In franchise debuts for both organizations, the Washington Valor withstood a Baltimore Brigade comeback led by rookie quarterback Shane Carden to capture a 51-38 win over their beltway rival.
The Valor opened the game on a 27-0 run, highlighted by the quarterback-wide receiver duo of Erik Meyer and Mike Washington, who connected for three touchdowns through the air.
“It was an exciting game,” Meyer said. “The crowd was live. I think they said about 15,000 people, so it was loud in there. They were just as much a part of that win as we were, so it was awesome to be in front of the home crowd — live, loud, it was an exciting win.”
Meyer wasted no time getting the Valor on the board early in the first quarter. A 34-yard pass to Washington marked the first scoring play of the 2017 season and gave the Valor a 7-0 lead just over two minutes into the contest. Washington extended their lead to 14 when James Gordon punched in a two-yard run for the team’s second score of the night. The Valor closed out a strong first quarter as Meyer found Washington yet again, this time for eight yards. Meyer led the Valor to a 20-0 lead and finished the opening frame 7-8 for 67 yards and two touchdowns.
The Valor carried their momentum into the second quarter, turning a Tracy Belton interception into another touchdown – the third connection of the night between Meyer and Washington, giving the Valor a 27-0 lead with just over 10 minutes remaining in the first half. Rookie quarterback and former East Carolina Pirate Shane Carden entered the game for the Brigade, replacing Chase Cartwright. On his first AFL possession, Carden found veteran wide receiver Reggie Gray for a 27-yard touchdown, cutting the Valor lead to 27-6. Antoine “TT” Toliver answered for the Valor, taking a reverse for a three-yard touchdown and giving Washington a 34-6 lead going into halftime.
Less than a minute into the third quarter, Carden found former Maryland Terrapin and Baltimore Raven Laquan Williams for an 11-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 34-13. Carden proved to be a threat on the ground as well, notching his first of two rushing touchdowns with 8:07 to play in the third quarter, cutting the Valor lead to 34-20. Washington extended their lead to 37-20 with a 27-yard field goal with just under three minutes to play in the third quarter.
The Brigade’s comeback continued when Dexter Davis recovered and returned a Valor fumble 44 yards for a touchdown, bringing the score to 37-26, Washington. Toliver hauled in his second touchdown of the night, a 20-yarder from Meyer with 6:03 remaining in the game to give the Valor a 44-26 cushion. Carden tallied his second rushing touchdown of the night with 40 seconds remaining, which was quickly answered by a Bernard Morris seven-yard touchdown for the Valor, extending their lead to 51-32. Williams hauled in his second touchdown of the night with seven seconds remaining to set the 51-38 final score.
The Valor have their first bye week of the season next week, but return to action on Sat., April 22, hosting the Philadelphia Soul at 7 p.m. at the Verizon Center. The Brigade travel to Cleveland next weekend to take on the Gladiators on Sat., April 15 at 7 p.m.
Offensive Player of the Game: Baltimore QB Shane Carden completed 21-32 passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns to go along with two rushing touchdowns.
Defensive Player of the Game: Washington DB Tracy Belton tallied nine total tackles to go along with two interceptions.
MVP of the Game: Washington QB Erik Meyer led the Valor’s 27-0 game-opening run and finished completing 21-31 passes for 237 yards and four touchdowns in a victory.
Washington Valor Head Coach Dean Cokinos
On the game’s atmosphere…
“It was loud, a lot of electricity in the building.”
On the team…
“You can see the toughness in our guys and what they bring to this community. We are very proud to be here with the Washington Valor.”
On his expectations of the game…
“It’s almost since a year that I have been here. This was our plan to come out the gate and present a product of what this league can be. I’ll tell you what, this was playoff atmosphere. It was pretty exciting.”
On his team’s reaction to Baltimore’s game plan…
“They choose to do a lot of man coverage tonight, and Mike [Washington] is a special player. Trying to match up one-on-one with him is really hard. We just took advantage of that and Erik [Meyer] had some pinpoint throws to him. They both had a big night. Collectively the whole group played well.”
Washington Valor Quarterback Erik Meyer
On the crowd…
“It was an exciting game. The crowd was live. I think they said about 15,000 people, so it was loud in there. They were just as much a part of that win as we were, so it was awesome to be in front of the home crowd — live, loud, it was an exciting win.”
On the rivalry…
“When I first got out here, people who didn’t know too much about the AFL were saying, ‘you better beat the Brigade, you guys better beat Baltimore’, so you can kind of sense the rivalry between the two cities going on. Obviously it showed a little bit on the field, being competitive out there. Both teams just trying to win and do what they can, but unfortunately they got the short end of the stick.”
Baltimore Brigade Head Coach Omarr Smith
On the team’s performance…
“We as a team and as a coaching staff talked about players coming out and playing with a little bit more energy, but at the end of the day we lost and that’s not our expectation, so we weren’t good enough today.”
On making in-game adjustments…
“Well we were down 34-6, and in this game if you’re down 34-6 and you can’t move offensively that’s a problem. If you have a problem, as a head coach you have to find a way to fix that problem.”
Baltimore Brigade Wide Receiver Reggie Gray
On the team’s performance…
“We can’t start off like that. I understand there were nerves, first game ever. We have a young quarterback and young players on the offensive side. I have to do a better job of getting my guys ready, a better job of breaking down film, and we just can’t start off like that. You just can’t get down 30 something to six… I mean it’s Arena Football anything can happen but you can’t put your defense in situations like that. I just have to do a better job of getting the offense ready.”