Atlantic City Press Release. Photo via: AC Blackjacks Instagram
WASHINGTON, D.C.- The Atlantic City Blackjacks (4-6) needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive against the Washington Valor (5-5). They did just that as MVP of the game Warren Smith shined again, throwing for 209 yards, five passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns. Antwane Grant was the Offensive Player of the Game as he racked up 107 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns on the night. The offense scored 70 points, the most of any team this season.
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Warren Smith was the starter for the second consecutive week as he took his offense onto the field for their first drive. After a wide-open LaMark Brown dropped the first pass of the game, Smith worked his offense down the field with quick passes and capped of the drive with a three-yard run courtesy of Brown. That lead quickly vanished as Dezmon Epps returned the ensuing kick back for a touchdown to knot the game back up. After a big run from Wes Mauia and a big pass gain from last week’s star Antwane Grant, Brown kept the play alive on fourth down and made his way into the end zone. The Blackjacks’ defense finally took the field with three minutes and some change remaining in the first quarter. A few plays into the drive, Arvell Nelson converted on fourth down as the first quarter came to a close with Atlantic City leading 14-7.
With the Valor only needing three yards for the score, Nelson took the ball on the opening play of the second quarter for the touchdown to tie the game back up. The chemistry continued over from last week as Smith found Grant for a 35-yard touchdown pass on the first play of their drive. The back and forth battle continued on the Valor’s following drive. Nelson only needed one play as he went deep to Josh Reese on the 41-yard pass, but Blackjacks kick returner Keiron Jones returned the kick for a touchdown to get the lead right back. The Valor’s next drive took more than just one play to come to an end. With a penalty-filled series, Nelson found Reggie Gray on the 18-yard pass to yet again tie the game up with just over four minutes to play in the half. With time winding down, the Blackjacks’ offense took its time after Smith found Rashad Still across the middle of the field on the 22-yard gain. Smith went to his guy Grant on the short pass and Grant forced his way in for the score as 11 seconds remained in the half. On the last play of the half, Nelson was intercepted by Marvin Ross as he heaved up the ball, the Blackjacks took the 35-28 lead into halftime.
With the Valor receiving the ball to start the second half, the Blackjacks’ defense desperately needed to get a stop or a turnover at some point. Just like that, the man who missed the last three games with an injury came up with a big play as he picked off Nelson. Smith needed to capitalize with this opportunity. After coming up short on a few plays, the offense faced fourth down and a yard to go. Smith pulled out the quarterback sneak after the fake handoff and fooled everyone on the play as he ran it in for the eight-yard touchdown. The Valor faced a fourth down on the Blackjacks’ four-yard line and Ross got called for pass interference. Nelson capitalized on the fresh set of downs and found Jared Dangerfield on the screen for the touchdown. The Valor attempted an onside kick and recovered it but were flagged for being offsides on the play, granting the Blackjacks the ball. Smith found Grant on the quick pass for the touchdown on the next play extending the lead to 49-35 as the third quarter came to a close.
The defense continued their strong second half as Jones grabbed the bobbled ball out of the air as Nelson threw his second interception of the game. Smith now had a chance to blow the game open but had to convert on another fourth down. The offense got it done as Smith hit Brown on the post rout to extend the lead for the Blackjacks. The Valor were now in desperation mode and Nelson found Epps across the middle as he broke a tackle and went 47-yards for the touchdown to trim the Blackjacks’ lead. After their second failed onside kick, Smith and the offense failed to get into the end zone on their first three attempts. On fourth down Smith threw it to Grant for another touchdown. The Valor’s struggles continued as Nelson fumbled the ball and Marvin Ross came up with the recover. Smith ran another quarterback sneak for the touchdown as the Blackjacks hit 70 points on the night. The game fizzled out as the Blackjacks kept their playoff hopes alive for another week. The team heads home against the Philadelphia Soul on Saturday, July 6 at 7:00 p.m.