|National Arena League|
Columbus – The Carolina Cobras came up short tonight 55-54 after the Columbus Lions’ miracle win in the last seconds of the game. Carolina was down by two scores shortly into the second quarter but came back quickly to take the lead for the majority of the game. Down by 13, with less than a minute left in the game the Lions were able to get a quick touchdown, a stop on defense with a missed field goal by Cobras’ kicker Craig Peterson, and hit the game winning touchdown as time expired to tie the game. Lions’ kicker Lindsey Wolfe made the game winning extra-point after having a rough first half kicking.
The game was very slow to start, with both Cobras’ quarterback Charles McCullum and Lions’ quarterback Mason Espinosa missing most of their targets. After both teams turned the ball over on downs many times the Cobras had the ball with under a minute left in the quarter, deep in their own territory. McCullum was sacked, fumbling the ball, giving the Lions great field position.
On the first play of the second quarter, capitalizing off of the good field position, the Lions’ Espinosa threaded the needle to wide receiver Jarmon Fortson for the first score of the game, putting the Lions up 6-0. The Cobras started to get things going on offense on their ensuing drive, getting all the way down to the Lions’ 1-yard line. A holding penalty backed them up 10 yards, however, and were not able to punch in for the score on fourth down, giving the ball back to Columbus. The Lions marched down the field and were able to convert a touchdown yet again to Fortson to make the score 12-0. Kicker Wolfe was able to make up for his two missed extra-point attempts by hitting a deuce on the next kick, putting the Lions up 14-0. Cobras’ McCullum really got into a rhythm on the next drive, with big passes to wide receiver Fabian Guerra and a 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jordan Jolly to cut the Lions lead in half. The Cobras continued this scoring streak after Peterson hit a deuce to reduce the Lions’ lead to five. Carolina’s defense came up big on the Lions’ next drive, forcing a three-and-out. The Lions’ field goal attempt was short and returned for a touchdown by defensive back Cedric Poole from the back of the endzone. Just like that the Cobras had the lead, 16-14. Columbus answered with yet another touchdown to Fortson with five seconds left in the half, and yet another missed extra-point attempt. It seemed that the half would end this way but a short squib kick on the ensuing kick-off gave the Cobras great field position with four seconds left on the clock. As time expired in the half McCullum and Jolly struck again with a touchdown that gave the Cobras the lead at half-time, 23-20.
Although Columbus started the second half with the ball, they were stopped in their tracks after a big third down sack by defensive lineman Dwayne Beckford. After a missed field goal by the Lions and a few quick passes by the Cobras, Carolina extended their lead to 10 after a touchdown reception by wide receiver Phillip Barnett. The Lions wouldn’t go away quietly, getting a quick touchdown to Fortson on the next drive. McCullum and company went to work again on the following drive with passes to Jolly and Tyron Laughinghouse to set up a rushing touchdown by Ricky Dowdy. Columbus struck back in a hurry though, throwing a 30-yard bomb on the first play of their next drive to wide receiver Tristan Purifoy. The Cobras finished the third quarter out with a touchdown to Barnett to make the score 44-34.
Columbus’ next drive resulted in a touchdown to wide receiver Durron Neal, after a critical fourth-and-ten conversion on the preceding play. Despite how hot the Cobras’ offense was since the second quarter they were kept out of the endzone on their following drive and had to settle for a field goal. The Cobras’ Jolly was able to get a touchdown on the next Cobras’ drive due to the Carolina’s defense doing its job and getting a stop on the Lions’ previous drive. The game seemed over now, with Carolina up 54-41 and hardly any time left on the clock. Columbus didn’t hesitate though, getting a touchdown with 28 seconds left and the extra-point, now down by six. After a failed on-side kick the Cobras now had the ball inside the Lions’ 10-yard line. With three timeouts in their pocket the Lions were able to keep the clock from running out and forced the Cobras to attempt a field goal. Peterson missed the field goal, leaving hope for the Lions with nine seconds left. On the first play of the drive the Lions hit a wide-open receiver in the middle of the field, who then lateralled the ball to another receiver to get some extra yardage. Deep in Carolina territory the Lions had one shot at the endzone with two seconds remaining. As time expired, Espinosa hit his man for the game-tying touchdown, followed by the game winning extra-point by Lindsey Wolfe. The Cobras four-game win streak is snapped after the Lions win 55-54.
PIRATES PULL OUT OVERTIME VICTORY VS. MAINE
The following article is from nationalarenaleague.com
By Nick Morninghoff
Quarterback Sean Brackett dove into the end zone for a two-point conversion as the Massachusetts Pirates came from behind in overtime to defeat the Maine Mammoths 44 to 43 Saturday night at the DCU Center. The victory improved the Pirates record to 5-1 while Maine fell to 1-4. For Massachusetts, it was its first ever venture into overtime and the loss was no fault of kicker Henry Nell who accounted for 19 total points for Maine.
The game saw Maine jump out to an 11 – nothing lead as after Pirates kicker Ali Mourtada missed a 52-yard field goal on the games’ first possession, Mammoths quarterback Jonathan Bane connected with Devin Wilson on a six-yard pass for the first score. Nell added an extra point and his first “Duce” of the game to set the tone.
The Pirates answered with a one-yard run by Deshawn Johnson to cap a seven play, 45-yard drive and the Pirates trailed 11-7 as the first quarter came to a close.
In the second quarter, Nell made field goals of 22 and 24 yards and added a second “Duce” and the Mammoths went to the dressing room with a 19-7 halftime advantage.
The Pirates came to life in the third quarter. Kiante Northington intercepted Bane and on the next play Brackett fired a 19-yard strike to Lavon Pearson for a touchdown. The PAT was no good but Mourtada nailed a “Duce” on the kickoff and Massachusetts trailed 19-15.
On the next play from scrimmage, Cheatham Norrils intercepted Bane, only to see Maine’s Keiron Jones return the favor, picking off Brackett on the next snap. The Pirates defense did come up with a stop which lead to Massachusetts taking its first lead of the night. Brackett scored on a three-yard run and with Mourtada’s point after, the Pirates led 22-19. The Pirate defense continued to flex its muscles as the third quarter closed with Paul Vacchio recovering a fumbled snap, setting up a successful drive to start the final quarter.
In the fourth Brackett scored on a one-yard run to push the Pirates lead to 29-19 with 13:56 to play. Two plays later it looked as if Massachusetts would pull away as Norrils intercepted Bane again. The Pirates drove to the eight-yard line but Mourtada missed a 24-yard field goal which opened the door for the Mammoths. Bane drove Maine 45 yards in seven plays with Edgar Poe making a circus catch in the back of the end zone to bring the Mammoths within three points at 29-26 with 3:36 to play.
A failed onside kick by Maine gave the Pirates great field position. Brackett took advantage, hooking up with Pearson again, this time from 12 yards to make it 36-26 with 1:40 left. The game was far from over as Bane drove the Mammoths 30 yards in five plays. On fourth and goal from the three, Bane found Poe for the second time on the night, which made the score 36-32 with 3.7 showing on the clock. Nell came on to drop kick the conversion for two points to put Maine down by two. Nell then tied the game with a “Duce” on the ensuing kickoff to set up overtime.
Maine had the first possession in the extra session and on second on ten from the 19, Bane hit Devin Wilson and Nell’s PAT gave the Mammoths a 43-36 lead. Brackett and the Pirates answered in just two plays as the QB completed a 29-yard pass to Pearson down to the one-yard line. Brackett took the next snap and scored his second rushing touchdown of the night to put the Pirates down by a point. Coach Ameer Ismail decided to go for the win. The first two-point conversion saw Jones of Maine called for holding which spotted the ball at the one. On the next play, Brackett dove over the goal line for two points and the Pirates escaped with a 44-43 victory.
Bane ended the night 20 of 39 for 191 yards, four touchdowns, and three interceptions. His leading receiver was Poe with nine receptions for 83 yards and two scores.
Brackett was held under five passing touchdowns in a game for the first time this season as he was 19 of 32 for 175 yards, two scores, and one interception. Pearson led the Pirates with 88 receiving yards and two TD’s with five catches. Mardy Gilyard pulled in eight balls for 53 yards.
The Pirates now take to the road and will try to avenge their only loss of the season when they face Carolina next Saturday night.
- Sharks Defense Sink Pirates 47-42
- PIRATES SIGN FORMER OREGON DUCK QB DARRON THOMAS
- Week Eight Game Preview: Sharks vs. Pirates
- Carolina Steals Win from Pirates
- Pirates Look to Remain Perfect at Home
- Griggs Leads Pirates by Example
- Lions display offensive firepower in blowout against Lehigh Valley
- Cobras overcome 20 point Deficit to Upset Pirates
- Second Half Woes Continue to Plague Mammoths
- Sharks Surge to Three Game Win Streak
Home Game against the Carolina Cobras August 4, 2018
Maine Mammoths Joins NAL
ATLANTA, GEORGIA – After announcing the league's latest expansion franchise in North Carolina yesterday, the Carolina Cobras, NAL Expansion team heads north to Portland, Maine. The team will play at the Cross Insurance Arena and be called the Maine Mammoths. Returning franchises include the defending Champion Jacksonville Sharks, Columbus Lions, and the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks with the previously announced expansion franchises Jersey Flight, Massachusetts Pirates and Carolina Cobras. With higher expectations and new requirements set in league bylaws, league officials set out to expand in new markets, with ownership groups and operators that reflected the league’s ideals.
The National Arena League is proud to announce that Portland, ME will join Carolina, Massachusetts, and New Jersey as expansion franchises for 2018. Portland joins Lehigh Valley, New Jersey and Massachusetts as the league’s fourth franchise in the Northeast United States and second in the New England area. A rivalry has already sparked between the newly announced Massachusetts Pirates franchise and the Portland franchise.
“To be announcing three expansions franchises in less than 60 days is quite an honor but has also been a monumental accomplishment, stated NAL Expansion Chairman Jeff Bouchy. Portland, completes our plans for expansion for the 2018 season and allows us to move forward with the release of our NAL schedule. Maine has an untapped potential for a professional football atmosphere and it is no doubt that Portland is the perfect location to bring the state’s first professional arena football team.”
“We are excited to partner with the National Arena League to bring something new to the city of Portland. We are looking forward to continue working well with the league as we prepare for the upcoming season this Spring. The Spectra team and the Board of Trustees for the Cross Insurance Arena continue to push for year round events and becoming the home for the Maine Mammoths does just that” says Matt Herpich, Spectra General Manager at the Cross Insurance Arena.
“In only our second year, the NAL is poised for a breakout season” stated NAL Commissioner Chris Siegfried. Our returning teams, coupled with these additional new markets will continue to build upon the firm foundation of the sports premier arena league. April can’t come soon enough to showcase what we have accomplished this offseason.”
Carolina Cobras Set to Play in NAL 2018
ATLANTA, GEORGIA – After announcing the league's newest franchise, the Massachusetts Pirates last month, the NAL now sets it’s sights on Greensboro, North Carolina for the next team to join the NAL in 2018. The team will play in the Greensboro Coliseum and be called the Carolina Cobras. Returning franchises include the defending NAL Champions Jacksonville Sharks, Columbus Lions, and the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks with the previously announced expansion franchise Jersey Flight and Massachusetts Pirates. With higher expectations and new requirements set in league bylaws, league officials set out to expand in new markets, with ownership groups and operators that reflected the league’s ideals.
“We are extremely proud to be bringing a franchise to North Carolina. Greensboro has been prime target for NAL expansion with their connection with its neighboring cities Winston Salem and High Point, stated NAL Expansion Chairman Jeff Bouchy. We believe Greensboro’s community is well deserving of a arena football franchise and it’s region will be a strong foundation for a rapid growing fan base with an electric atmosphere to bring to the impressive Greensboro Coliseum. The growth that we are having this year is a testament to our league’s strength and will be a reflection of our success to come in the future years”
"We are excited to have arena football return to the Coliseum and look forward to working with the NAL and the Cobras' ownership group and staff," said Greensboro Coliseum Complex managing director Matt Brown. "Arena football is an exciting, high-energy sport that will add another family-friendly live entertainment option to our schedule for Triad residents to enjoy beginning in the spring of 2018."
“In only our second year, the NAL is poised for a breakout season,” stated NAL Commissioner Chris Siegfried. “Our returning teams, coupled with these additional new markets will continue to build upon the firm foundation of the sports premier arena league. April can’t come soon enough to showcase what we have accomplished this offseason.”
Massachusetts Pirates Begin NAL Play 2018
The Massachusetts Pirates, the newest team in the National Arena League [NAL], will play their games in the DCU Center beginning April 2018.
League that played at the then Worcester Centrum, but folded due to low attendance numbers.
An arena football field is only 50 yards long [half the length of an NFL field] with walls along the sidelines.
The NAL was formed just this year and is made up of six teams: Jacksonville Sharks, Columbus Lions, Lehigh Valley, Steelhawks, Jersey Flight, Monterrey Steel and Georgia Firebirds. However, according to insidethearena.org, the Steel and Firebirds have yet to commit to the 2018 season.During the 2017 season, each team played 12 regular season games — six home games, and six games on the road.
During the 2017 season, each team played 12 regular season games — six home games, and six games on the road.
John Gregory has steps down as the Commissioner
ATLANTA, GEORGIA – In an announcement made today by the National Arena League, John Gregory has stepped down as the Commissioner of the league. Gregory, whose football acumen spans many years of faithful service to the sport, leaves a legacy in the league by being its first ever Commissioner, and serving with dedication and honor. He will be succeeded by Chris Siegfried, whose resume in the business side of professional sports and arena football in particular is among the best in his field.
“I have been proud to be the Commissioner of the NAL and am proud of the accomplishments made by the League in its Inaugural Season,” stated Gregory. “This was accomplished because of the dedication and commitment made by the owners, managers, coaches and players. Thank you for allowing me to have been a part of it.”
Chris Siegfried now steps into the role as League Commissioner after serving as the NAL’s Director of Football Operations in its inaugural campaign. He has a long history in the sport having over 12 years of coaching experience in the Arena Football League and arenafootball2 league. As a Head Coach, Chris compiled a 90-59 win-loss record over nine seasons, and received the honor of 2006 af2 Coach of the Year as well as being named the 2006 Inland Northwest Coach of the Year while guiding the Spokane Shock to the ArenaCup Championship. Additionally, he coached the only expansion team to play in the ArenaCup in af2 League history.
In addition, Siegfried spent three seasons as an Offensive Coordinator helping his teams to a combined 32-19 win-loss record. Siegfried was the Offensive Coordinator for the expansion Jacksonville Sharks in 2010, a team that went 12-4 in the regular season and earned top seed in the American Conference playoffs. He joined the Sharks following a stint as Head Coach of the af2’s Arkansas Twisters. Siegfried was the second most “winningest” coach in the league’s ten year history. As the first former af2 player to be named Head Coach in the league, Chris tasted coaching success immediately when named Head Coach of Cape Fear for the 2002 season and guided the Wildcats to a 12-4 regular season record. He finished 38-16 over three years at Cape Fear, and lead the franchise to three playoff appearances and two division titles.
Siegfried played his college football at Division II Millersville University (PA) and earned a degree in Business Administration.
“I am thrilled to be named as the new Commissioner of the National Arena League,” stated Siegfried. “We started something great in 2017, and look to take the league to new heights in our second season of play. There should be some exciting announcements made here over the course of the next couple weeks that are made possible by the efforts of all our league members and staff.”
The league is in its final stages of expansion for the 2018 season, with new team announcements to be made in the coming weeks, followed by a league schedule.
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.
WORCESTER — Adding to the city’s professional sports scene, arena football is returning to the DCU Center.Jawad Yatim, a 2008 Shrewsbury High graduate and football standout, will officially announce the Massachusetts Pirates as the newest member of the National Arena League at a 3 p.m. press conference Wednesday at the DCU Center’s Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Pavilion. Yatim is the Pirates’ president, while his father, Hassan Yatim, is the team’s owner. Jawad Yatim said Monday he will attend Wednesday’s press conference, which will also be attended by Mayor Joseph M. Petty, City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr., DCU Center general manager Sandy Dunn and members of the professional sports community, according to a press release titled “Exciting Sports Announcement for the City of Worcester.” The announcement will mark the return of professional indoor football to the city for the first time in a decade. The New England Surge called the DCU Center home in 2007-08 as a member of the former Continental Indoor Football League.
Prior to the Surge, the Mass Marauders of the Arena Football League played one season at the then Worcester Centrum in 1994. The Pirates would be the NAL’s sixth team, joining the Columbus (Ohio) Lions, Lehigh Valley (Pennsylvania) Steelhawks, Monterrey (California) Steel, Jacksonville Sharks and New Jersey Flight. The National Arena League was founded in 2016 and played its inaugural season in 2017. Last year, the league played its games from March through June. According to a Sept. 28 statement on its Facebook page, the league was in “the final steps of lease negotiations in five new markets.”
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.
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)