Arena Audit 2018: Week 1
Opening Weekend provides fireworks
The 2018 Arena Football League season kicked off Friday night in Baltimore as the Brigade hosted the Washington Valor. In this condensed league, playing with only four teams this season, familiarity is going to be a theme for the next few months, and such was the case for these two teams this week.
The teams separated by 51 miles of I-95 opened the new campaign on the leagues new media deal as the game was broadcast on Facebook Watch and the new AFL app. Led by 2017 AFL MVP Randy Hippeard, the Brigade jumped out to an two score lead, putting pressure on three time league MVP Nick Davilla in his first action with Washington to dig out of an early 20-7 deficit. The Valor and Brigade traded scores throughout the night, but Baltimore earned a solid opening night win 61-56.
Davilla played in his first action in the AFL after spending 2017 as an assistant coach in Arizona. Though experienced, Davilla was signed just under two weeks prior to the Valor’s first game, so some rust was to be expected.
I would love to tell you more about the game in detail, but the Arena Football League for some reason doesn’t have a box score posted on its site, nor do the teams, or any local media outlets.
Maybe since Ted Leonsis owns literally half of the teams in the league, maybe they can scrape some money together to pay a statistician to work the games. Hell, pay me $20 and I’ll re-watch the feed from Facebook and stat the game.
The win was Baltimore’s second against Washington in five games, and will play three more this season.
Saturday night in front of a national TV audience on the CBS Sports Network, the back to back Arena Bowl champion Philadelphia Soul started their threepeat quest on the road at Albany for the Empire’s inaugural game. Albany played host to the Firebirds in the AFL for eleven seasons before folding in 2000.
Albany’s sold out return to the AFL was spoiled as they lost by 21 to the Soul.
The Empire tied the game at 21-21 with 1:33 left in the 2nd quarter as Tommy Grady hit Greg Carr for a six yard score, but Philly responded with a Jermaine Richardson touchdown run, then forced an interception to gain an extra possession and score on a six yard touchdown pass from Dan Raudabaugh to Darius Prince with seven seconds left in the half to take a 35-21 lead.
After that swing, Albany never again got the lead back under fourteen points, ending in defeat 56-35.
Raudabaugh, who became just the ninth quarterback in league history to surpass 700 career touchdown passes, ended his night 22-37 for 236 yards and six touchdowns, three of them to Darius Prince.
Prince in just his third AFL game collected 12 catches for 112 yards, in his first game since earning Arena Bowl XXX MVP honors for his performance in the Soul’s win against Tampa Bay back in August. Prince did not play football in college, but instead played basketball at Penn State Beaver.
I would love to tell you more about Prince’s story, but his player page on the Soul’s website is horribly incorrect, and there is no media guide that has been produced by the team.
So in all, it was a fun and interesting first week on the field for the AFL: Philly looks loaded, Baltimore is better than I thought, I fully expect Washington to improve, and Albany will struggle with that roster. But, for the 13,648 in attendance at the Times Union Center who provided the best home atmosphere I have seen in the AFL in about five years, they get my week one game ball.
Welcome back Albany, for one night, you represented everything that was great about this league once upon a time.