2018 NAL Week 3 Recap: Heated championship rematch, Great game in the Snake Pit, & Mammoths get first win
Week 3 of the 2018 Season for the National Arena League has passed by. It was a very exciting week once again for the NAL and the fans. We will give you the run down on what took place in all three match-ups on this article, plus some news regarding some of the teams signings and roster moves.
2018 Week 3 Game of the Week
(2017 Championship Rematch)
Jacksonville Sharks @ Columbus Lions
Starting off with the game of the week, the Jacksonville Sharks traveled to Columbus, Georgia in the rematch game of the 2017 National Arena League Championship.. After last week's loss to the Pirates, the Sharks enter "The Jungle" looking to beat the Lions, and improve the 2-1 on the year. On the other hand, the Columbus Lions enter Week 3 undefeated, 1-0 on the year, as they destroyed the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks last week 50-18 in "The Jungle". The Arena Football Talk staff members picked this game as the game of the week over the two other games because of the fact that it is a 2017 Championship rematch.
From the beginning of the game to the end, the relationship between both teams was very chipping. Throughout the game, there was pushing, shoving, and fighting that took place, and it even got to the point where players were taunting their opponents. In the fourth quarter, defensive back Marvin Ross for the Sharks was tossed from the game with 5:35 left in the game on a Double Unsportsmanlike conduct call. The arguments and smack talk was back and forth all game long; from the announcer yelling "overrated", to fans yelling in opposing players' ears, and even players talking to each other. At one point in the game two teammates got into an argument, which shows team chemistry is out of whack. The Columbus Lions won a great game 51-41 at home, getting their revenge after last year's loss vs the Sharks in the Championship Game.
After the game, it was reported that there was some over excessive conflict that went down in the parking lot. Sources are reporting that a Jacksonville Sharks player, which was later identified as WR/DL Leon Mackey, was arrested by Columbus Police Officers after his reckless activity in the parking lot took place. Reportedly, Mackey possessed a gun and fired shots in the parking lot during the altercation. The mayhem started taking place when a Lions player was walking to his car and exchanged some words with a Sharks player. Once words were exchanged, shots were fired, but no punches were thrown. When police arrived on scene the bus was searched and it was reported than drugs were found. There is a circulating rumor that two players were arrested for drug possession, but there has not been an official confirmation on who was arrested.
The beginning of the game started off very chippy with pushing and shoving, with some penalties being enforced as a result. To start the game #19 Brandon Behr kicked the ball of for the Sharks, and on the squib kick, the Sharks recovered their own kickoff to start the game. Behr was recently signed by the Sharks to kick as a result of Nick Belcher's suspension. Meanwhile, Ryan Walker was the starting quarterback for the Sharks, as a result of Patrick McCain being put on the IR. On the Sharks first drive of the game, Walker's attempted pass to Gilchrist was intercepted by Kyle Griswould for the Lions who was pushed into the boards at about the 15 yard line. Following the interception, the Lions scored with 8:24 left in the 1st Quarter on 2nd and goal, when Espinosa threw a 10 yard touchdown pass to Fortson in the endzone. Following the touchdown pass, Wolfe made the field goal and the Lions jumped out to the early 7-0 lead. Before the end of the quarter, with 1:58 left, the Sharks turned over the ball on a 4th and goal opportunity, which later resulted in the Lions scoring.
As a result of the Sharks turning over the ball, the Lions started the 2nd Quarter with a bang, as Espinosa threw a long 25 yard midfield pass to the endzone to Fortson for another touchdown, and the Lions ended up taking a 14-0 lead. The Sharks finally woke up and stuck back, with a 13 yard pass from Walker to Vaughn for a touchdown, and the Sharks narrowed the Lions' lead to 14-7. On the Lions next possession, Lindsey Wolfe made a long 54 yard field goal on a 4th down to put the Lions up 17-7. Following Wolfe's FG, the Sharks took over the ball and scored on a quick pitch from Walker to Vaughn, and the score was now 17-14 with Columbus ahead. With 33 seconds left in the quarter, Espinosa had a QB sneak touchdown into the endzone on 2nd and goal, and the Lions extended their lead to 24-17. With 0:19 left in the quarter, Ryan Walker threw a pass from midfield to Howard who was at the 10 yard line and caught the ball and ran it in to score, and the game was now 24-21, as the Lions lead going into Halftime.
To start off the quarter, a pass from Walker to Howard was fumbled by Howard and then Columbus' Tyler Stephenson recovered the ball and the team took over possession. Wolfe and the Lions attempted another long field goal, this time 60 yards, and Wolfe missed it as the Lions' had a turnover on downs. The Sharks took over the possession, and Walker passed a 10 yard pass to Howard for a touchdown and the Sharks took the 28-24 lead. Like they did all game long, the Lions responded quickly from a 8 yard touchdown pass from Espinosa to Fortson and Columbus was back on top 31-28. After the Lions touchdown, DB Marvin Ross was tossed from the game on a Double Unsportsmanlike conduct call. On the kickoff, Columbus ended up recovering their own kickoff on the 1 yard line and on the next play scored on a 1 yard run from Grizwould. The FG from Wolfe was no good after the touchdown, but the Lions still extended the lead to 37-28. Following the Lions' score, Walker threw a wide open touchdown pass to Howard from the 19 yard line and they narrowed Columbus' lead to 37-35. With 0:29 remaining in the quarter, Espinosa connected with Neal on a 25 yard touchdown pass and the Lions now were ahead 44-35.
An incredible 30 yard pass and diving catch from Espinosa to Purifoy highlighted the start of the final quarter of play. The Lions extended the lead to 51-35. With 9 seconds left in the game Walker had a 5 yard touchdown pass to Gilchrist and the followup two point conversion was no good and the game was over. The Lions won 51-41.
Massachusetts Pirates @ Carolina Cobras
(Section Written by: John Paul York)
Last night the Cobras hosted the Massachusetts Pirates in what was an exhilarating game. Through the first half, neither team could really gain the upper hand. After winning the coin toss, Carolina wanted the ball and they did not disappoint. First play from scrimmage was a completion to Fabian Guerra setting up a Tyron Laughinghouse touchdown. Newly signed quarterback Robert Kent Jr responded with a short touchdown of his own and then Pirates kicker, Ali Mourtada, hit a deuce on the kickoff giving the Pirates a 9-7 lead. On the Cobras ensuing drive, a flag for illegal defense on a fourth down play kept the drive alive and Charles McCullum took advantage connecting with a wide-open Guerra for a touchdown making the score 14-9 at the end of the first.
After a defensive stop on fourth and goal, the Cobras offense would struggle through the second quarter. After a sack and a couple of incompletions, Craig Peterson’s field goal came up short and the Pirates returned it for a touchdown. Mourtada hit another deuce on the kickoff putting the Pirates up 18-14. The Cobras then gave the ball back after failing to score but the Pirates gave it right back after an interception by Keith Lewis. On the first play after the interception, McCullum threw an interception that turned into a scramble in the end zone and the play being ruled a safety. It was overturned on review because the defender gave himself up before the fumble. Some great coaching and defensive hustle held the Pirates to just a field goal giving the Pirates a 21-14 lead. The Pirates then tried to catch the Cobras sleeping with an onside kick. The failed attempt set McCullum up to strike again before the half ended. Connecting with Laughinghouse again with just 17.3 seconds left in the half, the score was tied up 21-21 at halftime.
The third quarter started off for the Pirates with a long touchdown pass but a missed PAT. The Cobras would answer with a touchdown to Tyrell Goodman. The Pirates once again would hit the deep pass, again Mourtada would miss the PAT but redeem himself on the kickoff by hitting his third deuce of the night. To round out the third quarter, the Cobras and Pirates exchanged touchdowns and missed PATs. The Pirates led going into the fourth 41-34.
The opening of the fourth quarter would see a strike to Laughinghouse that would set up another touchdown for Goodman as he pushed his way through the Pirates defenders. The Pirates next drive would end with a short 2yard touchdown run. On the first play after the kickoff, Guerra would find the end zone again. The Cobras defense held strong on fourth down, setting up McCullum to find Guerra (again) on what was a spectacular one-handed catch. After missing the PAT, the Pirates head coach, Ameer Ismail, was ejected after another scuffle with the refs. On the kickoff after the ejection, Peterson came through with a deuce after coming so close many times before. In the waning minutes, down by 8, Kent attempted a backwards pass that was muffed and recovered by Toni Pulu with 51.5 seconds left in the game. After a couple of short offensive plays, the Carolina Cobras would get their first home victory by a score of 55-47!
The Cobras, now 2-1, travel next week to Jacksonville to take on the Sharks in a week 1 rematch. The Sharks coming off a loss this week to Columbus will be looking for redemption. Even though it's early in the season, the Cobras are showing that they're contenders to make a playoff run in their inaugural season!
Maine Mammoths @ Lehigh Valley Steelhawks
The Steelhawks had their home opener in front of a very thin crowd, coming off of a miserable season opening loss to the Lions. This game was a Week Three head-to-head matchup of two teams who are eager for their first victory of the season. The Mammoths recently fought a close fight against the Carolina Cobras and the Steelhawks lost to the Columbus Lions 50-18 in Week 2.
Going into this week three matchup, many people didn't pay much attention to this game. Both the Mammoths and the Steelhawks have shown their early season mishaps, and no one expected this game to be the greatest, In the end, as many people expected, the Maine Mammoths showed that they are the better team clearly, after beating the Steelhawks 45-24. Finally, Quarterback Johnathan Bane and the Mammoths offense had a great game showcasing their great capabilities. On the other side of things, it was no shocker as the quarterback issues for Lehigh Valley continued. Coach Bob Kohler needs to realize that his team needs to make adjustments now, and find a new reliable quarterback. Although Walton looked a bit better than last week, the rookie still can't seem to find his ways and fit in, in the game of arena football. As long as the Steelhawks continue making the same mistakes, the outcome will be the same.