Yes, you read that correctly, professional football has once again returned to St. Louis. This time, in the form of the American Arena League, the AAL for short. The AAL’s rules and playstyle draw back memories and comparisons to the now defunct Arena Football League (AFL). As many St. Louis fans cherish and remember, the AFL kickstarted the career of the only player to achieve Hall of Fame status in both the NFL and the AFL, St. Louis’ beloved quarterback, Kurt Warner. Playing on a 50-yard field as opposed to the traditional 100-yard configuration, the AAL boasts fast drives and high scoring. As I learned the hard way, if you aren’t very careful about when you go to pick up a snack, you’re bound to miss at least a touchdown, maybe even two.
The name designated to the Gateway City’s football faithful? The St. Louis Bandits.
The Bandits kicked off their very first game in St. Charles’ Family Arena, and to the delight of the home crowd, got off to a lightning quick start. After a missed field goal attempt from the opposing Central Illinois Royals and within three plays of the offense trotting on the field, the Bandits ran the ball up the middle and were already up 6-0. A missed extra point attempt maintained that number.
At the helm was veteran quarterback Donovan Porterie, who throughout his colorful tenure in football has had a brief stint with the Detroit Lions, won MVP in two separate arena leagues, and has even thrown a baffling 11 touchdowns in a single quarter. You read that correctly, 11 touchdowns. In a single quarter. Porterie dominated in his Bandits debut and certainly made his presence known on the field, completing 17 of his 30 pass attempts, throwing for 271 yards and a whopping 7 touchdowns. Receivers Cole McDaniel and Levi Shetler each caught one touchdown, Dee Washington two, and Antonio Bray stole the show with his three touchdown receptions as well as the first Bandits touchdown in history with his run up the middle, reminiscent of Christine Michael’s first BattleHawks home field touchdown in Week 3 of the XFL. The Bandits buried the Royals in a thrilling 61-30 victory.
Exciting plays included Kelvin Rodgers’ touchdown on an unsuccessful Royals field goal attempt, in which he jumped up, caught the kick, and through excellent blocking by his teammates had only one man to beat. With a skillful stiff arm, Rodgers thundered down the field and gave the Bandits yet another touchdown. The extra point attempt was equally exciting. The kick was blocked, the ball flew back over 15 yards, bounced backwards, was recovered by the Royals, immediately fumbled and after a quick tussle was finally recovered by the Bandits.
Overall, with its fast paced, high scoring gameplay, entertaining commentary from Mike Thompson, and the fun atmosphere created by the fans, the Bandits and the AAL are definitely worth the watch. It’s great to see football once again back in St. Louis.