The Washington Valor lost 10 of their 12 regular season games, but on Saturday still managed to win the 2018 Arena Football League championship, thanks to a 69-55 win over the Baltimore Brigade in Saturday’s Arena Bowl XXXI.
But how did we get here in the first place? For starters, the AFL these days has just four teams. From April though early July each team played four times against every other squad in the league.
Washington lost their first seven games, and were 1-10 before winning their regular season finale against Baltimore, coincidentally. The Valor were outscored during the regular season by 160 points, a losing margin of over 13 points per game on average.
The Albany Empire, who beat the Valor in all four meetings, finished 8-4 and earned the top seed in the postseason, and a semifinal matchup with Washington. Albany beat Washington again, 57-56 on July 14 in their playoff opener, but because the semifinal round is a two-game aggregate affair the Valor remained alive.
On July 21 Washington needed to beat Albany by two to advance, and did, thanks to a 47-40 win. That earned Washington a spot in the final, this time just one game.
“We’re not surprised to be here,” Washington coach Benji McDowell said on Friday. “We’re honored, but not surprised.”
Discretion is the better part of valor, but on Saturday the best part of the Valor was Arvell Nelson, who passed for 223 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for 42 yards and five more touchdowns. He was named Arena Bowl MVP.
11 losses in 15 total games counting the postseason, and from fourth place in a four-team league to Arena Bowl champions. Stranger things might have happened, but you’d be hard pressed to come up with many.