On Saturday Night the Jersey Flight would host the Columbus Lion’s in an attempt for the Flight to secure their first win of the season and their first win in the NAL.
What is the NAL?
The NAL stands for the National Arena League. This league plays arena football but not completely in the sense like the old AFL (Arena Football League) did. There are several rule differences between this league and the AFL. The very first and noticeable one is there are no rebound nets, the AFL placed a copyright on the rebound nets so no other league can use them unless if they want to pay whoever now owns the copyright. A big rule the NAL has adopted is on kickoffs you can attempt for a duce, a point for your team if the ball goes through the field goal, but if it goes out the return team can start the ball at the 20-yard line. The NAL encourages kickers to either go for the points or kick a returnable ball.
There are a total of 6 teams currently in the NAL. These teams are the Albany Empire, Carolina Cobras, Columbus Lions, Jacksonville Sharks, Jersey Flight, and the Orlando Predators. Many fans from the AFL will recognize teams like the Empire, Sharks, and Predators who all have some sort of ties to the old league.
So who are the Jersey Flight?
The Jersey Flight are an arena football team who plays at the CURE Insurance Arena in Trenton, NJ. The Flight have been around since 2018 playing in a completely separate arena league called American Arena League (AAL) after failing to meet the NAL requirements to compete in their 2018 season. During the 2018 season the Flight’s ownership ran into legal trouble and thus a new ownership group was formed and continue to operate the Flight and push for a 2019 season in the AAL. After the 2019 season the Flight would then reapply to the NAL for the 2020 season, this time being approved by the league. But just like virtually almost every sport, the 2020 season was cut due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fans of the AFL will also recognize names from that league in the NAL. Players like Dwayne Hollis and Sean Daniels who played for the Soul now play for the Flight. QB Warren Smith has been around in the AFL too last playing for the Atlantic City Blackjacks. Longtime Soul receiver Darius Prince now plays up in Albany with Tommy Grady for the Empire too. Big Soul receiver Lonnie Outlaw plays for the Columbus Lions with Grady’s old Empire back up Mason Espinosa.
What about the game?
Columbus opened up the game scoring a touchdown on their very first possession. Things did not get much better for the Flight as they almost coughed up the ball on their own opening kickoff. The official ruling was that the returner was down first though. The Flight would end up driving down the field but got stuffed at the redzone from Columbus’ strong defensive stand. But ex-Philadelphia Soul player Sean Daniels would make a fantastic play by stripping the ball from the Lions’ quarterback but the call would be over turned and the Lions would maintain possession and score one final touchdown before the first quarter would end.
The Lions would continue their dominate performance going into the second quarter. First by stopping the Flight within their own 20 and then by scoring a quick touchdown. The Flight’s only saving grace was that the Lions would miss their extra point making the score 20-0. Problems for the Flight will persist as QB Warren Smith would botch a snap and end up fumbling the ball and giving a turnover to Columbus who would then score again. But after a bit with the ball, the Flight would then fumble the ball on their own 11-yard line giving up another 1 play score to Columbus. Problems for the Flight would continue as Smith would be strip sacked marking another possession of the Flight ending in a turnover. Just like how much of the night and all of the first half, Columbus would score right before the first half would end making the score 42-0.
Much of the same energy in the first half continues into the second half of the game. Warren Smith would botch another snap on the Flights’ first drive of the half. This would result in another Lions touchdown. But as the Flight would drive down the field on what possibly looked like a solid drive (their first since the first quarter), Warren Smith was strip sacked and coughed up the ball yet again. But with the very next play, the Flight’s defense would step up with their own strip sack too, their first turnover of the game. The Jersey Flight would take advantage of the field position as Warren Smith would run it in for a touchdown, their first of the game which came in the third quarter. The score is now 49-7 as the third quarter shortly ran out of time after the Flight scored.
The fourth quarter would start off very slow as the Lions (who would put in their backup QB) would hold the ball until a little over 4 minutes was left on the game clock. The Jersey Flight would not give up though as they would march right down and Warren Smith would score a touchdown and help convert the 2-point conversion. Making the score 49-15 Columbus still winning of course. The Lions would then run out the clock for the rest of the quarter winning the game.
The main star of the whole game was QB Mason Epinosa who would throw 13-19 for 120 yards and 5 touchdowns with 1 interception. Lonnie Outlaw would be the leading receiver catching 5 passes for 72 yards and 1 touchdown. For the Flight, their QB Warren Smith would end the game 13-27 with 82 yards and 1 interception.
The Flight are now 0-3 after their loss to the Lions and the Lions would improve to 2-1, good enough for second place in the league behind the Empire. Next week the Flight look to go on their first road game of the season and play the Carolina Cobras looking for that first win on Saturday June 19th.
Eric Williamson is the host of the Union podcast Full Time Philly and also contrinutes to many of the Union coverage. He is a huge fan of all the 4 major Philly teams on top of music too.