Leigh Valley were the favorites to play in the inaugural NAL title game last season. They even held a 22-point lead over the Columbus Lions in the NAL semifinal. Unfortunately, they could not maintain that lead and didn’t get the opportunity to play in the title game.
Their road to the title this season will be a much tougher one. They will have to play their long-time rival Lions several times in both Columbus, GA and in Allentown, PA and will also have to play the defending champions Jacksonville Sharks twice – once in Jacksonville and once in Allentown, PA.
They will also face a third tough opponent in the expansion Carolina Cobras. They have several players from the Wichita Falls Nighthawks team, including 2016 and 2017 Indoor Football League MVP quarterback Charles McCullum and two receivers in Tyron Laughinghouse and Jordan Jolly. Carolina will also be coached by former Nighthawks head coach Billy Back.
Not only do their opponents propose a challenge. Their roster does, as well. Wide receiver Darius Prince, who was named ArenaBowl XXX MVP with the Philadelphia Soul, will remain with the Soul in 2018. Another star receiver in Warren Oliver Jr. signed with the Duke City Gladiators of Champions Indoor Football (CIF). On defense, Eddie Davis III, who recorded seven interceptions in four games, is with the Sharks.
The biggest blow of all comes at the quarterback position. 2017 NAL MVP and Steelhawks quarterback Warren Smith Jr is with the Washington Valor or the Arena Football League (AFL).
Not all is lost, however. They did sign a talented running back in Undra Hendrix II. In 2017 with the High Country Grizzlies, he rushed for 298 yards and 12 touchdowns, both second in the league behind Derrick Ross. Wide receiver Brandon Renford, who recorded 546 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2017, will also be returning.
Lehigh Valley kicks off their season against the same team that ended their last, the Columbus Lions, on April 13 in Columbus, GA. Their first home game will be on April 21 when they host the expansion Maine Mammoths at the PPL Center in Allentown, PA.