Author Archives: AFLFanZone

Warren Smith Jr. “Jacks” the Valor

Atlantic City came into town with their backup QB starting, riding a 3 game losing streak and on the outside looking in for the playoff race. Washington came into the game needing a win to secure their playoff spot. Two opposing forces met on the field and a dynamic result is what we got.

The prodigal son returns, Warren Smith Jr. comes back to D.C. as the opposing QB starting against his old team and he would not disappoint. Lots of streaks would come to an end on this night and D.C. would be on the wrong end of all them.

3 game losing streak for A.C. snapped. Blackjack defense gives up points on every drive of the year snapped as they stop the Valor offense on multiple occasions on the night. Washington defense holding opponents to less than 70? Yeah that streak is gone too.

After the first half, which was a horse race of its own, we would see the game score at 35 to 28 with Atlantic City holding the lead and the Valor getting the second half kickoff with a chance to tie it up. Only that didn’t happen. What did happen though was the Warren Smith Jr. show and man was it a show.

Last year Smith played QB for the Valor and lost his starting job to current Valor QB Arvell Nelson, but still went on to win a ring with the team in the ArenaBowl last year. I have been a fan of Smith for a long time and it pains me as a Valor fan to see him have the night he did, but also I am very happy for him getting the recognition and love he deserves in this 3 game stretch, 2 of which were starts.

Smith lit up the Valor defense, going 22 of 28 on passing for 209 yards and 5 TDs with no INTs and he even did it on the ground adding 2 more TDs and 15 yards rushing. While Smith was doing Smith things, Nelson and the Valor would fold in on themselves and watch their playoff hopes take a serious hit. Nelson would throw 3 interceptions and the Valor defense would give up 70 points for the first time this year.

With the final score being 70 to 41, and the Blackjacks taking the win home with them, the .500 Valor have to find a way to rebound and get a win against their beltway rivals after their bye week. After the game there was some serious bad air around the Valor locker room. While waiting for post game interviews, I heard many not safe for work words, they may have not been safe for anywhere. Coach Benji McDowell, who is usually stone-faced and quiet in his demeanor, was loud and outgoing with his resulting anger over the Valor play on the night.

When asked, Valor WR Epps said ” We didn’t pay attention to the film the way we should have, we expected to be given a win and it didn’t happen that way.” Usually the coach is the first to give the media an interview but he would be the last on this night as he would have to walk off the anger he had after the slap in the face that the Blackjacks gave the Valor on their own home floor.

Sitting at 5-5 on the season, the bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for the Valor. Up next is a road game to Royal Farms Arena to face their beltway rivals, the Baltimore Brigade. It is a must win if the Valor want to control their own fate in the playoff race. Don’t despair Valor Nation as it was a bad game, but it was just a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things.

Arvell Nelson’s MVP hopes took a massive hit with this game throwing 3 INTs, but he still sits in 2nd with total TDs and leads the league in rushing yards and rushing TDs. Can the Valor rebound and get a win in Baltimore? Can they punch their playoff ticket without outside help? These are questions that will have to be answered in the coming weeks after the bye week. As always, be loud, be proud and be a Valor fan. Cheer on my friends!

New Horizons: Five Former AFL Franchises that Should Return Soon

by Richard Martin

Earlier this week, executives in the Arena Football League announced that during this year’s ArenaBowl broadcast on August 11, the AFL would be announcing their expansion plans

This is huge news for all Arena Football fans as the league looks to take more steps forward into former glory. At one point the AFL had teams all across the nation and even a minor league, the af2, before collapsing and cutting down to just four teams at one point.

While fans will welcome expansion teams with open arms, look at the crowds at Albany Empire games, several fans are wanting their former favorite teams to return.

Let’s take a quick look at five potential AFL franchises that could return next season or in the future.

Nashville Kats

The league is looking to expand in the Northeast, but hear me out.

If the AFL adds the new Northeast franchise and then adds the Nashville Kats, you could have two divisions, east and west, of four teams each.

Also, adding Nashville breaks the league back into the South without going too far away from the most Western team at the moment, Columbus.

Finally, Nashville is a bustling metropolis with a lot of fun music and downtown life. Just look at the crowds at the 2019 NFL Draft and for the NHL Stanley Cup games a few years ago. The Titans have also been successful and have a passionate fan base. Why not do that with the Kats?

This feels the least likely of all expansion teams because it hinges on the announcement in August. But it would be fun to have an AFL team back in the South.

New York Dragons

New York has been successful with many AFL teams calling the state home

Albany has been able to draw crowds and produce, but unlike Atlantic City and Philadelphia or Baltimore and Washington, they don’t have a great geographic rival. So why not a cross state rivalry with Albany and Long Island?

Plus, the Dragons uniforms and color scheme were amazing and I would love to see a modern approach to the original design.

Chicago Rush

The Rush have a perfect set up in one of the best sports cities in America, that it makes too much sense not to bring them back.

There are about 14 sports arenas in the Chicago area it seems. In reality, the team succeeded in Rosemont, Illinois, with large crowds and a fun team to watch.

This could also bring the AFL more into the Midwest and become a gateway of possible Western expansion for the league.

Grand Rapids Rampage

After the XFL and AAF announced their team locations, several fans in the Detroit area were disappointed that their city wasn’t announced as a finalist. A small, but passionate fan base did bring up a possible return of the Grand Rapids Rampage.

While not the largest city in the AFL, Grand Rapids wouldn’t have much competition and seem to have a solid fan base.

Add in a potential rivalry with Columbus to create an old school Ohio vs Michigan feud.

Cleveland Gladiators

This makes the most sense out of all of these teams.

The league was successful in Cleveland, and with one team already in the state of Ohio, the league could look to going back to Cleveland.

It’s a safe move, which would be good for the league’s future. The Cleveland-Columbus rivalry could be fun and the return of the Philadelphia-Cleveland battles will be a treat for long time fans.

Whether the league looks to resurrect an old franchise, add a team from another league, or add their own expansion team in a completely different city, Arena Football fans should be excited about the future of the AFL.

Stat Pack Attack: The Valor Keep Playing Stupid Games and I Love It

by Richard Martin

Richard Martin

This week was another wild week in the Arena Football League. Philadelphia gave Columbus another heartbreaking loss, Albany and Atlantic City broke the scoreboard, more on that later, and Washington and Baltimore may have had the dumbest and craziest ending to a football game I’ve seen in a while.

Last Thursday, tied at 35, the Valor went for a field goal with under 20 seconds left to give them a narrow three point lead over the Brigade. The kick was up…and missed off the irons! But Josh Reese was composed enough to pick up the live ball and scramble into the endzone for one of the craziest wins in the Valor’s short history.

Add in the come from behind win against Columbus earlier in the year, this is a Washington team that understands the importance of finishing the drill and continuing to play hard no matter the score, which could make them dangerous come playoff time.

Week 9 Results
Washington 42 Baltimore 35
Albany 63 Atlantic City 61
Philadelphia 42 Columbus 35

Almost Conquered

The Albany Empire have been the unstoppable force in the AFL this season. With one loss and just three games left, the Empire can claim the number one overall seed with a win this week. Meanwhile, spots two through four all have teams sitting at a 5-4 record. Atlantic City sits two games out of the final playoff spot at 3-6, and Columbus is in last at 1-8.

Standings (As of June 22, 2019)

Albany*                    8-1
Washington             5-4
Philadelphia             5-4
Baltimore                 5-4
Atlantic City             3-6
Columbus                1-8

*Clinched a Playoff Berth

Run It Up

No, that Albany-Atlantic City score is not a typo. The Blackjacks and Empire did combine for 124 points last week.

Warren Smith finished 24-for-34 for 329 yards and seven touchdowns for Atlantic City, while Tommy Grady wen 18-for-27 for 229 and seven touchdowns for Albany.

And while Malachi Jones continued his stellar season with nine receptions for 114 yards and two touchdowns, teammate Quentin Sims was the hot target, with seven receptions for 91 yards and five touchdowns.

Kendrick Ings struggled for A.C. with just two catches for 20 yards, but Antwane Grant went off with 11 receptions for 177 yards and four touchdowns.

While these stats and the final score is impressive, the 124 combined points isn’t even in the top 15 of most combined points in AFL history. That distinction belongs to the game in this week’s League Lookback.

League Lookback: The Highest Scoring Game in AFL History

The Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings and Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz were two teams left over from the af2 that found themselves in the new AFL in 2010. While each team would relocate after one season and were just a blip on the radar in the entire history of the Arena Football League, they gave us a night to remember on May 8, 2010.

That night, at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 4,775 fans saw the Yard Dawgz come from behind to knock off the Battle Wings 88-79. This was not a basketball game folks. This was an arena football game.

For a while, it looked like the Wings were going to run away with it, up 33-14 after the first quarter. But the Dawgz defense stepped up and Bossier-Shreveport didn’t score more than 20 points in any of the remaining three quarters of football.

OKC would take their first lead of the game with 4:02 left in the third quarter, but the Battle Wings would take it right back. Things looked dire for the Yard Dawgz as they trailed 79-75 with under 10 seconds left. But Timon Marshall would return a missed field goal 56 yards to give OKC the lead with four seconds left on the clock. Add in a David Hyland fumble return for a touchdown, and the Yard Dawgz would win the game 88-79.

The losing QB was Ray Philyaw, who on any other night would’ve had an MVP performance, going 29-for-38 for 355 yards and nine touchdowns. The winning QB was, who else, Tommy Grady, who went 34-for-42 with an astonishing 430 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Four receivers went for over 100 yards and caught at least four touchdowns. PJ Berry lead the Wings with 12 receptions for 173 yards and four TDs, while OKC was lead by Anthony Hines who finished with 11 receptions for 137 yards and four scores of his own.

Folks, I need to watch this game. The only video online I could find was one of Al Hunt’s four touchdown grabs. If anyone has any video, digital, DVD, heck even VCR tape of this game, contact AFL Fan Zone however you can because this game needs to be revisited and documented.

Game of the Week: Albany Empire at Philadelphia Soul

We’re getting to the point of the season where every game is important, but this one has an edge to it.

The Soul have been very up and down this season, at one point finding themselves under .500 for the first time in four years. This team is still dangerous, as they’ve rattled off two straight impressive wins over the lower half of the league.

The Empire will always be a tough team with Malachi Jones and Tommy Grady leading the offense. But after the way the defense has played the past few weeks, Dan Raudabaugh may be looking to show that he’s still one of the top QBs in the AFL.

This Week’s Games

June 28, 2019
Columbus Destroyers (1-8) @ Baltimore Brigade (5-4) – 7:00 PM

June 29, 2019
Albany Empire (8-1) @ Philadelphia Soul (5-4) – 3:30 PM
Atlantic City Blackjacks (3-6) @ Washington Valor (5-4) – 7:00 PM