The Baltimore Brigade clinched a berth in ArenaBowl XXXI with a 53-41 win over the Philadelphia Soul Friday night at Royal Farms Arena. It was the second game of a home-and-home playoff series, which Baltimore won in aggregate scoring, 110-86. Brigade quarterback Randy Hippeard was named the game’s Most Valuable Player after his seven-touchdown, zero-interception performance. Brigade wideout Brandon Collins caught three touchdowns and was named Offensive Player of the Game.
Baltimore will take on the winner of the Albany vs. Washington series in next weekend’s ArenaBowl XXXI. Game 2 between the Empire and Valor takes place tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. at Times Union Center in Albany, NY. The game will be broadcast nationally on CBS Sports Network. Further ArenaBowl information will be announced following the conclusion of the Albany vs. Washington series.
“It feels great,” Brigade Head Coach Omarr Smith said after the game. “It’s very humbling. There was a lot of work put in by our coaching staff and our players – trying to get them to believe in something they really couldn’t see. They’ve come in and worked so hard and come together as a team. I’m extremely proud of them.”
Offense controlled the first half as the first seven possessions of the game resulted in touchdowns. Baltimore opened the game with a quick, three-play drive that ended with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Hippeard to Collins – Hippeard’s first of four touchdowns in the first two quarters. Philadelphia answered with an efficient drive of their own, ending with a 26-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dan Raudabaugh to wide receiver Darius Prince to tie the game at seven. Hippeard found wideout Quentin Sims for a 24-yard score on the following possession to retake the lead. After another Soul score, Baltimore executed a drive that took 9:02 off the clock, the second-longest drive in franchise history, capped with another Hippeard passing touchdown, giving Baltimore a 21-13 lead with 6:42 left in the first half. An eventful final minute in the second quarter included a pair of touchdowns – one from Hippeard and one from Raudabaugh – and a Brigade defensive stop inside their own 10-yard line to set the halftime score at 28-19, Baltimore.
A Philadelphia fumble on the opening possession of the second half set Baltimore up with a short field and an opportunity to extend their lead. Just minutes later, Hippeard found tight end Jordan McCray for a seven-yard touchdown, putting Baltimore up, 35-19. Raudabaugh and Hippeard traded touchdown passes to close out the third setting Baltimore up with a 43-27 lead entering the fourth quarter. Raudabaugh added two touchdowns in the fourth quarter while Hippeard added another, preventing Philadelphia from ever getting within nine points of the lead. With 56 seconds left in the game, Brigade kicker Mark Lewis converted a 23-yard field goal to set the final score at 53-41.
MVP: BAL QB Randy Hippeard – 16/24 passing, 167 passing yards and seven passing touchdowns
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: BAL WR Brandon Collins – four receptions, 64 receiving yards and three touchdowns
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: BAL DB Joe Powell – eight total tackles (all solo)
BRIGADE HEAD COACH OMARR SMITH
On the team’s mindset going forward
“We’re still one game away from our final goal. I’m happy for our guys, but we still have work to do.”
On Brigade quarterback Randy Hippeard
“I can’t say enough about [quarterback] Randy Hippeard. He’s a great quarterback, but he’s a better human being. I’m really excited for him to have a chance to go back to the ArenaBowl. Guys like him, that are really sacrificing and taking a leadership role, getting guys to buy into what we’re doing, is extremely important.”
BRIGADE QUARTERBACK RANDY HIPPEARD
On the team’s progression throughout the season
“We’ve got a great group of guys. Coach [Omarr Smith] and his staff did a great job putting this team together in the offseason. We’ve really come together this year and we’re continuing to come together. We’re trying to get off on the right foot down the stretch and I think we did that the last two games to beat a team like [Philadelphia] the past two weeks in this playoff format was huge.”
On the Baltimore defense tonight against Philadelphia
“The defense made the play of the night, right there before half, to keep them out of the end zone when they were driving down…for the defense to stop them on that drive, that’s huge. In a game like that, where it’s a possession game, that’s probably the biggest stand of the game.”