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The Alliance of American Football began play on Saturday, and if this past weekend serves as an indication, this will be an incredibly fun league to watch. Football-starved fans and cities tuned into the see what this upstart league with unprecedented backing was all about, and while what they saw wasn’t perfect, it showed promise for the future.
The Athletes Hub will be providing weekly recaps and power rankings for the AAF, with this being the first installment.
The San Antonio Commanders (1-0) defeat the San Diego Fleet (0-1) 15-6
This game saw two teams really feel each other out in the beginning. The first half saw very little scoring, as both teams went to the locker room locked in a 6-6 tie. The third quarter was also scoreless. In the fourth, Commanders RB Kenneth Farrow found his way into the end zone for the first touchdown of the game. They failed the two point conversion, but would later add a field goal to make it 15-6.
Fleet quarterback Mike Bercovici started the game and did well, completing 15 of 25 passes for 176 yards. However, he threw 2 interceptions and was sacked 6 times. One of those sacks you may have seen a time or two. Fleet head coach Mike Martz made the decision to go with college journeyman Phillip Nelson, but the Fleet were unable to complete the comeback.
The Orlando Apollos (1-0) defeat the Atlanta Legends (0-1) 40-6
In one of the less competitive games of the weekend, the Orlando Apollos made a big statement. Legends kicker Younghoe Koo recorded the first points in AAF history, but the Apollos quickly bounced back as QB Garrett Gilbert found wideout Jalin Marshall for the first touchdown in league history. The Apollos continued to pour it on, and held a 22-6 lead at halftime thanks to the Orlando Special.
Elliott Fry connected on a field goal to make it 25-6 late in the third quarter. Orlando went on to have fun in the fourth quarter, putting up 15 points, including a Terrance Garvin pick-six. Both teams put their backup QBs in during garbage time, and the Apollos mercifully won 40-6.
The Birmingham Iron (1-0) defeat the Memphis Express (0-1) 26-0
The Iron easily had the most recognizable running back in former top five pick Trent Richardson. The Express countered with the two most recognizable quarterbacks in former second round pick Christian Hackenberg and former sixth round pick Zach Mettenberger. The Iron showed flashes of promise on offense, but only came away with three field goals at half.
Richardson started slow, racking up just 17 yards on the ground in the first half. He went on to lose a fumble in the third quarter as well. However, Richardson scored the Iron’s first touchdown in the fourth from four yards out. He added a two-point conversion and another touchdown. The Iron were led defensively by LB Jonathan Massaquoi, as he recorded 7 tackles and 2 sacks. They held Hackenberg to just 87 yards passing as the Iron recorded the first shutout in league histroy.
The Arizona Hotshots (1-0) defeated the Salt Lake Stallions (0-1) 38-22
The Hotshots-Stallions game was the most competitive game of the weekend, and deserving of the primetime Sunday slot. Arizona jumped out quickly to an 8-0, but the Stallions responded in kind. Hotshots QB John Wolford took a liking to WR Rashad Ross, and they connected for their first touchdown in the second quarter to put Arizona in the lead. The Wolford-Ross connection was good for five catches, 103 yards, and 2 touchdowns.
A Nick Folk field goal put the Hotshots up 19-8, but the Stallions found the end zone as QB Josh Woodrum found WR Jordan Leslie. Arizona took the 19-16 lead into the half. Wolford threw his second TD to Ross late in the third quarter to extend the Hotshot lead. An injury to Woodrum forced Salt Lake to turn to backup Matt Linehan, and he didn’t fare any better. The Hotshot defense held the Stallions to 240 yards compared to the 416 yards the Wolford led offense racked up, and the Hotshots won 38-22.
It was far from a perfect weekend of football. The product on the field was high octane, but could be sloppy at times, especially with the offensive lines. Off the field, there a bunch of weird quirks, if you will. The audio on CBS cut in and out often, the league didn’t release stats itself, and they seemingly tried to bury attendance numbers. Communication was also a problem on Sunday, as the league waited until the last minute to announce they couldn’t live stream the Memphis-Birmingham game.
Despite all of this, the league has a nice future in place.
1) Arizona Hotshots
2) Birmingham Iron
3) Orlando Apollos
4) San Antonio Commanders
5) San Diego Fleet
6) Salt Lake Stallions
7) Memphis Express
8) Atlanta Legends
The Hotshots showed they are the best team in the league so far with their victory against Salt Lake. Birmingham’s shutout of Memphis gives them a slight edge over Orlando. San Antonio and San Diego may be the closest two teams in the league. Memphis, despite their shutout, had a system in place and did their best to execute it. The Legends haven’t had any real stability, and it showed in a big way.
Next week’s schedule looks like this:
Salt Lake Stallions at Birmingham Iron (2/16/19 2PM start time on TNT)
Arizona Hotshots at Memphis Express (2/16/19 8PM on NFL Network)
Orlando Apollos at San Antonio Commanders (2/17/19 4PM on CBS Sports Network)
Atlanta Legends at San Diego Fleet (2/17/19 8PM on NFL Network)
Featured Photo Credit: Orlando Apollos via Twitter