In these trying days where the advent of baseball does not soothe the yearnings of hardcore football fans, Cover32/Ravens may have found a solution in the Arena Football League. After all, there are two brand new teams in the Beltway, the Washington Valor and the Baltimore Brigade. In our Arena Football experience, we covered the inaugural meeting of these teams and the inaugural game for them, as well, and came away impressed.
First, the game itself. The field is 50 yards plus 8 yard endzones; 85 feet wide. The endzone goal posts are 9 feet apart–less than half the width of NFL goal posts–and their crossbar is 15 feet high, compared to 10 feet. A team has 4 downs to either score or get a first down of the same 10 yard length. No punting allowed. (Yes, you read that right. No, I don’t know if the league rules committee is comprised of ex-Madden gamers.) A Field Goal can be tried from anywhere on the field; 3 points by placekick, 4 points by drop kick. The extra point has an extra point if it is drop kicked, as well. The rest, you either probably know through exposure to the AFL in one of its’ 30 seasons, or through the following infographic you can learn:
The game between the Valor and the Brigade was well publicized and well received by a pretty full Verizon Center crowd of rowdies (15,000) in the Nation’s Capital. People were interested in what character the two teams would portray, whom would be a scoring machine and whom would be more defensive; who wanted it more. Right away, the Valor made their presence known, offensively, with Eastern Washington product Erik Meyer throwing 3 touchdowns in 4 scoring possessions to Wide Receiver Mike Washington, with the other score coming from Defensive Tackle James Gordon on a rare carry for him. At that point, the score was 27-0, and after the Brigade answered with a touchdown and missed extra point of their own, the Valor added one more score before halftime in the form of a short reverse to WR TT. Tolliver. At the half, the score was 34-6, and Washington rightfully owned the majority of the highlights.
👀 all of the TD's from the 1st half. (hint: there were a lot) pic.twitter.com/zNCdNcmlsp
— Washington Valor (@WashingtonValor) April 8, 2017
The Brigade is actually a very proud team, judging from their comments afterward, and Coach Omarr Smith told me that he let them know at halftime what the standard was.
At halftime, this reporter had his own impressions of the event thus far:
Before I could finish downing my (quite tasty) barbecue sandwich at halftime, the Brigade were out on the field, storming back, solidly under new leadership–Quarterback Shane Carden from East Carolina, who had entered in the 2nd quarter and thrown a TD to wide receiver Reggie Gray out of Western Illinois. Carden’s next TD was an 11 yard pass to former Baltimore Raven LaQuan Williams, who also had another TD catch later in the game to lead the team with 2. Carden capped the next drive with a rushing TD, the Valor answered with a FG, and then the defense for the Brigade came up big with a 49 yard–think, length of field–fumble return for a touchdown. At that point, the score was 37-26 and very much a new ballgame. From there, the teams traded two touchdowns apiece and used every single bit of the clock to decide this battle. Final score Valor 51, Brigade 38.
— Baltimore Brigade (@BMOREBRIGADE) April 8, 2017
Baltimore Quarterback Shane Carden was simply on fire. He threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more. Not to be overlooked, Washington QB Erik Meyer had a great day, too. He threw for four touchdowns. The most odd stat of all, these two were the leading rushers for their respective teams. No, they are not typical mobile QBs. At all.
Clearly, this indoor game was designed for the QB.
I had quite of few, best summated with bullet points:
- The venue is quite electric and well put together.
- The crowd was rabid and loud.
- I was impressed with the readiness of the Valor franchise–their stores were chock full of gear, their brand was all over the building. It looked like a home, not a borrowed landing spot.
- The PR staff for the teams were very friendly, down to the interns.
- People were in a good mood.
- The Brigade is a very proud team. They wanted to win.
- It seems that the AFL could rally around the birth of these two teams to get back to the size and level that they once enjoyed.
- This IS a rivalry, born. Three more battles coming.
- The Brigade is good enough to beat other teams.
- I didn’t know why Carden didn’t just start. He was light years more productive and a spark for the team.
- LaQuan Williams just keeps making big catches.
- WR Mike Washington is a beast for the Valor.
- This is what the Arena Football League was meant to feel like when it was formed.
Games are airing on the CBS Sports Network, and it seems worth a look. Especially for locals, hitting these venues seems more than worthwhile.
Especially to fill one’s football fix until the Fall.
Note: Part two of this article will be from Baltimore, in two months.
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