October 23, 2017

Valor can’t finish after 21-point first quarter, drop first game in franchise history

Valor coach Dean Cokinos expresses angst in the second half collapse to the Philadelphia Soul on Saturday night. Photo by Austin McFadden/MSA.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After scoring on three of the first four drives and storming out to a 14-point lead in the first quarter, the Washington Valor endured more second half struggles for the second game in a row, stumbling across the finish line in the 49-31 loss to defending Arena Football League champion, Philadelphia Soul.

The Valor mustered 10 points over the final three quarters, including a second-half goose egg, blundering through offensive ineptitude and a stammering offense that couldn’t compete in a high-scoring driven league.

“It’s an offensive-driven game, and when you only put up 31 points, you’re never going to win,” Valor quarterback Erik Meyer said. “We have to learn from our mistakes. I know it’s cliche, but we have to get on the same page as an offense. We have to do a lot better than that.”

For the second game in a row, the Valor (1-1) were outscored in the second half. In their debut two weeks ago, the Baltimore Brigade put up 34 points compared to the Valor’s 17. On Saturday, they were outworked 21-0 in the final 30 minutes of regulation. 

“It’s arena football,” Valor coach Dean Cokinos said. “There’s going to be a quarter or a series or three series’ or even sometimes when you start the game, it starts bad. … They made the plays when they had to, and we didn’t.”

According to Cokinos, the Valor had the Soul right where they wanted them to open the second half: An unrelenting defensive drive that had to make its opposition work for every inch. 

Unfortunately for Cokinos, the Soul took the nine-play, 48-yard drive to the house to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, 35-31. The drive spanned six and a half minutes, and the Soul faced a third down and second-and-long three times. They just couldn’t get the stop they needed.

“I thought we came out and played pretty well in the third,” Cokinos said. “They had a long drive to start the half. That’s what we wanted, we want to force them into another play, another play, another play. If we get a stop there, it changes. Things just turned there. … It’s hard when you give up two possessions back-to-back.”

The next two Valor drives ended in interceptions, and just like that, a first half lead snowballed into an 18-point loss. 

Backup quarterback Bernard Morris scored the opening touchdown on a one-yard sneak up the gut and just over a minute later, D.C. native Tracy Belton snagged his third interception of the young season and jogged five yards into the end zone to push Valor’s lead to 14-0.

After Philadelphia got on the board, Washington responded in one play when quarterback Erik Meyer floated a 16-yard pass to Mike Washington on a fade route in the back right of the end zone. But after that, they only scored two more times — a T.C. Stevens 23-yard field goal and 12-yard pass-and-catch from Meyer to Washington, which made it 24-14 and 31-28.

The Valor committed three turnovers and committed 10 penalties for 68 yards.

“We started out very lethargic in the second half,” Washington said. “It happened [in the Baltimore game], too. In Arena, we don’t have preseason games to really get a rhythm to get the feel for it. Usually, like the first couple games to start the season, it’s like playing chess. You’re still trying to figure out what type of identity you want to have as a team. In the second half, we shot ourselves in the foot.”

Meyer couldn’t duplicate his showy outing in the debut against Baltimore two weeks ago, managing two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions on 21-for-34 passing. He finished with 268 yards through the air.

Washington earned offensive MVP honors, catching nine passes for 125 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

T.T. Tolliver added 40 receiving yards on five receptions. 

Belton, along with his league-leaded interception, tied for a team-high in tackles with six.

Soul (2-0) quarterback Dan Raudabaugh garnered MVP honors with his 23-for-36, 247 yard, five touchdown performance.

“They dink and dunk, then once you’re tired, they go for the long-ball,” Washington said of the Soul. “Then we shoot ourselves in the foot. Jumping offsides, fourth down, all those plays are important in arena football. Like I said, hats off to Philly. We’ll see them two or three more times this season. It’s just a learning curve.”

About Kyle McFadden 339 Articles
Kyle McFadden is a graduate from Linganore High School's Class of 2014, a sports junkie and general news-hound. He got his start as a sports writer in January 2014 for Linganore's student-run newspaper The Lance, where he wrote 13 articles. McFadden then launched his own blog in October 2014 called The Beltway Dispatch covering collegiate, local high school and professional sports. Formally known as The Beltway Dispatch, McFadden and Evan Engelhard merged respective platforms in June 2015 to make what is now Maryland Sports Access. With baseball, basketball and golf experience, McFadden brings ample knowledge to the helm of MSA. McFadden covers a wide variety of sports in football, baseball, basketball, golf, hockey, lacrosse, soccer and specializes in the collegiate and high school levels. McFadden volunteers his time at Damascus Road Community Church -- serving as a mentor to the youth, basketball coach at the varsity and junior varsity levels, and leads a small group of high school sophomores every Wednesday night. Although he's only been around journalism since January 2014, he's a high school sports reporter for The Baltimore Sun and freelancer for The Frederick News-Post. McFadden's work has also appeared in DMV newspapers The Aegis, The Capital Gazette, The Daily Times (Delmarva Now), The Hometown Observer, Howard County Times, Germantown Pulse and The Towson Times. He's also won two Mike Powell Excellence in Journalism awards and has appeared on The Best of SNO, which showcases top student work of high school and college journalists. McFadden currently studies at Frederick Community College and plans to transfer to the University of Maryland in the fall of 2018 to work on a bachelor's degree in journalism with aspirations to be a national college basketball writer.
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