Tag Archives: Randy Hippeard

AFL Fan Zone Week 3 Power Rankings

PowerRankings0

By Kyle Sander | kyle.sander09@gmail.com
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on April 25, 2017 at 7:00 PM

 

After a subpar week two in the Arena Football League, there were two great matchups Saturday night. Although the better matchup on paper came via stream on arenafootballleague.com between the Soul and the Valor, the Storm and Gladiators stole the show on national television. Both games saw big deficits and great individual performances. I expect to see more of what we saw this past week the rest of the season. No one team is playing flawless football, but all five teams are showing flashes of beating anyone.

With that being said, how will Saturday’s games affect the power rankings (if any)? Well, let’s get right down to business. Here are AFL Fan Zone’s Week 3 Power Rankings:

  1. aflsoul Philadelphia Soul – (2-0) / LW: 1 / Week 3 – W at DC 49-31

There are times where stats can be misleading, this is one of those times. 18 points in an Arena Football League game may not sound like a lot, but when you take into account the Soul found themselves trailing 21-7 heading into the second quarter, you can see just how impressive their victory was on Saturday night. That means from the second quarter on, the defending Soul outscored the Valor 42-10. After struggling in Tampa Bay last week, the Soul took it to Erik Meyer and the boys in the nations capitol.

The season is still way too young to crown anyone a champion, but if this what we will be seeing from the Soul, you would be hard to find anyone betting against a repeat.  Next week four brings Philadelphia home for the first time in 2017 against the expansion Baltimore Brigade (1-1).

 

2. tjEJ1IjQ-fXZaFxLg Tampa Bay Storm – (2-1) / LW: 2 / Week 3 – W vs CLE 62-61

Much like the game in D.C., Tampa Bay found themselves down big early. Peaking at 27-7 Gladiators, Tampa Bay stormed back in front of the home crowd of just over 9,000 to a deficit of only five heading into halftime. For much of the first half, the Storm had no answer for quarterback Arvell Nelson and the Gladiators offense. Nelson didn’t throw an incomplete pass until late in the second quarter. Then, just like in any AFL game, the game flipped on a dime and the Storm scored 21 points in the final nine minutes of the second quarter.

Quarterback Randy Hippeard found superstar wide receiver Joe Hills early and often. This connection powered the Storm to a ten point lead in the fourth quarter. The Gladiators made a final push and actually took the lead, but with 28 seconds left in the game, it only took three plays for Tampa Bay to be inside the Cleveland five yard line and ultimately win number two.

The three headed monster that the Storm has put together at wide receiver is going to make Tampa Bay a tough out for everyone, including Philadelphia. All three top receivers for the Storm finished the game with at least 99 yards receiving. It is now Tampa Bay’s turn for a bye week before being back on CBS Sports Net for their clash at the Valor on Saturday May 20th.

 

3.  Valor Washington Valor – (1-1) / LW: 3 / Week 3 – L vs PHI 31-49

 

For just over a quarter Saturday night, the Valor showed shades of quarterback Erik Meyer’s former team in the San Jose Sabercats. Big plays and turnovers is what put the Valor up 21-7 heading into the sevoke quarter before the wheels came off. Erik Meyer finished the night with more turnovers than touchdowns. Whether it’s outdoor or arena football, it’s tough to win when the quarterback is turning over the ball as much as Meyer did Saturday. After missing an entire season, it’s hard to fault him for the mistakes, anyone who takes an entire year off from playing is going to be rusty.

He has shown time and time again in this league that he is a superstar at the quarterback position and with big play wide receivers like Mike Washington, T.T. Toliver, and Greg Carr, I don’t expect the Valor to repeat the goose egg they put up in the second half in week two.

The Valor head on the road for the first time this season in week three against the last place Cleveland Gladiators (0-3). Both teams are coming off losses, so expect to see an inspired matchup at the Q Saturday.

4. Baltimore Brigade Baltimore Brigade – (1-1) / LW: 4 / Week 3 – Bye

 

Baltimore saw their first bye of the season in week three, but even with them sitting out it seems there is a clear line starting to develop in the power rankings. The Brigade are starting the least experienced quarterback in the league which normally means the team is destined for the basement, but Shane Carden has shown to be a pleasant surprise in his first couple games. If he can continue to develop and Big Play Reggie Gray continues to show why he earned that nickname, the Brigade are the best option to spoil the party for the teams above them.

The best part of the bye week is teams get two weeks to prepare for their opponent. Unfortunately for the Brigade, they travel to Philadelphia in Week four and face off against the only undefeated team left in the AFL in their home opener on a night their Arena Bowl XXIX Championship is being honored. Stranger things have happened in the AFL, I wouldn’t chalk that game up to a blowout just yet.

5. glads Cleveland Gladiators – (0-3 ) / LW: 5 / Week 3 – L at TB 61-62

First, I want to say thank you to the Cleveland Gladiators for taking my advice on giving the keys to the offense back to quarterback Arvell Nelson. Even in the loss, Nelson far outplayed Shane Boyd (week one) and Tanner Marsh (week two). Of course I say that tongue in cheek, but if Cleveland has any chance to turn around the season its on the arm (and feet) of Nelson. Losing on the road by one point in the Arena Football League against a team that, let’s be honest, should’ve beat Philadelphia in week two, is very impressive. Cleveland lost Saturday night because they could not find an answer for Hills, that is going to happen again this year to more than just the Gladiators.

Even at 0-3, the Gladiators can look at the tape and be confident they can right the ship. If they can get their secondary back healthy again and Nelson continues to play lights out like he did Saturday, Cleveland will be right back into the thick of things. Week four sees the Gladiators host the 1-1 Washington Valor back at the friendly confines of the Quicken Loans Arena.

  1. Philadelphia Soul – 18 (2)
  2. Tampa Bay Storm – 17 (2)
  3. Washington Valor – 11
  4. Baltimore Brigade – 10
  5. Cleveland Gladiators – 4

()=First Place Votes


The AFL Fan Zone power rankings contributing members are:
Kyle Sander @ArenaFBOutsidrs, Scott Soares @AFLSlasher, Stephen Ur @writingfanatic2, Joran Palacio @Joran_Palacio16, Ryan Knowles @rykno52, and Jesse Mattson @LocalBigTime1

AFL Fan Zone Week 2 Power Rankings

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By Kyle Sander | kyle.sander09@gmail.com
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on April 18, 2017 at 6:30 PM

Before getting into the rankings, I want to bring up the horrible officiating in the Philadelphia at Tampa Bay game. What in the world was that? Between inadvertent whistles and blind reviews, that was NOT a good showing for the AFL. I believe the league will review that tape and make sure calls like the incomplete pass don’t happen again.

Now that I got that off my chest, let’s dive right into the power rankings!

  1. aflsoul Philadelphia Soul – (1-0) / LW: 2 / Week 2 – W at TB 56-52

Philadelphia entered the Amalie Arena as the defending Arena Bowl champions and at times looked every bit as good as the team that traveled to Arizona last August and unseated the Rattlers. But there were also times the rust was still very much a factor as Raudabaugh turned the ball over twice, one fumble and one interception.

This is still the team to beat after narrowly edging the Storm in their season debut. The Soul look to shake off more rust this Saturday as they travel to D.C. to take on the 1-0 Valor.

2. tjEJ1IjQ-fXZaFxLg Tampa Bay Storm – (1-1) / LW: 3 / Week 2 – L vs PHI 52-56

There is no way around it. The Storm got robbed Saturday night on national television. How the officials missed the review citing “No visual evidence” is atrocious and something the league should be looking in to. It was clear to everyone watching the game and even Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh that it was a backwards pass and should’ve been a touchdown on the field, but at least Tampa ball due to the play being called dead.

Not a lot of people felt the Storm was even going to put up the fight they did against the Soul. Most would’ve said it would take a magical night by Randy Hippeard and Joe Hills, but it was actually Kendrick Ings who stole the show. Ings finished the game with three touchdowns, two receiving and one kick return. Ings is proving once again how much of a mismatch he truely is and as long as the offense in Tampa Bay stays healthy, Ings will continue to be more and more of a factor.

Tampa Bay will welcome the reeling Cleveland Gladiators in week three, a rematch of week one when Tampa Bay edged the Gladiators 46-40 at the Quicken Loans Arena.

3.  Valor Washington Valor – (1-0) / LW: 1 / Week 2 – Bye

After thoroughly disposing of the Brigade in week one, the Valor enjoyed their first bye of the season. Their drop in the rankings is more to do with the resiliency of the Soul after beating Tampa Bay than it is an indictment on the Valor.

Saturday’s game versus Philadelphia should shed more light on whether week one was a a matter of playing a quarterback who had no business starting (Chase Cartwright) or if this is the team to challenge the defending champions.

4. Baltimore Brigade Baltimore Brigade – (2-0) / LW: 5 / Week 2 – W at CLE 52-49

The story of the 2017 Brigade has already been started by backup quarterback Shane Carden. Since replacing Cartwright in week one against the Valor, the Brigade has outscored their opponents 90-73. Carden’s numbers may not impress you when looking at the stat sheet, but clearly his leadership and all around play has sparked this club in their inaugural season.

If Carden can continue to find his favorite target wide receiver Reggie Gray (leader in yards, touchdowns, and receptions) the Brigade will continue to rise in the rankings.

Week three is Baltimore’s time for a rest as they see their first bye of the season before heading to face Philadelphia in week four.

5. glads Cleveland Gladiators – (0-2 ) / LW: 4 / Week 2 – L vs BAL 49-52

By far the most disappointing start of the season goes to Cleveland and their quarterback situation. After not bringing back Arvell Nelson (Cleveland’s leading passer in 2016), they have run full circle and seem to be going back to Nelson. Both Shane Boyd and Tanner Marsh have failed to show any signs of sustained success. The defense was decimated by injury in week two as three starting defensive backs were ruled out before the game which only helped Gray pad his stats.

It has only been two weeks, so we are far from seeing Cleveland press the panic button, but they need to choose a quarterback and stick with him through the ups and downs of the season. I personally feel Nelson showed last year he could be a dynamic player in this league. Give him the keys to the offense and let the chips fall where they may.

The schedule never really gets easy as Cleveland was a unanimous pick for dead last, but if there is a chance to steal a win, it would be in week three. If the Gladiators can get ahead early and the Storm let the Soul beat them twice, Cleveland could get the confidence they so desperately need.

  1. Philadelphia Soul – 23 (3)
  2. Tampa Bay Storm – 20 (2)
  3. Washington Valor – 17
  4. Baltimore Brigade – 10
  5. Cleveland Gladiators – 5

()=First Place Votes


The AFL Fan Zone power rankings contributing members are:
Kyle Sander @ArenaFBOutsidrs, Scott Soares @AFLSlasher, Stephen Ur @writingfanatic2, Joran Palacio @Joran_Palacio16, Ryan Knowles @rykno52, and Jesse Mattson @LocalBigTime1

 

AFL 2016 Season Review

The 2016 Arena Football League season has officially come to an end, but what a year full of twists and turns this year brought fans.

If there was one word to describe and summarize the AFL this year, it would be its unpredictable.

The beginning of the 2016 season did was not kind to the league as four teams closed up shop in the AFL including the Spokane Shock, New Orleans Voodoo, Las Vegas Outlaws, and most notably, the defending ArenaBowl champions, the San Jose Sabercats.

The league was reduced down to eight teams, four teams per conference, with all the teams guaranteed a playoff spot. Going into the season there was four major title contenders: the Arizona Rattlers, Philadelphia Soul, Orlando Predators, and the runner ups from the 2015 ArenaBowl, the Jacksonville Sharks.

The unpredictability of the 2016 season started the very week the season kicked off with the Los Angeles KISS getting a huge 25 point win over the Sharks. In fact, for the second straight year, Jacksonville had an incredibly disappointing start to their season, starting 1-4.

The Rattlers are known for winning. That is all the team does. They are the perennial juggernaut of this league. However, when Arizona walked into the Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay on May 29 the game was seen as an afterthought from the beginning, but the, at the time, winless Tampa Bay Storm beat the Rattlers in a game that shocked everyone in the league.

The Predators quickly jumped out and made themselves the team to beat, starting the year off with seven straight wins and clinching a first round home game just 12 games into the season. But in that game against Jacksonville on June 18, Orlando’s season changed as quarterback Randy Hippeard was injured for the rest of the season, leaving backup Bernard Morris to fill in for an ArenaBowl contending team. Morris filled in the role maybe as well as he could, going 2-2. In those four games he started, he showed he definitely had the talent to be a starter rather than just a backup.

Philadelphia stayed consistently good throughout the length of the entire season, sweeping the Orlando and splitting the season series with both the Rattlers and Sharks. The Soul were beating the teams they were supposed to and splitting with the teams they were not, key to creating a very successful team.

They had the best defensive player in the league, Jake Metz, who led the league in sacks and had one of the most dynamic receiving groups in the league led by Darius Reynolds.

As the season began winding down and getting nearer and nearer to the postseason, it was a battle between Orlando and Arizona to see who was going to host ArenaBowl XXIX, and on July 18, a major step had been taken to deciding who would host the big one.

The Rattlers needed to win by 19 or more to control their own destiny with only one week left in the season after the Orlando game. Trailing by 20 points late in the fourth, Orlando coach Rob Keefe kills the clock to virtually no time left and kicks a chip shot field goal to bring the deficit down to 17, saving Orlando’s tiebreaker. The Predators had escaped.

Two weeks later, Orlando needed to get a win over the Soul to preserve their chance at hosting the ArenaBowl, after the Rattlers closed their season with a big win over Cleveland. Orlando simply could not keep up with Philadelphia on July 30, dropping that game, the regular season title, and the No. 1 seed in the American Conference by a score of 67-54.

Then came the circus that was the 2016 Arena Football playoffs.

The seeding went as follows in the National Conference: Arizona Rattlers, LA KISS, having the best season in franchise history, Cleveland Gladiators, and the Portland Steel.

Over on the American side the lineup looked like this: Philadelphia at the top followed by the Orlando Predators, Jacksonville Sharks, and Tampa Bay Storm.

And it did not take long to get a couple of great games to start off the playoffs.

First, the Gladiators and KISS battled in a great back and forth game in the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego on Aug. 7, the first playoff game in LA’s franchise history. The Gladiators eventually got the win thanks to a 22 point fourth quarter.

Then over in Orlando, the Predators and Jacksonville put on what some are calling perhaps the greatest game in Arena Football postseason history. A missed extra point coming off a last second Orlando touchdown sent the teams into overtime, Orlando scored on their first possession and this time kicked the extra point through the uprights. Jacksonville responded with a score of their own but decided to go for it all, interim coach Bob Landsee decided to go for two, and a Derrick Ross carry later saw the Sharks upset the Predators in Orlando, history had repeated itself.

Orlando had gone from being a single win away from having the chance to host the ArenaBowl to out of the playoffs in the first round just like that, showing that nothing is guaranteed in the Arena Football League.

The next week, after coming off of an emotional win the Sharks had to go to Allentown, PA to face off with the Soul to determine who would go on to face Arizona in the ArenaBowl, who had disposed of Portland and Cleveland in their two games, winning both by about 40.

The game could not have gotten off to a better start for Jacksonville as AFL Fan Zone QB of the Year, Dan Raudabaugh threw a pick six on the very first drive of the game killing the Allentown crowd. Both teams traded leads until two turnovers to start off the second half ultimately did Jacksonville in and secured the American Conference championship for Philadelphia.

The stage was set. Philadelphia vs Arizona III for ArenaBowl XXIX.

Both teams brought in a lot of the big season awards, Kevin Guy and Clint Dolziel won Co-Coaches of the Year, for sharing identical records (13-3) and both being on top of their conferences. Philadelphia’s Jake Metz won AFL Defensive Player of the Year, and Nick Davila won his third MVP award.

Going into the game the consensus was it was going to be a close game but in the end the Rattlers were at “home” (Gila River Arena in Glendale) and have not done a lot of losing at home, in fact they went undefeated at home in the regular season in 2016, so while it would be competitive, Arizona would come out on top.

That could not be further from what actually happened on the field.

Thanks to two Arizona turnovers, the Soul jumped out to a 21-0 lead. The first time Arizona trailed 21-0 since Guy has taken over as coach. The Rattlers being down by 21 at home, who could have predicted that?

Arizona eventually tied the game but had to play catch up the entire game and could not keep up with the Soul, Philadelphia played practically a perfect game, only turning the ball over a single time the entire game. Philadelphia won ArenaBowl XXIX by a final score of 56-42 in Arizona, with a much deserved win.

However, along with being a very unpredictable season, the 2016 season could also be the season of “what ifs” for a lot of teams. What if Randy Hippeard never got injured? What if LA started Pete Thomas or Nathan Stanley in the playoffs? What if Jacksonville did not turn over the ball twice to start off the second half against the Soul? What if Tommy Grady threw a hail mary pass to Joe Hills rather than a pass out on the flat to end the American Conference Championship game? What if the Rattlers did not give the Soul two free touchdowns to start off the ArenaBowl? Those 14 points off turnovers were the difference in the game.

While those questions remain hypothetical, the finish stays the same, the Philadelphia Soul led by owner Ron Jaworski, coach Clint Dolezel, and quarterback Dan Raudabaugh captured the Soul’s first title since 2008 in one of the most unique seasons in recent memory.