This Saturday the Maine Mammoths will travel 400 miles to Allentown, Pennsylvania to face off against the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks. With two loses the trunk-equipped land dwellers could really use a “W” to build momentum. The Tusks faced two fierce opponents to start the National Arena League (NAL) season, the currently undefeated Massachusetts Pirates and the Carolina Cobras. But there’s no particular reason why the expansion Mammoths are cursed to lose. The Mammoths showed they’re contenders on the first play of the first possession against the Cobras. Jonathan Bane went deep to Derrick Macon for a 35 yard blamo! touchdown. It was single-handedly the biggest throwing play I’ve seen this season in the NAL. Bane went on to throw for 246 yards and 5 touchdowns. Needless to say this is a team with a big offense.
The Mammoth defense, on the other hand had several blown coverage's and couldn’t stop the Carolina offense from repeatedly marching down the field. Also, their kicking game needs flat-line style CPR. Almost every Mammoth touchdown was followed by a missed extra point. Leaving free points on the table is truly unacceptable at the high NAL level. Fortunately for the Portland team the season is 16 weeks with plenty of room for adjustments.
The Lehigh Valley Steelhawks lost their season opener to the Columbus Lions in week 2 with a depressing score of 50-18. Like the Mammoths, defense was a worm the Steelhawks couldn’t find. Afterward, they signed defensive back Brandon Fuentes, who spent the last couple months with the Albany Empire of the Arena Football League (AFL). Maybe Fuentes is the answer to the Steelhawks defensive woes. But, this is an organization that’s been around for since 2011. First in the Indoor Football League (IFL) then the Professional Indoor Football League (PIFL) in 2013. Following their championship season the team joined American Indoor Football (AIF) for the 2016 season. Thus, the Steelhawk ownership has been through a roller coaster ride of various leagues, rules and ego’s! Let’s hope the soaring birds have found their NAL nest, and are here to stay.
So, this is a game I’m gonna watch via YouTube on Saturday at 7:05pm. I like the idea of two underrated, regrouping teams battling it out and fighting for survival. Good luck guys, I’ll be rooting for you!
The showdown in Jacksonville was a high intensity collision of football superheros and arena awesomeness. The National Arena League (NAL) should be proud of the entertaining package that was unleashed between the defending champions, Jacksonville Sharks and expansion Massachusetts Pirates. Both teams came to play and came to win. Unfortunately for the Florida coast town, the Pirates were able to hook a few sharks.
Although the score would not suggest, strong defense was the catch of the day (ugh, another bad pun). Jacksonville Sharks had several huge goal line stops and defensive plays that stalled the Pirates momentum. None of this was surprising coming from Jacksonville who claimed bragging rights receiving NAL’s defensive, special teams and offensive player accolades for week one. Some suspicious few would suggest these rankings may be slightly rigged toward the league's golden child, but others would say the Sharks are just that good. Jacksonville’s Charlie Hunt was named Defensive player of the week; Jamar Howard was named Offensive player of the week; and Nick Belcher was named special teams player of the week after their win over another expansion team, the Carolina Cobras.
But the Massachusetts Pirates had an answer for NAL champion. Sean Brackett, the arena football veteran who once donned the the infamous “JAX” on his chest put up some huge numbers for the Pirates. Brackett threw for 258 yards and 5 touchdowns and only one interception. It goes without saying those are big league numbers!
And of course, the Sunday game recap headline from the NAL read “Pirates Steal Win in Jacksonville” giving the impression that the Pirates offered no chance of winning. Brackett and company showed up to play, and play they did.
And let me just say for the record, Jacksonville didn’t lose the game, the Pirates won it. There was nothing the Sharks could have done better to put a “W” in their column, it’s just the Massachusetts Pirates are the real deal. Get over it, and get ready for a great season in Pirate Nation!
Week 2 of the 2018 Season for the National Arena League has came and gone. All 6 teams from the NAL were in action this weekend, April 13-14th. We will give you the run down on what took place in all three match-ups on this article.
2018 Week 2 Game of the Week
Massachusetts Pirates @ Jacksonville Sharks
Starting off with the game of the week, the Massachusetts Pirates traveled to Jacksonville, Florida in the 2017 Defending NAL Champs Home Opener. The Sharks raised their banner and celebrated their success in 2017, with the Pirates in town. It was the clash of two of the undefeated teams in the league with Jacksonville beating Carolina in Week 1, and the Pirates beating the Mammoths. Both the Sharks and Pirates showcased their talents in the game vs each other, but in the end Sharks fans went home heartbroken. The Pirates won last night's game 63-56 in a very back and forth game. The result was a shocker to many, but for some people, they were not surprised at all. The Pirates QB Sean Brackett showed off his power and strength and WR Devon Brown had an outstanding game. The Pirates are for sure not a team to mess with. Lets take a look at how the game went down!
On the first possession for the Sharks, Patrick McCain threw a 25 yard touchdown pass to Antonio Vaughn, and the TD was followed up with a completed FG from Nick Belcher, and the Sharks took the 7-0 lead. With 8:36 left in the 1st, QB Sean Brackett ran the ball 1 yard into the end-zone for a quarterback sneak touchdown to put the Pirates on the board. Ali Mourtada made the extra point following Brackett's pass and the Pirates tied the game 7-7. Later on, Sharks QB Patrick McCain was intercepted by the John Hardy-Tuliau and the Pirates took over the ball at the 22 yard line, but they ended up having a turnover on downs on the drive after Charlie Hunt sacked Brackett on 4th Down. Patrick McCain went on to throw another touchdown pass in the first quarter to the same player as he threw to earlier, Antonio Vaughn with 2:44 remaining on the clock. Blecher made the extra point and the Sharks took the lead again 14-7. On the kickoff, Orlandus Harris returned the ball all the way to the 26 yard line, which put the Pirates at great field position. Following the huge kick return, Brackett had a 24 yard pass to Devon Brown. Mourtada made the extra point after the touchdown, and the game was tied 14-14 to end the first quarter.
To start of the scoring in the second quarter, Derrick Ross ran a four yard touchdown with 11:37 on the clock and put his team ahead. On the point after, Belcher missed the FG and the score was 20-14 after the touchdown. After the Sharks turned over the ball on downs with 1:40 left in the quarter, the Pirates now had a first and goal opportunity at their fingertips. Easy enough, Orlandus Harris walked into the endzone for a 1 yard touchdown to tie the game 20-20. Ali Mourtada put his team ahead following his extra point 21-20. Immediately on the next drive, the Sharks answered back, as Patrick McCain threw a 12 yard pass into the end-zone to Sam Charles to put the team ahead 26-21 and after the touchdown, Belcher once again missed the field goal and the score remained 26-21. Following the touchdown and missed field goal, the Sharks decided to onside kick the ball and the Pirates FB Harris recovered it on the 9 yard line. On the drive, Brackett connected to Lamont Bryant for a 9 yard catch and run touchdown, followed up by a completed field goal to put the Pirates ahead 28-26. In the final seconds of a crazy second quarter, McCain threw an interception to Pirates' John Hardy-Tuliau for the second time this game. John Hardy-Tuliau ended up with a pick-six before halftime. Mourtada ended up missing the point after, but going into halftime the Pirates were still ahead 34-26.
Nick Belcher started off the 3rd Quarter with a bang, and made up for his two missed field goals, as he nailed a deuce right after halftime making it 34-28! With 13:02 on the clock, Brackett threw his first interception of the night to Damion Jacobs, who ended up with a pick-six, followed by Belcher's extra point to help the Sharks lead by 1 point, 35-34. Once again, Belcher made another deuce and the Sharks took the lead 37-34. A huge touchdown pass was thrown by Brackett later on in the quarter, a total of 45 yards on a touchdown pass to Devon Brown, and the extra point was good, which made it 41-37 in the favor of Massachusetts. Almost 6 minutes later in the quarter, McCain passed the ball 25 yards on a corner route touchdown to Antonio Vaughn for Vaughn's 3rd touchdown of the game. Once again, Belcher nailed a field goal and the Sharks had the 44-41 lead going into the fourth quarter.
To start the scoring in the final quarter of play, Derrick Ross had 1 yard touchdown, and once again Belcher missed the field goal, but the Sharks extended their lead to 50-41. With 8:30 left in the game, Brackett found Devon Brown once again for another touchdown, this time it came on fourth down! Mourtada followed up the pass and made another field goal which narrowed the Sharks lead to 50-48. Jacksonville had to make a quarterback change with 7 minutes remaining in game, as McCain left the field limping after being sacked hard. The new quarterback Walker took over McCain's spot for the rest of the game. The final minute of the game was very hectic, and the Pirates kicker made a field goal with 56 seconds remaining to put the Pirates ahead 51-50. With 19 seconds left, Walker threw a touchdown pass to Antonio Vaughn, but after the touchdown the Sharks failed to convert the 2 point conversion, making the score 56-51. With their backs against the wall and only 8 seconds to work their magic, Brackett threw a touchdown pass to Devon Brown. The Pirates were stopped on a two point conversion even though they still had a 57-56 lead now. Then, with 2 seconds left, the Sharks sent out Belcher, with an attempt to win the game. Belcher's kick was blocked by Bill Vavau and it was recovered by Pirates' DL Kenny Jackson for a touchdown to end the game at the buzzer. The Pirates beat the Sharks 63-56.
Next week, the Pirates will travel to Carolina to face the Cobras, and the Jacksonville Sharks will play at the Columbus Lions in a 2017 NAL Championship rematch.
Lehigh Valley Steelhawks @ Columbus Lions
The Steelhawks traveled down to Columbus, GA, as it was the 2018 Season Openers for both teams. The Columbus Lions are coming off of a great 2017 season, as runners up of the National Arena League.
Entering the week, the Steelhawks had the backs against the wall, facing adversity. Quarterback Caleb Walton was the new starter for LHV coming weeks after the departure of Warren Smith Jr. No one expected anything special from Walton, and really no one knew a thing about who he was and where he has played. Walton and the Steelhawks struggled miserably in the match-up. Caleb Walton ended up only 1 touchdown pass that came in the third quarter when he passed it to Renford for a 25 yard touchdown. Otherwise, Walton ended up with one interception on the night, and lots of turnovers happened in the game. Coach Kohler made a switch at the QB position with 11:15 left in the fourth quarter as he put in Seth Higgins, former QB at Morgan State. Higgins ended up with 1 score on a QB sneak in the fourth quarter after fumbling the ball earlier in the quarter. On the kicking side of things, Spencer Hoatling had 2 field goals, 1 duece, and 1 missed field goal.
On the other side of things, Mason Espinosa got the start at QB for the Lions. Espinosa passed for 5 touchdowns, with 3 of them being thrown to Jarmon Fortson. Espinosa ended up with a close to 100 passing yards on the night. Former SEC QB from Auburn Jeremy Johnson made his much wanted Lions debut in the 4th Quarter and ended up having a 4 yard touchdown pass on his first touchdown pass as a Lion whit 5:32 left until the end of the game. Jarmon Fortson stood out for the Lions, with 4 touchdowns (one from a trick play from a pass by Purifoy) and 51 receiving yards. Former Georgia Bulldogs FB, Quayvon made his debut with the Lions with 16 receiving yards, 2 fumbles, and around 50 yards rushing. On the kicking side of things, veteran kicker Lindsey Wolfe ended up with 6 made field goals on 7 attempts.
In the end, the Columbus Lions demolished the Steelhawks 50-18. There are evident issues that the Steelhawks will need to get to work on at practice. Bob Kohler's debut as the new Lehigh Valley head coach was a rough one, as it will be hard for him to follow up on the success of former coach Chris Thompson. The Lions will stay at home next week to face Jacksonville in a 2017 NAL Championship rematch and the Steelhawks will host the Maine Mammoths.
Carolina Cobras @ Maine Mammoths
The Carolina Cobras traveled up to Maine to face the Maine Mammoths, with both teams entering the game 0-1 on the season. The Cobras lost a hard fought game in Week 1 at home vs Jacksonville, but showed that they still are a very good team. On the other side of things, the Mammoths were demolished in Week 1 by the Pirates and many people noticed their many issues.
The Carolina Cobras and their dominant offense rolled over the Mammoths, but it was back in forth for a little while. Quarterback Charles McCullum ended up with 14 passing completions on 27 attempts. Also, McCullum had a total of 5 touchdowns, 0 Interceptions, and was sacked 1 time. To start the game off, McCullum ran the ball in to put his team ahead. The WR's for Carolina once again stood out on the night, and even Jordan Jolly returned from the IR to make his 2018 NAL debut. Defensively, the Cobras had some issues stopping the Mammoths quarterback, but DB Cedric Poole had an interception in the 2nd Quarter of play.
Things looked more promising for the Mammoths on offense early on. Mammoths Quarterback Johnathan Bane ended the game with 15 passing completions on 29 attempts, 2 interceptions, 5 touchdowns, and 1 sack. But in the end, it came down the defense. The Maine defense couldn't stop the powerful Cobras offensive squad. The Cobras beat the Mammoths 56-42. Mammoths fans are probably angry about the loss, but on the positive side of things, the team competed and fought unlike their loss to the Pirates were they let up and stopped competing. Could've Coach Fuller implemented a new mindset for the Mammoths? The team fought hard and looked better than week 1. Improvement is evident for the team, as they'll look to beat Lehigh Valley next week for their first win on the season.
oThe Carolina Cobras got their first win in team history last night on the road against the Maine Mammoths! After winning the coin toss, the Cobras wanted the ball to start the game and it only took Charles McCullum a few passes to get down to the goal line. On short yardage this game McCullum would not be denied, running it in for for the games first score. Jonathan Bane would answer with his own touchdown. Before the end of the first quarter, McCullum would strike again, this time hitting Tyron Laughinghouse on a 15 yard pass!
The 2nd quarter began with the Mammoths kicking a field goal to make the score 13-9 but the rest of the quarter would belong to McCullum. Adding two more rushing touchdowns, even though Petersen pulled the PAT's, the defense stepped up with Cedric Poole getting an interception to stifle a Mammoths drive.
The 2nd half of the game turned into a shootout between McCullum and Bane. Whenever Bane would hit a receiver for a score, McCullum would answer back. The turning point for me was in the 3rd quarter when Darius Thomas picked off Bane in the endzone and returned it to the 5 yard line. Try as they might, it was too much for the Mammoths to overcome. The Cobras would go on to get their first win in team history, 56-42.
Next week the Cobras are back at home against the Massachusetts Pirates. Who had a thrilling victory over the defending Jacksonville Sharks. I'm hearing people say that the championship this season will probably be between the Pirates and the Sharks but I say not to count out the Cobras just yet! Coach Billy Back knows how to put points on the board and whenever Jordan Jolly returns, it will provide McCullum another threat. Coach Brain Schmidt's defense is growing into their own, stopping offensive drives and creating turnovers! It's going to be an exciting season...Stay tuned for it all!
There has never been a better time to be an arena football fan. With the NAL, AFL, IFL, and CIF the competition for fans has never been more fierce. But if you can watch only one game this weekend it needs to be the Jacksonville Sharks vs. the Massachusetts Pirates. The National Arena League (NAL) defending champions have much to prove in this season's opening weeks and they won't disappoint. Their match-up in week one against a tough Carolina Cobras was a big sigh of relief in the Jacksonville locker room. But the Cobras put up a nasty fight against the favorite who were defiant to lose against an expansion team from a neighboring state. Enter the Massachusetts Pirates who destroyed the Maine Mammoths in week one 51-24 at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts.
But this begs the question: Are the Pirates the real deal, or are they just an okay team that beat a not-so-good team? I guess only time will tell. What I am confident about is an experienced Pirates gunslinger, Sean Brackett who threw for 169 yards and found (late pick-up) Devonn Brown in the end zone three times in week one. Also, I’m confident about Pirates offensive linemen Dashawn Johnson, who pounded his body through the Mammoths defensive line to pick up several first downs, two touchdowns and 23 total yards. Needless to say the peg-leg swashbucklers have a better than average chance at coming out of Jacksonville with a win.
So, fire up the computer this Saturday, April 14th at 7pm and watch the Massachusetts Pirates prove they are a contender, not just in the NAL but in the sport of Arena Football.
The 2018 Season for the National Arena League began tonight April 7th, and crowds packed the arenas in Massachusetts and Greensboro.
Jacksonville Sharks @ Carolina Cobras
The Defending 2017 NAL Champions, the Jacksonville Sharks, traveled to Greensboro, NC to face the Carolina Cobras in the Cobras first game in franchise history. The Carolina Cobras play their home games at the Greensboro Coliseum, and fans showed up tonight as a great turnout of 5,135 people showed up to watch a great exciting match-up. For most of the game, the Cobras and Sharks went back and forth and the lead kept shifting, it wasn't till the end where the Sharks gained momentum and took the lead with 13:39 left in the game when FB Derrick Ross scored on a rushing touchdown to make it 38-32. The Sharks then looked for a 2 point conversion, but a pass from QB Patrick McCain to WR Chris Cilchrist was intercepted by DB Antwan Hadley for Carolina, On the kickoff, Kicker Nick Belcher nailed a deuce to extend the Sharks lead to 41-32. The deuce played a big part in some parts of the game as Cobras kicker and former CFL player Craig Peterson made 2 deuces during the game total. The Cobras venue is probably one of the best in the league for kicking deuces because of its high ceilings unlike other venues through-out the league. When the Cobras took over the ball after Belcher's deuce, QB Charles McCullum looked deep down the field for WR Phillip Barnett but his pass was intercepted by LB Charles Hunt for the Sharks. Later on as the Cobras regained possession, McCullum threw a touchdown pass from the 10 yard line to Barnett for a Cobras touchdown and the Cobras narrowed the Sharks lead to 41-38. On a two point conversion, McCullum overthrew Barnett and they failed on the conversion for 2 points. The Cobras and Kicker Craig Peterson attempted an onside kick with 1:04 remaining in the 4th Quarter and many fans thought they had recovered their onside kick. However, after video review the officials ruled that the Sharks had taken possession because the ball didn't go 10 yards. From there on, the Sharks ran down the clock and defeated the Carolina Cobras 41-38.
The Carolina Cobras showed their strength in tonight's game even though they fell short. The dynamic group from the former Wichita Falls IFL team of Coach Billy Back, McCullum, Barnett, Jones, and Laughinghouse were key factors to the successful moments for the Cobras. Barnett ended up with a total of 4 Touchdowns! Once WR Jordan Jolly returns for Carolina, the team will become even more stacked than they already are with wide outs. It is evident Carolina will rely on their passing game above all things, as they only ran the ball a few times in the First Quarter with Lineman Jordan Mosley.
As for the Jacksonville Sharks, it seemed like a different version of the Sharks that many people are not used to. Without the leadership of Grady, it took a little while for Patrick McCain and his offense to get going as the team relied on Derrick Ross for his dynamic running game. In the end, the Sharks came out on top and McCain didn't have a bad game throwing the ball at all. The defending champs have started off 1-0 with a great hard fought match-up between Carolina.
Maine Mammoths @ Massachusetts Pirates
Two Expansion Franchises for the 2018 NAL Season faced off in the first ever game for both franchises and it is what could be called a rivalry match-up between the two teams from the Northeast US. The Maine Mammoths from Portland traveled about 2 Hours down to the DCU Center in Worcester to face-off against the Massachusetts Pirates. The Pirates took the field in front of a huge crowd in the 12,239 seat venue. An official attendance number has not yet been announced but sources have reported that is was near if not a sellout of 12k in attendance in attendance. Fans witnessed the Pirates destroy the Maine Mammoths 51-24 on some brand new and very unique Teal and Purple Turf. Former AFL Veteran Quarterback Sean Brackett made his NAL and Pirates debut in a very great fashion. Brackett had a spectacular game passing the ball and had multiple touchdown passes in tonight's game to former Monterrey Steel WR and Arena Football Veteran London Crawford and a few others. Dashawn Johnson assumed the role of a fullback for the Pirates and had two touchdowns on the night. His size and explosiveness has a similar look to Derrick Ross. Johnson has proven himself as an impact player in Arena football, playing for the Cleveland Gladiators in 2014 and 2017, as well as the Los Angeles Kiss in 2015. Johnson most recently dominated the IFL with the Iowa Barnstormers reaching the league Conference Championship in 2017. As for the Defensive Side of things for the Pirates the stacked defense of NFL and arena football experienced players made its name known allowing a very good quarterback and receiver duo of Bane and Wilson to a minimum of only 24 points. Mammoths WR Wilson left the game after Three Periods of play with an injury, and there has been no update on his status. Defensive Back for the Pirates Kiante Northington ended up having two interceptions on the night. Northington starred at Division 1-FCS Eastern Kentucky University appearing in 46 games totaling 207 tackles and 6 INT’s over his career.
The Pirates proved tonight that they are stacked on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Sean Brackett was looked at as an overrated Quarterback coming into the game by the looks of his past AFL stats, but Brackett showed off his arm tonight. Brackett has great options of who to throw the ball two, as the team has very experienced WR's such as London Crawford, Lamont Bryant, and Ja-Mes Logan. Also, FB Dashawn Johnson showed off his power and explosiveness as he scored twice. The Pirates defense also succeeded in stopping Maine's QB Bane and WR Wilson.
Will the Maine Mammoths struggle next week versus Carolina? With the Mammoths defense allowing 51 points to the Pirates and the offense failing to succeed, it doesn't look too promising next week for Maine as they will face a very good Cobras team.
What about Columbus Lions and the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks?
For all fans wondering, where was the Lions and Steelhawks? Do not worry, the Lions and Steelhawks will kickoff their season next Saturday as they will face each other in The Jungle in Columbus, GA. Many fans have underestimated both teams this off-season as there has been many changes and signings going on. The Steelhawks lost NAL MVP QB Warren Smith Jr. and now rookie Caleb Walton will have to step up for the team. On the other hand, Mason Espinoza and Jeremy Johnson will dual it out for Columbus' starting quarterback start.
The Cedar Rapids Titans have lost three in a row and four of their first five games in the 2018 season. Despite the team’s record, quarterback Jake Medlock is lighting it up and sits in front of the MVP voting.
He had thrown for 974 yards, more than 250 yards more than the second-leading passer, Sioux Falls Storm quarterback Lorenzo Brown (721.5 passing yards). His 16 touchdowns is also dominating, as the two tied for second, Brown and Iowa Barnstormers quarterback Drew Powell, both only have 10 touchdown passes.
Medlock is also performing well in the rushing game. He leads the league with seven rushing touchdowns on the year. What’s more impressive is that he is putting up these numbers with quarterbacks such as Powell and Verlon Reed Jr also playing in the league.
He will face a very tough Arizona Rattlers defense this Saturday. If he can keep his numbers up against the Rattlers, he will only solidify the case for him being the 2018 IFL MVP even further.
Medlock joined the Cedar Rapids Titans on Jan. 21. Last season, he played with the Wichita Force in the Champions Indoor Football (CIF). During that season, he threw for 2,052 yards and 44 touchdowns.
6. Green Bay Blizzard
Green Bay has not just lost both of their games, but they have been blown out in each of them. They looked okay in the first half of their opener against Iowa, but then gave up three fourth-quarter touchdowns.
In their game against Nebraska, they didn’t look like they showed up at all. They were out of it before kickoff. If things don’t pick up soon, it will be a long season for this team.
5. Cedar Rapids Titans
The Titans have already matched their win total from last season with a win in Week 2 over the Blizzard. Outside of that, however, they have not played good football. They lost by 11 to the Danger and were blown out by the Sioux Falls Storm.
Winning against the league’s worst team doesn’t say much when the other two games are double-digit losses.
4. Sioux Falls Storm
The Storm are beginning to look like a better team, but they still have work to do. They still have to prove that they can outlast Arizona, as they lost their opener to the Rattlers due to a late penalty and other miscues during the game. Still, their win over Cedar Rapids on Monday showed they still are one of the best.
3. Arizona Rattlers
The defending champions are at a disadvantage without their star quarterback Verlon Reed Jr. He missed their tough loss to the Barnstormers and will miss next week’s game against the Green Bay Blizzard. That game shouldn’t be a problem as long as their defense prospers.
2. Iowa Barnstormers
Drew Powell has brought his talents to Iowa and has done exceptionally well so far. In just two games, he has thrown for 296 yards and six touchdowns in two games. Both are good enough for second in the league behind Cedar Rapids Titans quarterback Jake Medlock.
They face a tough challenge next weekend against the Sioux Falls Storm. A win over them will have people thinking they are a serious contender for United Bowl X early on.
1. Nebraska Danger
The Danger have once again shown that are a team not be messed with or a team to be counted out. Even under a new coach in Mark Stoute and a new quarterback in Damien Fleming, Nebraska has dominated both opponents using their talented defense and explosive offense.
They face another talented quarterback in Medlock who leads the league in passing yards and touchdown passes. Their defense will need to play their hearts out to stop the Titans and remain undefeated.
6. Cedar Rapids Titans
In their first game under head coach Marvin Jones, the Titans put up a fight against the Green Bay Blizzard - in the first half, anyway. The second half was a different story. All in all, the offense was stopped six times on fourth down and gave up 44 points. For a team looking to improve from 1-15 last season, they haven’t started on the right foot.
5. Green Bay Blizzard
Like Cedar Rapids, Green Bay kept it close in the first half of their first game of the 2018 season. Also, like Cedar Rapids, the second half showed a different story. Green Bay’s defense would give up three second half touchdown passes to Iowa Barnstormers quarterback Drew Powell. They also only scored seven points in the second half of the loss. Still, there is room for improvement for this team.
4. Nebraska Danger
Damien Fleming took the reigns for the Danger and led the team to an opening victory this past weekend. However, a turnover at the end of the first half made it look as if the Titans could be a threat to them in Week
They prospered, however, and showed they’re once again ready to be in contention for the United Bowl.
3. Sioux Falls Storm
The Sioux Falls Storm lost their opening game for the first time since 2005 this past weekend. They had a chance to pull out the win in a tie game, but a turnover led to nine Arizona Rattlers points at the end of the game. Despite that, however, they gave Arizona a real run for their money. Look for them to bounce back big in Week 2.
2. Iowa Barnstormers
Travis Partridge lit up the Barnstormers in 2017. Now, with Drew Powell at the helm, no one was sure he would be able to duplicate that for Iowa in their system.
In the team’s first game, he showed he was still the same quarterback he was with Nebraska last season. He threw three touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone of the Barnstormers 41-20 win over Green Bay.
Of course, there are still many challenges ahead - such as Sioux Falls and Arizona - but for their first game, Iowa showed to be a strong team on both sides of the ball.
1. Arizona Rattlers
The defending champs were the first to defeat the Storm in a United Bowl game since 2010. To show they mean business, they also defeated them in their home opener, their first loss in their first game of a season since 2005.
They lost quarterback Verlon Reed Jr in that game due to injury - the seriousness of the injury has yet to be determined - but if it’s a long-term injury, they will have to rely on their defense to win them a second consecutive title in the IFL.
The 2018 Indoor Football League season, the league’s 10th, kicks off tomorrow when the Cedar Rapids Titans and Nebraska Danger face off. There will be six teams in the league this season as opposed to the 10 that played in the 2017 season.
Both teams that played in United Bowl IX last season, the Arizona Rattlers and Sioux Falls Storm, will be returning, as will the Titans, Danger, Green Bay Blizzard and Iowa Barnstormers. The Salt Lake Screaming Eagles and Colorado Crush both ceased operations. The Wichita Falls Nighthawks also ceased operations after their plan to join the Champions Indoor Football (CIF) failed and the Spokane Empire also ceased operations.
All teams in the IFL will come into 2018 with talent. Arizona will be bringing in their talent that won them United Bowl IX last season. They also brought in much new talent, such as 2017 IFL Rookie of the Year in quarterback Verlon Reed.
Sioux Falls will once again be led by head coach Kurtis Riggs as they look to win their seventh title in eight seasons. Nebraska are now run by former Jacksonville Sharks head coach Bob Stoute and former Sharks quarterback Damien Fleming. Stoute led the Sharks to an 8-0 record last season before being fired. Fleming was the starter as Jacksonville won the inaugural NAL title.
Iowa has two quarterbacks in Travis Partridge and Drew Powell who could lead the team to a serious run. They also have a consistent defense. Green Bay got back a future Hall of Famer in BJ Hill and also have several keys on their defensive line and in their secondary. As for Cedar Rapids, things can only go up for them after a 1-15 season in 2017.
The season kicks off tomorrow and will run through June 23. The two conference games will be played the weekend of June 30. United Bowl X is scheduled to be played Saturday, July 7.