The Washington Valor won the first game in their history, in the first Arena Football League ever at the Verizon Center on Friday night, beating the Baltimore Brigade, who were also playing their first AFL game.
The final score was 51 – 38 in favor of the more experienced Valor in front of an announced raucous crowd of 15,759 (per ArenaFan.com) in downtown D.C.
It was the first Arena Football League game in the nation’s capital in 26 years,8 months and 17 days (July 21, 1990) when the Commandos last existed.
The Valor scored on their first possession, a touchdown strike in perfect stride to Mike Washington from Erik Meyer, from 34 yards out beating the Brigade’s best defensive back, Varmah Sonie. The score was one of three on the night for Washington, who was banged up much of last year in a couple of different stops.
The Valor connected on a few short passes and a huge 3 rd/3 conversion the play before the touchdown. Washington ran the vertical jet motion with a huge running start that you commonly see in the Arena Football League, to torch Sonie, who he abused all night.
The Brigade struggled from the beginning on offense, leading to a hole they could never climb out of for the entire first half and really the entire game.
On Baltimore’s first offensive series, they were called for a false start, a delay of game and had two bad snap exchanges. A snap went off the leg of the center and then over the head of quarterback Chase Cartwright but he recovered. The next snap appeared to be pretty good but Cartwright could not cleanly come up with it and the play broke down.
A big pressure by the Valor forced an incomplete and then the Brigade tried a long field goal attempt but it was well off and the Valor were off and running again on offense.
Erik Meyer took off on a scramble for a nice gain on first down to set up the Valor’s second score.
They took a 14-0 lead thanks a short rushing touchdown by “The Commish” Jimmy Gordon, from two-yards out, one of three rushing touchdowns
Soon, it was 20-0 on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Meyer to Washington (beating Sonie again on a vicious move) and then the pair connected again on a 18-yard scoring strike.
Baltimore finally broke through for their first touchdown in AFL history, a 27-yard scoring play from backup quarterback, Shane Carden to Reggie Gray.
The halftime lead for Washington over Baltimore was 34-6, after TT Toliver scored on a short touchdown run.
Tolliver, 40, a 15-year AFL veteran and now playing in his 16 th season, would later score on a touchdown catch as well. He entered this season with 1,203 career receptions for 15, 769 yards and 302 receiving touchdowns. He also had 10 rushing scores in his career before Friday night.
For Baltimore, a change at quarterback helped spark some life into the offense for head coach Omarr Smith. Shane Carden, who was expected to be the starter when camp opened, ran a score in from 6 yards out after throwing a touchdown pass to LaQuan Williams to close the gap to within 34-20.
The Brigade were down 17 points at the start of the fourth quarter and then would draw even closer with a huge defensive play as the Valor were trying to score.
Dexter Davis returned a fumble after the huge stop for 44 yards and a touchdown that made it an 11-point deficit, but that was as close as the Brigade would get.
Toliver hooked up with Meyer for a 20-yard touchdown catch (# 303 in his career) and the Valor would offset two more Baltimore scores with another touchdown run, their third of the night from Bernard Morris.
The Valor are on a quick bye week with a (1-0) record. The Brigade at (0-1) head to Cleveland next Saturday night as they play the second of three road games in a row to start their inaugural campaign.
Chris Russell has covered the Washington Redskins for eight seasons for multiple media outlets and was a part of the Redskins Radio Network broadcast team for five years. He covers the Redskins for Monumental Sports Network (www.DCHotRead.com) & Warpath Magazine. Listen to Chris on Washington D.C.'s # 1 sports radio station, 106.7 The FAN