The Washington Valor got the benefit of performing last on Saturday and witnessed a terrible opening act as the Baltimore Brigade were embarrassed by the Philadelphia Soul 70-21.
The stage was set for Washington to end their home schedule on a resounding high note while keeping their slim playoff hopes alive.
Instead, they filled the “Phone Booth” with utter disappointment and were rocked by the Cleveland Gladiators (5-9) to the tune of 62-28, essentially stopping their season as they were officially eliminated from postseason participation.
The Valor (2-11) struggled to hold on to the ball and the Gladiators, led by quarterback Arvell Nelson, (six passing touchdowns) made them pay every time.
Coach Dean Cokinos wasn’t pleased with the poor offensive showing as the team was outscored 39-14 in the second half.
“You go as your quarterback goes,” Cokinos said. “We missed a lot of open receivers for touchdowns and we turned the ball over; you just can’t do that.”
Valor QB Sean Brackett started the game with a deep shot down the field that was intercepted. But he was saved by an illegal defensive formation penalty and would end the drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass to wide out Justin Wilson.
— Washington Valor (@WashingtonValor) July 29, 2017
That was the last break Brackett and the offense would receive, however. He would finish the game with four sacks allowed, two interceptions and a lost fumble.
Heading into the half, the Valor defense managed to get a stop and give the ball back to the offense with a few minutes remaining. Brackett constructed a deliberate drive that ended with a short James Gordon touchdown run to close the gap to 23-14.
The Valor started with the ball to open the third quarter and had put some electricity back into what was a drained crowd for most of the first half. But, that current proved to be temporary as Brackett disowned fundamentals and carelessly scrambled with the ball with nowhere to go and lost control when a Gladiator defender pushed him towards the wall.
Brackett knew his mistake was costly.
“I scrambled, should’ve threw the ball out-of-bounds or got down; didn’t do either, the ball came out and right there, basically, that’s the game, Brackett said.”
The Gladiators were able to bring pressure early and often. Brackett was hit in the pocket on numerous occasions and was sacked twice in the first half by LB Derrick Summers.
Summers second sack resulted in a safety and blew the game open for a bit as the Gladiators went up 23-7 with just under seven minutes remaining in the first half.
Brackett admitted after the game that he needed to “get the ball out quicker”due to the pass rush. The play calling dictated as much. After the deep pass on the first play from scrimmage, Brackett didn’t have an attempt over 20 yards until the second half when he connected with veteran receiver T.T. Toliver in the third and fourth quarters.
The few times he did push the ball down the field, it resulted in inaccurate throws that landed into the hands of Gladiator defenders. Just one play after connecting deep with Toliver in the third, Brackett threw a pick, which eventually turned into a Nelson touchdown pass that extended the lead to 36-14 heading into the fourth quarter.
Next week the Valor will close the season in Baltimore in what now becomes an anti-climate final act to an underwhelming first year.