News Release, Atlantic City Blackjacks
TheAtlantic City Blackjacks(3-6) are coming off their third straight loss following their Week 9 game. The team heads down to take on theWashington Valor(5-4) for the second time this season in Week 10. There is no simple way to put it, the Blackjacks need to win their last three games to put them in a position to get into the playoffs. The team heads back home for their final two games, but they need to take care of business down in the nation’s capital first.
“This is a game we need to win,” saidRon James, Head Coach of the Atlantic City Blackjacks. “Washington is a tough team to play, especially on the road. Every game at this point of the season gets magnified and we must find a way to play at our best to win.”
The last time these teams played was in Week 3 where the Blackjacks only scored seven points in the first half of that game. In the end Arvell Nelson finished with 178 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in a 41-34 victory for the Valor. The Blackjacks defense will need to snap out of their funk and make a defensive stop or create turnovers this game.
LaRoche Jackson is looking to make a return this week and had 9.5 tackles in Week 3, Kiante Northington had 4.5 tackles and two pass breakups and Arthur Hobbs had six tackles and a pass breakup as well. The defensive backs will have to deal with speedy Dezmon Epps who leads the Valor in receiving yards and kick return yards. The Blackjacks kept him in check during Week 3 only allowing him to get three receptions and 29 yards. The Valor’s leading receiver only had 85 receiving yards and one touchdown. The defense played a game where if the offense was a little better, they could have won.
Fast forward to Week 9 and the offense exploded against Albany as Warren Smith made his first start as a member of the Blackjacks. Smith threw for 329 yards, seven passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown. All season-highs for a Blackjacks quarterback this year. It’s clear Randy Hippeard and LaMark Brown share a lot of chemistry from previous seasons. It might be too early to tell but Smith and rookie Antwane Grant had themselves a game and look to be building something great. Smith found Grant for 11 completions, 177 receiving yards and four touchdowns. It was great to Grant finally go off after seeing his potential all season long. Whether it’s Hippeard or Smith getting the start, the offense should put up better numbers the second time around.
The last important matchup to watch for will be the special teams play of the Blackjacks. Against Albany, the Blackjacks attempted the most onside kicks they have this season. They were able to recover one and capitalize with a touchdown a few plays later. It was important to steal as many possessions as possible against the Empire but now facing the Valor, there might not be as many onside kicks attempted this week. Whatever the case, every chance to get an extra possession is key to a team success in the Arena Football League and it appears as if Coach James is not afraid to go for onside kicks.
If they don’t elect for the onside kick, they must be mindful of Epps and his speed when he’s returning kicks. On the year he has 26 returns for 394 yards, an average of 15.2 yards, but no touchdowns. Limiting the starting field position for Nelson will be important to give the defense the best chance it has to make a defensive stop this game. Blackjacks main return man Kendrick Ings left the game against Albany with an injury and did not return to the game. Keiron Jones stepped in and did an adequate job filling in for Ings getting four returns for 57 yards. In the end it’s going to take a collective effort not only in this game but for the remaining three games in the season for the Blackjacks to get the wins they need for a playoff berth.