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.”