Time for an exciting Week 4 of the AAF. This is where it gets interesting. The teams know the opposition. They know who they are. It is crunch time.
Week 4 kicks off with a huge matchup between the San Diego Fleet and the Memphis Express. San Diego got off to a dominating start with the first ever punt return in the AAF by Ron Brooks to get the Fleet up by six. For the Fleet, they continued to apply pressure to the Express with a huge 50-yard pass from Phillip Nelson to Dontez Ford getting them in the red zone. The same drive Nelson connected with Ford for the Fleets second TD of the game.
Midway through the second quarter, the Fleet were forced to make a change at QB with Nelson leaving the game due to a shoulder injury. The Fleet then put in third string Alex Ross who made an absolute statement with a 30-yard TD pass to Marcus Baugh, increasing the lead 20-6. For the Express, their first game-changing play came from an interception by Drew Jackson, giving his team some hope outside of special teams. The Express continued the momentum with new starting QB Zach Mettenberger who slinged it to Alton Howard 30 yards, just outside the end zone. Mettenberger then performed an excellent sneak for six points, just as the clock ticked down the final seconds of the first half.
Come the second half, the Express defence continued the dominance with a huge hit on Jackson by an unaware Ja’Quan Gardner for a loss, and continued to shut down the Fleet offence the entire quarter. In the fourth, Ross took a huge sack by Express lineman Latarius Brady, forcing a punt deep inside the Fleets side of the field. Halfway through the last quarter, Alex Ross’s throw was knocked by Corey Vereen and forced into a fumble that was picked up by Express DB Arnold Tarpley. Mettenberger then took advantage, tossing a touchdown into the hands of Terrence Magee for the last TD of the game.
Final Score: San Diego Fleet – 23, Memphis Express – 26
MVP of the Game: Memphis Express QB Zach Mettenberger with 18 completions, 174 passing yards, and two TDs.
The second game for the week was an icy one between the Orlando Apollos and the Salt Lake Stallions. The first takeaway for the Apollos, Garret Gilbert is the top passer in the league for a reason: His dual-threat ability. So far, the game had only been chip shot field goals, however, the most impressive one so far was a 42-yarder by Apollos kicker Elliot Fry, splitting the uprights in the snow to leave the score at 6-3 Apollos way. The first TD of the game comes from a precise pass by Gilbert, connecting with Donteea Dye on a 20-yard pass into the end zone. For the extra points, the Apollos pulled off their own Philly special to extend the lead to 14-3. For the Stallions, they felt it was time to respond and they did so on the legs of Joel Bouagnon to get them on the board. The two-point conversion was successful with a dime pass from Josh Woodrum to make it a three-point game. The next TD came early in the fourth with a short run by Akeem Hunt to extend the lead once again for the Apollos.
Final Score: Orlando Apollos – 20, Salt Lake Stallions – 11
MVP of the Game: Orlando Apollos QB Garret Gilbert with 244 yards, one TD, and still zero interceptions.
The third installment of the week was a matchup between the Birmingham Iron and the San Antonio Commanders. The game got off to a very slow start point-wise with the first points coming from a FG by a precise Nick Rose from 39 yards out. Closing out the half, the Iron tied the game with a solid kick from Nick Novak. Finally, in the third Iron QB, Luis Perez, made a huge 22-yard pass to Wes Saxton in the middle of the field before the Commanders defence ensured no extra yardage was gained. On the same drive, Perez threw the first interception to Zack Sanchez, completely missing DeVozea Felton.
From that, Commanders led the charge with an impactful run from Kenneth Farrow, gaining 20 yards. The first TD of the game came on the same drive, this time from Trey Williams getting them six points on the ground. Finally, just after the two-minute warning, league rushing TD leader Trent Richardson added another to his list, getting his team back in the game, with massive help from a successful two-point conversion. The score sat at 12-11 Commanders way with 1:41 left on the clock. This gave the Iron a shot at the AAF’s version of an onside recover, which was intercepted by Orion Stewart.
Final Score: San Antonio Commanders – 12, Birmingham Iron – 11
MVP of the Game: San Antonio Commanders RB Kenneth Farrow with 142 yards rushing on 30 attempts.
Finally, it’s time for the Hotshots Hot Take. This time the Hotshots come off a loss, but look to bounce back with a massive win against the Atlanta Legends. The Legends got off to a huge start with three plays and three first downs making an absolute statement. A massive sack on Matt Simms by Hotshots Carl Bradford slowed that momentum. Fellow Hotshot Will Sutton recovered the resulting fumble. The Hotshots, unfortunately, could not continue the momentum and were forced into an early punt.
The Legends fans were then treated to what they’ve wanted all season: Matt Simms exited due to an injury and replaced by second string QB Aaron Murray. Murray made the most of his time on the gridiron by driving his team into the red zone. The drive ends up being a familiar sight for the Legends by not going for three and being forced to a turnover on downs. Once Murray has possession again, he turned it back up to 11 with a deep pass to Bug Howard for 37 yards. The first points of the game came just at the end of the first, with a safety by Ed Reynolds on Hotshots star Reshad Ross who ran back into his own end zone to give the Legends an easy two points.
The beginning of the second got off to a great start again for the Legends until they attempted a fake on the FG with Younghoe Koo, who was then demolished by Scooby Wright, keeping Arizona in the game. The first TD of the game was a massive run by Atlanta RB Denard Robinson to extend the lead to 8-0. For the third quarter, each team looked very promising at the beginning of their respective drives, but always ended in a punt.
It was not until the fourth quarter that the Legends pulled the plug and let Koo nail one through the uprights to make the score 11-3. To respond Hotshots QB Wolford threw it to Ross for 26 yards to get some momentum. Much like the third quarter, the drive fizzled out and ended in no points. Midway through the final quarter, Wolford connected with none other than Ross for six points on a 20-yard pass. Wolford then threw to Marquis Bundy for the conversion to tie the game at 11 each. At the 1:07 mark on the clock, Atlanta took the lead with a FG from Koo. For the Hotshots, they failed to get back within field goal range and were unable to score again.
Final Score: Atlanta Legends – 14 Arizona Hotshots – 11
MVP of the Game: Atlanta Legends QB Aaron Murray with 20 completions for 254 yards and the leading rusher of the game with 54 yards on seven attempts.
MVP of the Week: Kenneth Farrow
Overview for the Week:
- Teams need to understand you can punt on fourth down.
- The running game by all teams this week was impressive.
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