Death, taxes, and the Apollos winning in the AAF, these are the three certainties in life. On Saturday, March 9th, the Orlando Apollos traveled to Legion Field to take on the Birmingham Iron. In what was a highly anticipated game, and possible playoff matchup, fans of both teams couldn’t wait to see the top offense take on the top defense in Alabama. Fortunately for the Apollos faithful, you got exactly what you hoped for, a well-executed offense that saw Garrett Gilbert throw another two touchdowns (eight on the season) and continue his zero interceptions streak. The passing game wasn’t the only highlight though as De’Veon Smith became the first 100-yard rusher for the Apollos, carrying 14 times for 119 yards (8.5 YPC).
All this talk about the Apollos offense, but we haven’t talked about the best defense in the league yet. No, I’m not talking about the Birmingham Iron (though they are fantastic), but the Orlando Apollos! Stud DB Keith Reaser gathered up another impressive interception that he then returned for his second pick-six of the season. This led the Iron to swap quarterback and Keith Price made his first appearance. I won’t go into to much detail since you can read the Birmingham breakdown by Bart Stephenson later (which I highly suggest), but I would be remiss in mentioning that the first real passing touchdown (Perez threw a pick-six, so that was the first passing TD) thrown by the Iron was done so by Price in the third quarter. Price asserted himself as the leader of that offense and looked calm and collected, but most importantly, he looked like he was having fun. And that demeanor rubbed off on the offense which looked the sharpest it has all season. I am a fan of Luis Perez, but Price just won himself the starting job in my opinion.
And we can’t forget about special teams. Elliott Fry stayed perfect on the season going 3/3 on field goals this weekend. Ben Turk has been an absolute monster in the punt game, flipping the field, and pinning the opposing team deep in their own territory. One area I would like to see improve, punt returns. I would have to go back and watch all the games, but there has been at least one muffed punt in 3 games (possibly more). Those kinds of mistakes won’t go unpunished forever. Luckily for the Apollos, not many teams have made them pay on those turnovers, but without a doubt, Orlando needs to clean that up!
This Saturday the Apollos take on the Arizona Hotshots in what many thought would be the championship preview. The Hotshots have been on a bit of a losing skid lately, but they are still a very dangerous team. As a Wildland Firefighter myself, I am conflicted in this game. I want the Apollos to win since they are my local team and I cover them, but I also want the Hotshots to win since they represent my career and honor those that we have lost. Either way, this will be another tough test for the Apollos, and they will have to play another perfect game if they want to keep a perfect record!
You can catch the game on NFL Network at 8:00 PM Eastern!