|National Arena League|
- Sharks Re-sign Wide Receiver Chris Gilchrist
- Jacksonville Sharks re-sign Offensive Lineman Wilson Bell
- Jacksonville Re-signs Nose Guard Damien Jacobs
- Veteran Defensive Back Marvin Ross Re-signs with Sharks
- All-Time NAL Passing Leader Returns to Columbus
- NAL Announce Free Agency Period Begins
- Pirates Ismail Named NAL Coach of the Year
- Cobras throttle Lions to win 2018 NAL Championship
- Brackett Named MVP of NAL
- Eight Pirates Capture Post Season Honors
Home Game against the Carolina Cobras August 4, 2018
The NAL is firm on their expansion process
By Jay Luster
With the recent announcements by the Richmond Roughriders and the High Country Grizzlies to forego the NAL and join the AAL, I thought it would be a good idea to reach out to the NAL. Jeff Bouchy was nice enough to give me a few minutes and below are the highlights of our conversation.
Hi Jeff, thanks for agreeing to speak with me. I’d like to ask you some questions to help the fans understand how the NAL screens it’s teams for expansion?
Jeff Bouchy: First, I want people to know we have a very stringent process that some teams are unable or are unwilling to meet. There are various expansion fees and every team must post a $100k letter of credit and that is non-negotiable for our league. There is no place in our League for financial irresponsibility and it will not be tolerated. The fans, players and the other owners need to know the we have good partners and stability. We left the AFL because of poorly managed teams that we had to pay substantial amounts to and we are not going to allow that to occur in the NAL. This single factor destroys leagues and has plagued arena football over the years.
What are the fees for joining?
The expansion fee is nominal but it is painful enough to ensure that you’re serious. Depending upon market size it’s $25k to $100k. A market size of less than a million, but over 500k people, the entry fee would be $50k. We won’t pre-approve a team if they don’t vet out financially. The NAL’s primary goal is to have quality owners in our league and our requirements are the same for everyone. We’re still going to have a good four good expansion teams joining us.
Tell me about how the league is shaping up for next year.
Corpus and Dayton are gone. We have six teams right now. Before expansion we’ve got Columbus, Lehigh Valley, Monterrey, Georgia, Jacksonville, and Jersey. I feel confident that we’ll have eight teams this year, and maybe ten if we can get the arena leases. The last two are taking forever, but we’re close. Until a lease is signed it’s still not done.
Even before High Country left there was a rumor of a team starting up in Greensboro NC. Can you comment on that?
(Laughter) That’s a good rumor, but is is a great market
Does the league have some type uniformity standards for each of its member teams?
About a month ago our owners voted for uniformity standards for the entire league. We want a certain minimum standard on playing fields, we’re going to all use the same uniform company. We make our teams go through our branding process. You can’t just show up and do your own logo. We have designers we want you to use because we want the brands to look professional. For example you can’t have a name going through your logo,as that is very minor league. If we’re going to be a professional league then you can’t just go do what you want, you need to do what’s best for the league
So you’re establishing a list of preferred manufacturers?
We’re working on it now. We’re in the process of finding referred manufacturers for our playing fields and your signage has to be a certain size on your dashers and on your field. Doing what you want as individual teams does not attract national partners and it just doesn’t look good on TV whether it’s broadcast or streaming
Do you have a national broadcasting contract?
No, but we feel the future is in streaming and we loved our games on YouTube last season and expect to offer the same this year at a minimum.
What about Boston and Providence?
We’re pursuing numerous markets in expansion but we don’t know yet. We feel we’re close. We have phenomenal ownership groups so we’re very hopeful.
What makes an ownership group successful?
Successful arena teams are a two part deal. You have to have owners with the wherewithal, some money to get started. You should be able to turn a profit and get that cash back. Then step two is you need someone who knows how to operate an arena football team. That is part of our process. So along with our uniformity process, our logo branding we also make new ownership groups come to Jacksonville for two days of training. They send their operator down and we help them learn about pricing, ticket sales, telemarketing all that kind of stuff. It’s a requirement of our expansion process.
The fans see the AFL, NAL and AAL as competitors. Not that the teams will be playing against each other, but rather as to which league has the highest quality play.
We don’t see ourselves in competition with either of those leagues. It’s our job to get our lower tier teams to be better than the best teams in those leagues. This is one of the reasons why we’ve created these uniformity standards for fields, in signage, in training, in logo branding, It’s just part of the process of making the NAL the best league in the country. We’re very serious about this.
During the interview I asked Jeff specifically about both Richmond and High Country and he declined direct comment. Instead he turned our conversation to the team screening and branding processes. He said he believed and respected that those ownership groups did what they believed was in the best interest of their teams and fans. While it’s obvious he bears no personal animosity towards either the Riders or the Grizzlies, it was equally clear he believed they made a mistake seeking the greener pastures of the AAL. Considering he is one of the founders of the NAL and the Operating Manager of the reigning league champion it would be surprising if he felt differently. At one point in our conversation we talked about an article in which the journalist got some of the facts wrong. It was plainly obvious he was more upset by that then anything either Richmond or High Country was doing. The bottom line really is his ambition to help the NAL become the preeminent arena league in the world. Other than his family, team, and fans it is where his focus is.
Finally, I emailed Jeff and asked him for a comment about the High Country Grizzlies joining the AAL. He sent me the following,
"The National Arena League has certain minimum standards that must be met in 2018 to be a member in our league. These standards include, but are not limited to financial obligations, playing surfaces, game operations, uniformity in our presentation of our product and abiding by the rules of conduct by team employees."
Once again I’d like to thank Jeff for giving me yet another great interview. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I had doing it and putting it together.
NAL Championship Game
By Jay Luster
In front of an enthusiastic home crowd of nearly 9800, the Jacksonville Sharks capped off their season by winning the NAL Championship game. The NAL has been in business for only one season and already is emerging as one of the more important leagues in all of arena/indoor football. That is due in part to good marketing of the league and its top franchises, but also because their game play has been mostly high quality. It has had its peaks and valleys, and last night's game reflected both the strengths and weaknesses of the new league.
The game was a hard-fought affair with both sides playing to their strengths and preying on each other's weaknesses. Jacksonville opened the scoring with a short run by Derrick Ross. After that the game became a kind of slow and ugly slog featuring fumbles, picks, penalties, and missed connections. The Jacksonville defense pressured Columbus QB Mason Espinosa all night, and their defensive backs did a great job taking away the Lions biggest threats. The back end pretty much shut down 6’8” receiver Michael Reeve, and the front took away Columbus’s running game completely. On the other side of the ball Jacksonville wasn’t as crisp. Derrick Mason lost two fumbles inside the ten, and Damien Fleming had two passes very nearly intercepted. If not for the fumbles, it’s likely, the Jacksonville lead would have been at least three scores at halftime.
Columbus played great defense all night which kept the Lions in the game. In the first half they forced the Mason fumbles and recovered them giving the Columbus offense extra opportunities. With Jacksonville playing lights out defense they simply couldn't capitalize on the gifts. One of the bugs in the Lions game was the snap. Twice in the first three-quarters the snap scuffed along the floor forcing Espinosa to dive on it. Late in the game, down by six, that bug would come back to bite them. Inside the one-minute warning, with the ball deep in Jacksonville’s end of the field, Columbus ran a series of QB sneaks
purposely using up the clock. The tactic was deployed to prevent Jacksonville from having enough time to kick a game-winning field goal or score another TD. When Columbus finally decided to try and score, Espinosa's passes misfired twice into the end zone. Then, with just a few clock ticks remaining in the game the snap bug bit them again. This time Jacksonville made the recovery. With just four seconds left in the game, the Lions lost the ball and with it, the game.
Next season the NAL will likely lose three of the teams. The Dayton Wolfpack were unable to secure a home-field arena and after surviving for a while as a road team they folded. The Georgia Firebirds, and Corpus Christi Rage are also not returning. That will cut the league to five teams slated for return. However, the league has already announced the addition of The Jersey Flight. They have secured The Sun National Bank Center in Trenton and are committed for next
year. In my interview with Jeff Bouchy, the Operating Manager of The Jacksonville Sharks, he confirmed there are four applicants for admission to the league. While he wouldn’t divulge the name of the teams, one of them is believed to be The Richmond Roughriders. In 2017, the Roughriders won the Arena Pro Football Championship going end to end without a defeat. Their owner, Gregg Fornario, has only said he is keeping all of his options open for 2018. It’s not a denial of their application, but it wasn’t a confirmation either. After that the rumors are swirling about players, and possibly teams dropping out of the AFL. If that league folds the likely landing spot for their teams could possibly be the NAL. In the meantime, congratulations are due to the Jacksonville Sharks for their remarkable season.
Warren Smith Jr. Wins NAL MVP
Warren Smith Jr, Quarterback for the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks has won the 2017 National Arena League MVP. This is Smith's second MVP Trophy. His first was captured in 2014 while with the Trenton Freedom of the PIFL. Ironically Smith played the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks twice during the regular season and came away with a home and home split. Trenton took first place in the PIFL North Division with a regular season record of 8-4. Unfortunately The Freedom lost in the first round of the playoffs to Lehigh Valley. That season Smith accounted for 59 TD's, 46 passing and 13 on the ground. This past season he played with the Steelhawks in the newly formed NAL where he led them to a 9-1 regular season record which was good enough for second place in the league. They lost a very close game in the playoffs to the Columbus Lions, but Smith Jr. finished the season completing 169 of 256 passes for 1,953 yards, 56 touchdowns and 8 interceptions which dominated the quarterback stats and made him the easy choice for MVP.
NAL Announces All-NAL Offensive Honors-Sharks Lead Way with 5 Selections
ATLANTA- The National Arena League announced today its selections for the 2017 All-NAL Offense. The All-NAL First and Second Team Offensive selections are players from around the league that have been recognized for their achievements during the 2017 regular season. In addition to the offensive players recognized, the league released the 2017 All-NAL Kicker Returners.
The Jacksonville Sharks led the way with five total All-NAL offensive selections. The Columbus Lions and the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks followed in second with four total offensive selections each.
In their first year in the NAL, Jacksonville finished their regular season going 11-1. The Sharks’ offense led the league in total points scored (697) and total offensive yards (2928). After topping any other player in the league in rushing yards and touchdowns, Derrick Ross earned an All-NAL First-Team Selection. Other First-Team Selections included Offensive Linemen Cornelius Lewis, Mo Ruffins, and Center AJ Harmon. Wide Receiver Maurice “Moe” Williams earned Second-Team All-NAL after leading the league in yards per catch.
The Columbus Lions paved their way to the NAL Championship game as well and placed four players on the All-NAL First and Second Offensive Team Selections. Wide Receiver Michael Reeve led the league in three different categories earning his first All-NAL First-Team Selection. Reeve finished the year with 73 receptions, 809 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns. Reeve wouldn’t have gotten so many catches without the help from Second-Team All-NAL selection quarterback Mason Espinosa, who leads the league in pass efficiency (109.7). Wide Receiver Triston Purifoy and Center Ryne Holland earned their spots as Second-Team All-NAL as well.
The Lehigh Valley Steelhawks had an outstanding season led by Quarterback Warren Smith and Wide Receiver Darius Prince who both earned First-Team All-NAL honors. Smith led the league in passing yards, pass attempts, and passing TDs. On the other end of the ball, Prince had 57 receptions for 718 yards. Steelhawks’ Second-Team honors went to wide receiver Brandon Renford who was second in the league in all purpose yards, and Offensive Lineman Brett Piekarski. Renford also received First Team All-NAL honors for Kick Returner.
Two other teams each placed one or more players on the All-NAL offensive teams in 2017.
The Monterrey Steel’s Wide Receiver London Crawford was the leader in many of the league’s offensive stats including: all purpose yards, scoring TDs, receiving yards per game, receptions and TDs. His performance during the 2017 season earned him an All-NAL First-Team selection. The Steel’s Offensive Lineman Colin Madison earned Second-Team All-NAL honors.
The High County Grizzlies placed fullback Undra Hendrix, who is third in the league in rushing yards, rushing attempts and touchdowns behind the Sharks’ Derrick Ross, on the All-NAL Second-Team offensive roster. Kick Returner Daron Clark also earned Second Team All-NAL after topping the charts in kick returns and kick return yards.
FULL LIST OF FIRST AND SECOND TEAM ALL-NAL OFFENSIVE PLAYERS BELOW
First-Team All-NAL Second-Team All-NAL
- Quarterback: Warren Smith (Lehigh Valley)
- Fullback: Derrick Ross (Jacksonville)
- Wide Receiver: Michael Reeve (Columbus)
- Wide Receiver: Darius Prince (Lehigh Valley)
- Wide Receiver: London Crawford (Monterrey)
- Offensive Lineman: Cornelius Lewis (Jacksonville)
- Offensive Lineman: Mo Ruffins (Jacksonville)
- Center: AJ Harmon (Jacksonville)
First-Team All-NAL Kick Returners
- 1st Team: Brandon Renford (Lehigh Valley)
First-Team All-NAL Second-Team All-NAL
- Quarterback: Mason Espinosa (Columbus)
- Fullback: Undra Hendrix (High Country)
- Wide Receiver: Brandon Renford (Lehigh Valley)
- Wide Receiver: Moe Williams (Jacksonville)
- Wide Receiver: Triston Purifoy (Columbus)
- Offensive Lineman: Brett Piekarski (Lehigh Valley)
- Offensive Lineman: Colin Madison (Monterrey)
- Center: Ryne Holland (Columbus)
Second-Team All-NAL Kick Returners
- 2nd Team: Daron Clark (High County)