Blackjacks comeback attempt falls short against Washington Valor
Looking to build off last week’s 42-35 win against the Columbus Destroyers at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall, the Atlantic City Blackjacks hit the road for a second time season facing off against the Washington Valor at Capital One Arena. Despite Washington sporting a 0-2 record, there turned out to be plenty of smiles of the announced crowd of 8,044 celebrating the unveiling of the 2018 Arena Football Championship Banner.
Early on Washington fed off the emotions with quarterback Arvell Nelson breaking loose for a 32-yard touchdown run 2:27 into the first quarter. On the other hand Atlantic City’s offense wasted a golden opportunity with an 8 play 31-yard drive that consumed almost 7 minutes of the clock forced to turn the ball over on downs.
However, the Blackjacks defense did not flinch either with the Valor offense stringing together an impressive 8 play 32-yard drive that ate up almost 6 minutes of the clock with defensive back Marvin Ross forcing an incomplete pas on forth down. After throwing a couple of incomplete passes, Randy Hippeard got the ball rolling completing back-to-back passes to wide receiver Antwane Grant that moved the ball down to the two-yard line. Hippeard did the rest from there with a QB keeper.
The Valor quickly answered back on their ensuing drive as Nelson completed four consecutive passes resulting in an eight-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Gray. On the Blackjacks next offensive series, Hippeard struggled to generate any offense throwing two incomplete passes before Washington defensive back Marrio Norman made a spectacular interception in the endzone. Nelson caught fire through the air completing seven out of passes, finding his favorite target on the drive wide receiver Jared Dangerfield five times and finishing it off with an eight yard scoring pass to Dangerfield who crashed into the boards on the play with 24 seconds remaining extending the advantage to 20-7 at halftime. The Valor dominated the total yard category outgaining Atlantic City 152 to 80.
Receiving the second half kickoff energized the Blackjacks offense as Hippeard engineered an 11-play 45-yard drive that gobbled almost eight minutes of the clock with Lamark Brown bursting through for a one-yard touchdown run. The momentum would be short-lived as Nelson went right back to work utilizing both the running and passing game eventually hooking up with Gray for a second time.
Just when it seemed Atlantic City had dug themselves a deep hole, Hippeard needed just one play to change that outlook. Pinned at the one-yard line, Hippeard launched a perfect strike to wide receiver Kendrick Ings in stride for the 49-yard touchdown with 11 seconds remaining.
The battle for this game continued into the fourth quarter as Nelson directed another masterful drive, seven plays and 45 yards. Helped out by pass interference penalty assessed against Blackjacks defensive back Arthur Hobbs that advanced the ball down to the Atlantic City 10-yard line, Gray tallied his third score of the contest on a run down the left sideline with less than nine minutes left on the clock.
Having thrown a couple of incomplete passes on the Blackjacks following offensive series, Hippeard caught a break on a third and 10 pass that was initially called incomplete by the referees but head coach Ron James challenged the play that was ultimately overturned to a completed pass. That play infused the offense with confidence as Hippeard connected on an 11-yard touchdown pass to Lamark Brown but Mark Lewis missed the extra point leaving the score at 34-27 with fewer than five minutes to go.
Sensing time might not be on their side, the Blackjacks attempted an onside kick only to see the Dangerfield recover the ball. Starting with outstanding field position at the Atlantic City eight-yard line it took Nelson just three plays to cash in thanks to assistance from the entire offensive line pushing Nelson across the goal line for the score at the 2:15 mark.
There was no quit in Hippeard and company marching down the field in four plays with Hippeard hitting Brown on a four-yard touchdown pass. Still with 30 seconds remaining on the clock, the Blackjacks attempted one last onside kick but Fredrick Obi fell on the ball after it popped out of a big pile of players sealing Washington’s 41-34 victory.
Hippeard completed 18 of 30 passes for 247 yards while Grant caught eight passes for 102 yards, Ings reeled in five passes for 92 yards and Brown five catches for 43 yards. Nelson finished up 21 for 31 178 yards and Dangerfield hauled in 10 receptions for 85 yards.
Atlantic City (1-2) returns to action next Saturday kicking off a three-game home stand at the Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall welcoming in the Baltimore Brigade (2-1) with kickoff set for 7:00 p.m.
Sunil Sunder Raj
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