 yards and two touchdowns.

And while Malachi Jones was fantastic for Albany, going for 10 receptions for 179 yards and three touchdowns, Fabian Guerra has established himself as wide receiver one in Columbus, going for 13 receptions for 202 yards and four touchdowns.

Guerra also added another kickoff return for a touchdown, giving him two on the year. The entire AFL had just two kickoff returns last season.

Rise of the Empire

While the final score of the Baltimore Brigade-Atlantic City Blackjacks game finished with a high score, there were three combined sacks and a defensive score as Nias Martin of Baltimore had a 26 yard interception return to get the Brigade back into the game in Atlantic City.

Once again, the Empire established their dominance, scoring 21 points off turnovers and spoiling the homecoming in Columbus. Speaking of Columbus Destroyers and turnovers…

Colfumblus

The Destroyers have had a rough go so far in their first season back in the Arena Football League. One of the reasons has been problems holding on to the ball, as Columbus has fumbled the ball eight times, losing the ball four times.

For the most part, it’s been the exchange between the quarterback and the center that has given the Destroyers issues, as over half of those eight fumbles have come in the exchange.

After giving up 21 points off turnovers this past week, the Destroyers will need to get some chemistry between the offensive line and the quarterback or else it will be a long season in Ohio

This Week’s Games

May 25, 2019
Washington Valor (2-2) @ Columbus Destroyers (0-4) — 3:30 PM
Albany Empire (4-0) @ Atlantic City Blackjacks (2-2) — 7:00 PM

May 26, 2019
Philadelphia Soul (2-2) @ Baltimore Brigade (2-2) — 3:30 PM

We Will Defend this House: The Valor home win that was more than a win

by Bee Jay Glosson

It started early and it happened often, scoring that is, lots of scoring and lots of action.

With the Soul winning the coin toss and deferring to the second half, the Valor would start the game with the ball and almost immediately with the lead. Less than 1 minute and 20 seconds into the game and the Valor would strike with the first touchdown, Arvell Nelson 7 yd pass to Jared Dangerfield. 

Not to be outdone though, the Soul in less than 3 minutes strike back with a touchdown of their own, but the kicker commits the ultimate sin and misses the extra point leaving the Valor with the lead 7-6.

That is how the night got started and that is exactly how the rest of the night would go. Back and forth the entire night with no team having a greater lead than 15 at anytime, it would be a game where we saw the 2 starting quarterbacks combine for 14 total touchdowns.

Even the 15 point lead didn’t last longer than 3 minutes, putting the game back within 8 and striking distance the rest of the game.

As exciting as the whole game was, in which we saw Arvell Nelson pass for over 300 yards and 5 touchdowns and another 29 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground, it would be the final minute of play that would give the fans their money’s worth and all the blood pressure raising moments that they could have hoped for. 

The Valor, leading 42-40 with 52 seconds left in the game, saw Pat Clarke kick a 30 yd field goal that cleared the nets and the uprights giving the Valor a 5 point lead and someone in the crowd a going home present in the form of a free ball.

With a 5 point lead and 52 seconds left, the game is over right? No, not even close. The Valor attempt an onside kick only to lose the attempt giving the Soul the ball on a short field. 

When asked after the game why they went for an onside kick in that position, head coach Benji McDowell stated ” We wanted to give ourselves a shot at getting the ball back and running out the clock or if that didn’t happen, to hopefully still have enough time to score at the end should the Soul get the ball and strike fast.” 

Strike fast they did. The Soul received the kick and then went on to score less than 30 seconds later giving them the lead 46-45 after a failed 2-point conversion, leaving just 23 seconds left on the clock for the Valor to try and win the game.

Down by 1 with 23 seconds left, the Valor line up on their own 4 for their final drive and  chance to win their second game in a row.

“This is what we play for, what we practice for, what we put these uniforms on for. This is the moment we live for as players” is how Arvell Nelson responded when questioned on what was going through his mind taking the field for that last drive. 

With a crowd over 6300, Capital One Arena was at its loudest, you had no doubt this would be a defining moment of the game. Then it happened. Nelson found Josh Reese running down the sideline. The Soul went for the pick instead of the tackle and Reese made them pay for it, taking it 46 yards to the house.

“I knew we could do it, it was a great pass from Arvell and we scored when we had to” Reese stated after the game on his winning catch.

The Soul would get a final shot at winning the game with just 6 seconds left but it would fall short. Valor winning the game 53-46.

Winning 2 regular season games in a row for the first time in franchise history, the Valor seem to be turning the corner and finding the high gear for the rest of the season. After all, the last time the Valor won 2 straight games they brought an ArenaBowl trophy home with them.

Jimmy Gordon was asked if this team is better than the championship team from last year, he responded, “Its hard to compare last year to this year. We have our core guys still and we are way more experienced, we know what we can do and we believe we will do it every play.”

courtesy @WashingtonValor

As great as the game was, not everything went smoothly for Valor personnel. As I was waiting to get in the media entrance before the game, Jake Payne was attempting to gain access to the arena when a security guard asked if he was media or something. I responded with “That’s Jake Payne, Valor player and ArenaBowl 31 champion” Jake turned around and said “See, he knows me!”  Asked if he had any I.D. to prove who he was, Jake responded with the most priceless quote of all time while holding his hand up “I’ve got a ring!” I literally started laughing out loud.  

All jokes aside, it was easily one of the most exciting games I have ever witnessed as a Valor fan. 

Next week the Valor travel to Columbus, Ohio to take on the winless expansion team, the Columbus Destroyers. 

Arvell Nelson has extended invitations to Ted Ginn Sr. and Jr., stating that “He has a special place in his heart for the pair and Columbus has a special place in their’s, and he looks forward to the chance to share that moment with them.”

One third of the way through the regular season the Valor sit at 2-2 on the season, in third place in the league. They control their own destiny, just win and keep winning is the motto. Tracy Belton in a candid moment after the game told me he thinks the Valor could honestly run the table the rest of the year, and you know what, I believe him.

With Arvell Nelson leading the league in pass yards (1121), rushing yards (94), rushing touchdowns (7) and overall touchdowns (24), there is no reason that they can’t. It’s a great time to be a fan, Go Valor.

Blackjacks knock off Brigade at Home, 48-41

By David Taylor

In Atlantic City, the home team Blackjacks were able to defeat the Baltimore Brigade 48-41 on Saturday. Atlantic moves to 2-2 overall and 2-0 at Boardwalk Hall. Atlantic scored first, on a Randy Hippeard to Lamarck Brown touchdown pass. Following that score, the two teams traded interceptions on three consecutive drives. The Blackjacks were finally able to capitalize off of the turnovers, and punched it in again to make it 13-0. By halftime, the score was 20-13 in favor of Atlantic City.

The second half began with a quarterback sack of Brigade quarterback Shane Boyd, resulting in a fumble and a Blackjack recovery. Atlantic City QB Randy Hippeard took advantage of the situation, putting the Blackjacks up 27-13. Hippeard finished the game 20-32 for 192 yards and four touchdowns. He was also intercepted twice.

Baltimore never led the entire contest. Quarterback Shane Boyd was harassed all game and was picked off twice and fumbled once. Boyd finished the game 22-33 for 236 yards and four touchdowns. Boyd’s turnovers seemed to come at the worst possible time, continuing to add momentum and energy to the Atlantic City crowd.

Notable Performances:

  • WR Joe Hills, Baltimore. Hills has now caught at least one touchdown pass in 96 consecutive games, an AFL record he breaks weekly.
  • WR Kendrick Ings, Atlantic City. Ings had 10 catches for 91 yards. He also added 77 return yards.

Up Next:

  • Atlantic City hosts the undefeated Albany Empire on May 25th at 7pm.
  • Baltimore hosts the Philadelphia Soul in a matchup of 2-2 teams. Kickoff is scheduled for 3pm on Sunday, May 26th.

AFL Week 4 Preview and Picks

by David Taylor

Week four is here! The top three teams hit the road this week to face the bottom three teams. Columbus will be making its home field debut this weekend, facing the AFL leading Albany Empire. Will the Destroyers get their first win? Our experts weigh in below:

Columbus finally gets a home game. Too bad the Destroyers are welcoming Albany as their first home opponent. The Empire enters the contest red hot. Last weekend, Albany was unstoppable against the Soul, scoring on every possession. Columbus struggled with offensive line play again, fumbling four snaps and losing two. Overall, Columbus turned the ball over three times. The highlight of the week for Columbus was a kick return for a touchdown. The Destroyers will have many opportunities to return kicks this week.

Player to Watch: WR Malachi Jones, Albany. Jones is leading the AFL in both receptions (23) and yards (350). He is tied at five for the league lead in touchdowns. He will cause all sorts of problems for Columbus.

Prediction: Empire 42, Destroyers 30

Atlantic City returns home after a tough loss last weekend. The Blackjacks are looking to build some momentum for the season, as this will be the first of a three-game homestand. Baltimore is coming in looking to continue their strong start to the season. The Brigade is leading the AFL in points per game (44.7).

Player to Watch: DB Joe Powell, Baltimore. Powell leads the lead with three interceptions so far this season. Blackjacks QB Randy Hippeard needs to avoid mistakes in order for the Blackjacks to triumph.

Prediction: Blackjacks 44, Brigade 43 in the upset of the weekend.

Philadelphia suffered its first loss of the season last weekend. Ironically, the Soul also tied a season-high for points scored in a game. Philadelphia is second in the league in scoring, and they will be facing a Valor team that is last in the league defensively. Washington is giving up 43 points per game. Also of note, over the last four seasons, the Soul is 9-2 in games following a loss.

Player to Watch: WR Lonnie Outlaw, Philadelphia. Outlaw set career highs in receptions and yards last week in the loss to Albany. Outlaw has taken advantage of his increased targets to become the go-to receiver for QB Dan Raudabaugh.

Prediction: Soul 44, Valor 41

Here’s the staff picks. Their season W/L records are in parenthesis.