The Washington Valor defeated the Baltimore Brigade, 42-35, Saturday afternoon at Capital One Arena, in the teams’ final game of the regular season. Valor quarterback Arvell Nelson earned Most Valuable Player honors for his 247-yard, five-touchdown performance. Valor defensive back Tracy Belton was named Defensive Player of the game after breaking up passes on consecutive plays on Washington’s goal line stand in the fourth quarter.
The Valor will play the winner of tonight’s matchup between the Albany Empire and Philadelphia Soul in the first round of the AFL postseason, beginning next weekend.
“It felt good to put a full game together,” Valor Head Coach Benji McDowell said after the game. “We fought, we fought, we fought. We gave them a chance – but it is what it is. The offense was huge for us. The defense was huge for us in the second half. We did exactly what we needed to do, and we came out on top.”
The Valor got on the board first, taking a 7-0 lead when Nelson found wide receiver Reggie Gray for a six-yard touchdown, capping a six-minute, nine-play drive to open the game. Baltimore answered quickly when wide receiver Brandon Thompkins hauled in a short-yardage pass from quarterback Randy Hippeard. Offense dominated the second quarter as neither defense managed a stop – Washington scored on all three of its drives while Baltimore did the same on their two offensive possessions. Just four seconds into the second quarter, Washington wideout Doug McNeil, coming off a two-touchdown performance last weekend against Albany, gathered a 13-yard score from Nelson. Hippeard found wideout Quentin Sims for a four-yard touchdown, tying the game at 14, before Nelson threw his third touchdown of the night, this time to wide receiver Jared Dangerfield, to retake the lead for the Valor. With just eight seconds left in the half, Thompkins tallied his third rushing touchdown of the season, a three-yard sweep that once again tied the game. McNeil caught his second touchdown of the day, a Hail Mary attempt that he gathered off the nets, as time expired in the first half, giving the Valor a 28-21 lead heading into halftime.
Baltimore outscored Washington, 14-0, in the third quarter after Valor tight end Anthony Parker’s fumble ended Washington’s only possession of the quarter. Both Brigade third-quarter touchdowns, which occurred at the 9:27 and 2:10 marks, respectively, came by way of the Hippeard-to-Thompkins connection. Consecutive Valor touchdowns to start the fourth quarter – a four-yard catch by wideout TT Toliver and a six-yard run by fullback James Atoe – game Washington a 42-35 lead with 6:13 remaining. Baltimore’s following possession ended when Tracy Belton broke up passes on consecutive plays – third- and fourth-and goal, with just under five minutes to go, preserving the Washington lead. After a Valor four-and-out, the Brigade had another chance to tie, but turned the ball over on downs, sealing the Washington win.
MVP: WAS QB Arvell Nelson – 25/34 passing, 247 yards and five touchdowns
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: BAL WR Brandon Thompkins – 113 all-purpose yards, four total touchdowns
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: WAS DB Tracy Belton – six total tackles (six solo), two pass break-ups
Details regarding matchups, dates, times and broadcast information for the AFL postseason will be announced in the coming days.