PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania – So it begins…
The inaugural Arena Football League season began with a showcase game between the Miami Vise and the Chicago Bruisers on Feb. 26 and ended with ArenaBowl I between the Denver Dynamite and the Pittsburgh Gladiators.
After the six-week “demonstration season,” the Dynamite and Gladiators sat at 4-2, splitting the season series with each team winning on the road. For the first and only time, home-field advantage came down to total attendance. Denver had the opportunity to host but fell 2,374 fans short of the number they needed (13,470 vs. 15,744) in Week 6.
Going in on a two-game winning streak, Denver shined in a lackluster first quarter, OL/DL Phil Forte opened the scoring with a fumble recovery in the end zone, and FB/LB Richard Prather scored on a two-yard touchdown run.
Leading 12-0 thanks to a missed extra point and a two-point conversion, quarterback Whit Taylor, the first player ever to throw ten touchdowns in a single professional football game, threw his first touchdown pass of the game to WR/DB (and future Hall-of-Famer) Gary Mullen. It was the only score of the second quarter, and the Dynamite went into the locker room up 18-0 thanks to another missed two-point conversion.
The third quarter saw the first converted scores of the game, as Denver all but salted things away with a 32-yard touchdown pass from Taylor to WR/LB Richard Rodgers, and a 47-yard pick-six from WR/DB Steve Trimble, who was named Ironman of the Game.
Pittsburgh ended the shutout in the fourth quarter, with Gladiators quarterback (and future Hall-of-Fame coach) Mike Hohensee throwing an 11-yard touchdown pass to WR/LB, and the first ever AFL MVP, Russell Hairston. But, down 32-8, it was too little too late.
Denver scored twice more thanks to two more connections from Taylor to Mullen. Finally, backup quarterback Brendan Folmar found WR/DB Rodney Richmond for the final score of the game.
In the 45-16 win, Gary Mullen’s three scores earned him ArenaBowl I MVP honors, and future Hall-of-Fame head coach Tim Marcum earned the first of his record seven league championships.