So far in their inaugural season, the Streets have experienced a number of firsts including their first touchdown, first interception, first pick-six, first sack, first road win, first home win, first loss and the list goes on and on. But this past Sunday, the Streets added another first to what has been an incredible start to their first season in the National Arena League.
Their first dramatic victory.
Sundays’ 54-53 win over the Predators at the Amway Center in Orlando was a battle from start to finish and it was the very essence of an Arena Football back and forth affair. From the opening kickoff to the final whistle, the game was a terrific advertisement for what this sport if someone’s first experience watching an Arena Football game was Sunday’s contest, they certainly had to be impressed.
At the end of the day, it was also a huge victory for the Streets after suffering their first loss of the season the week before in Carolina.
“It was a great opportunity to see how our young team would respond," said Streets Head Coach Rick Marsilio.
But to really appreciate the effort that it took for the Streets to pull out this win on the road, let’s fast forward all the way to late in the fourth quarter when they trailed the game 46-43. The Streets were driving for the go-ahead touchdown but the drive stalled and Billy Deane’s field goal with 2:12 left tied the game at 46-46.
On the Predators’ next possession, former Streets quarterback Bryan Hicks hooked up with Michael Lyons on a 19 yard touchdown pass with 1:00 left to give Orlando a 53-46 lead. One minute can be an eternity in Arena Football, especially when you consider the timing rules change and the clock stops on incomplete passes and runs or passes where the ball carrier can get out of bounds.
The Streets then went to work looking for the equalizing touchdown or perhaps an opportunity to go ahead. In Arena Football, there is a basketball element when it comes to the final minute because in a tight game and with exchanges of possessions, you want to make sure you either tie the game or go ahead but not leave the opponent with much time to respond.
In other words, you want to be the team that has the ball last and to have a chance to win. The Streets were down, but they plenty of time to pull out a dramatic victory.
“In my mind, there was no way we weren’t winning that game,” said wide receiver Edgar Allen Poe. “We have a quarterback that has been there with receivers that can make big plays and not to mention a veteran line.”
After the ensuing kickoff resulted in a touchback, the Streets began their drive from their own 20 yard line. On the first play, E.J. Nemeth connected with Devantae Jenkins on a ten yard pass for a first down at the Predators twenty yard line. Nemeth then threw a short pass to Poe that went for a twenty yard touchdown, but after video review, it was ruled that Poe was out of bounds at the eight yard line.
On the next play, Nemeth found Poe again, this time for an eight yard touchdown.
“On the touchdown, I just wanted to put the team in a position to win,” said Poe. “It meant a lot for me to score but I was just doing my small part in a great team win.”
The Streets’ offense was clicking throughout the game, but now they were in unchartered waters for the first time. They were about to embark on a potential game winning drive and that can be a tricky thing sometimes, especially with an expansion team and young players.
But luckily, the Streets’ have a field general that has been through the wars before.
“E.J. has been in this exact spot many times in his career,” said Marsilio. “This wont be the last time we are in a position for a winning drive. Young guys gained valuable experience and we certainly learned something about our team.”
After the touchdown, the Streets had a decision to make. Do they go for the game-tying extra point or do they go for the two point conversion to take the lead? The Streets went for two and Nemeth hooked up with Jenkins to give New York a one point lead with just 28 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
You could say the Streets rolled the dice, but there was no doubt in their minds that they were playing to win.
“I knew before we even scored the last touchdown that we going for two,” said Poe. “When I saw the ball in the air to Jenks, I threw my hands up early like I played for the Golden State Warriors. Then, our defense came up clutch.”
That’s for sure!
While Arena Football is known for being a high-octane offensive game, it can sometimes take a big defensive play or two to pull out a tight game and generally the teams that can make those plays on a consistent basis are the ones that can contend for a championship. So far this season, the Streets have made a number of big defensive plays, but none bigger than what occurred late in the game on Sunday night.
Thomas Dover’s strip sack of Hicks and fumble recovery with nine seconds left capped off a wild last couple of minutes and the Streets came away with a big win to improve their record to 3-1.
“We have a really nice defensive front with our SEC guys (Herbert Moore, Isaac Gross, and Brandon Ivory). Adding Tommy to provide veteran leadership and his relentless aggression only made us better.”
The game was terrific and it showed just how great the sport of Arena Football is. Yes it’s football and you have to excel in all three phases of offense, defense and special teams. But there is that added aspect of strategy, intrigue and excitement that is unique to Arena Football.
The Streets will now have a bye week before returning to action on Memorial Day May 27th at 3pm when they host the Massachusetts Pirates at the Westchester County Center. Tickets are available at ticketmaster.com. For season and group ticket information, call 1-833-697-8733 and choose extension one.