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.
by Richard Martin
What’s up everybody? Welcome to a new weekly AFL blog that I like to call Stat Pack Attack.
If you’re wondering why I waited until after week three to start looking at stats, I wanted to get a more accurate look at the league after players had some competition and a few weeks to get use to their new coaches and players.
Every week, we’ll take a look at the passing, receiving and defensive stat leaders in the AFL, along with the strangest stat or most shocking stat of the week.
This week, the scoring was up and the special teams play lead to some interesting stats. So without further ado, let’s dive in.
Week Three Results:
Baltimore 42 Columbus 35
Albany 57 Philadelphia 42
Washington 41 Atlantic City 34
The Quarterback is arguably the most important position in the Arena Football League. So far this year, two QBs have stood above the crowd.
Tommy Grady has been in the league for years, winning two AFL MVPs and setting the league records for touchdowns, passing yards and completions in one season. This week, Grady was on fire, going 14-of-17 for 256 yards with seven touchdowns in Alabny’s 57-48 win over Philadelphia. Grady leads the league with 16 TDs and has passed for 732 yards.
Shane Boyd meanwhile has been phenomenal as well, going 24-of-44 with 287 yards and five touchdowns in the Baltimore Brigade’s 48-30 win over Columbus. Boyd this year has accounted for 15 touchdowns and just 1 interception.
The quarterback that has impressed me most however may be Arvell Nelson of Washington. While he’s thrown for just 12 touchdowns and has three interceptions, the Valor signal caller has thrown for 819 yards this season. He can thank one of the best receivers in the league for that.
Lamark Brown and Darius Prince have been impressive this year, each with six touchdowns this season.
But Dezmon Epps has surprised everyone in his first year in the league. Week one, Epps went for nine receptions for 201 yards and four touchdowns. Week two, he accounted for five receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown. This week, Atlantic City focused on Epps, holding the former Idaho Vandals star to just three receptions for 29 yards. Epps should be able to rebound, but he’ll need a big week to help the Valor take down Philadelphia.
James Romain has been the talk on defense this season. In week one, Romain had not one but two pick sixes in the Soul’s win over Atlantic City.
Joe Powell leads the league in interceptions with three, including one this week against Columbus.
In the tackling department, Monte Lewis of Atlantic City leads the league with three sacks, all three coming in week two against Columbus.
Stat of the Week
This week, there were two kickoff returns for touchdowns in the Arena Football League, a 55 yard return by Fabian Guerra from Columbus and a seven yard onside kick return for a touchdown by Albany’s Arkeith Brown.
While having two kickoff returns for touchdowns in one week is rare in any football league, it’s especially rare for the AFL, who had two total kickoff return touchdowns all last season.
This Week’s Games
May 18, 2019
Philadelphia Soul (2-1) @ Washington Valor (1-2) — 3:30 PM
Baltimore Brigade (2-1) @ Atlantic City BlackJacks (1-2) — 7:00 PM
Albany Empire (3-0) @ Columbus Destroyers (0-3) — 7:00 PM
All photos courtesy of official team Facebook and Twitter feeds.
by Bee Jay Glosson
Saturday night football in D.C. can only mean one thing, time to raise the banner. In front of a crowd of more than 8,000, the defending champions of Arena Bowl 31, the Washington Valor, gave the fans exactly what they wanted and needed. With a pre-game ceremony that saw the home team raise a championship banner into the rafters, celebrating what is and most likely always will be, the most improbable championship team in Arena history, the Valor gave the crowd everything it had.
With the Atlantic City Blackjacks in town, along with a couple former Valor players and coaches including QB Warren Smith Jr. and assistant head coach Shane Stafford, raising the banner and winning seemed to be a unspoken priority. The emotion of the ceremony carried over into the game as the Valor scored on their first drive and continued to score on every drive of the game except 1. If you still haven’t jumped on a MVP train, Arvell Nelson is the train you have been waiting on.
With 17 total touchdowns in 3 games, 5 of those being rushing touchdowns, Arvell Nelson leads the league in rushing and passing yards and also total touchdowns. He lead the Valor to 6 touchdown drives in 7 tries and no interceptions in the contest against the visiting Blackjacks. The Blackjacks tried to keep the game close the entire way but in the end, the Valor proved to be too much as they took the lead early in the first half and never gave it back for the rest of the game.
When asked about prior weeks mishaps, head coach Benji Mcdowell said ” I think we have gotten past that and I believe we are on the path to being a better team.” In which, is refreshing after the amount of turnovers on downs and interceptions (6) the Valor have given up inside the 7 yard line this year. Wide receiver Reggie Gray when interviewed stated that “the sky is the limit for this offense!”
Was the game a blowout? No. Was the game a close contest? Yes. The lead never stretched more than 14 and stayed within 7 points most of the game, making for a nail biting experience for the hometown fans as they cheered their beloved Valor on to a home opening win. Randy Hippeard, Atlantic City’s quarterback, took his squad to the endzone 5 times in the game, but that wasn’t enough to close the gap.
Arvell Nelson when asked about his MVP tempo on the year stated “I don’t think about stuff like that, I just do the little things needed to win and if the awards come at the end of the year, then I did my job.” He may not be thinking about the awards but he is certainly playing at a level that puts him at the top of the list when we think about the awards.
The Philadelphia Soul come into town next weekend, and it appears the Washington Valor are ready and waiting. As Philly has lost their first game of the season and Washington has won their first, this game sets up a streak breaker. Can the Valor win 2 in a row and cause the Soul to lose 2, or will the Valor lose their way and the Soul find a way to get back on track?
The fullback for the Valor, William Corbin, when asked said “This is an exciting time and we can’t wait to take the next step!” I agree with Mr. Corbin, and I hope you do too. So, with the banner raised, the first W in the books and the season a quarter of the way through, it’s exciting to be a fan of the AFL. Don’t forget to tune in this weekend as the Soul and Valor face off in their week 4 contest.