- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2017

Defense has never been a major part of the Arena Football League — much of the appeal of this version of indoor football, after all, comes from the often ridiculously inflated scores.

The Baltimore Brigade’s victory Friday over the Washington Valor was no exception, with the Brigade avenging a Week 1 loss to the Valor with a high-octane 51-41 win before several thousand fans at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore

“We made the correct adjustments to come out and win a hard-fought game,” Baltimore head coach Omarr Smith said. “It’s been a tough early-to-mid part of the season, so hopefully we can build off this.”

Both offenses started strong, a touchdown the result of every first half possession. The Brigade’s Reggie Gray and Greg Carr of the Valor stole the show early on, combining to score five of the game’s first nine touchdowns.

Less impressive was the execution of the special teams, each team failing to convert an extra point early in the second quarter.

And with under two minutes to play in the half and leading by a touchdown, Baltimore (3-6) questionably attempted an onside kick that was recovered by Washington (1-8) and quickly converted into seven points to knot the score at 27 with 40 seconds left in the half.

Brigade quarterback Shane Carden however quickly connected with wideout Julian Talley on a 20-yard touchdown toss, the ensuing extra point giving Baltimore a 34-27 advantage heading into the second half.

“He’s had ups and downs,” Smith said of Carden, a former East Carolina standout who signed briefly with the Chicago Bears in 2015, “but tonight he improved. If we take care of the ball and don’t turn it over, we put ourselves in a good position to win, so Shane definitely played a really good game today.”

The third quarter began with an oddity: a scoreless possession. The Brigade defense forced a turnover on downs as the Valor failed to find the end zone for the first time in the contest. Things were back to normal on the ensuing Baltimore possession, with Carden adding a rushing touchdown to his gaudy stat line to give the Brigade the largest lead of the game at 41-27.

After the game Smith praised his defense’s effort to start the second half.

“They decided to step up and make some plays,” he said. “We missed some opportunities earlier in the game, but that defensive stop was really crucial for our momentum and confidence on the defensive side as well as on the offensive side.”

The two-touchdown advantage ultimately proved insurmountable, as the Washington defense was unable to conjure up the necessary stop to get the Valor back in the game. Washington cut the deficit to seven with about four minutes to play, but an unsuccessful onside kick sealed the outcome. A Baltimore field goal polished off the 51-41 result.

Carden finished with five touchdown passes, racking up 251 yards through the air while completing 21-31 attempts. Washington quarterback Sean Brackett also threw for five touchdowns, but he and the Valor could not overcome the fruitless possession to begin the third quarter.

“It comes down to turnovers and possessions, and they won the possession battle and therefore they won the game,” Washington head coach Dean Cokinos said afterwards.

The Valor remain winless since defeating Baltimore in the first game of the season 51-38, the inaugural game for both Ted Leonsis-owned franchises.

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