The motto of the Orlando Apollos is “Take Aim”.
That moniker couldn’t possibly be more appropriate following opening night at Spectrum Stadium on Saturday. The Apollos, behind the leadership of head coach, Steve Spurrier, took direct aim at their opponent. They played the Atlanta Legends, in a 40-6 kill shot in front of an announced crowd of more than 20,000. The game also aired in primetime on CBS in select markets. It was an amazingly successful “launch” for the newly formed league that brings both excitement and innovation to football.
The excitement came from all angles. For Alliance of American Football executives, it was the validation of what they’d envisioned in the months leading up to opening night. The vision that its players were more than capable of providing an exciting, quality brand of on-field action. For players, it was the beginning of a new opportunity to show those at the NFL level they still have what it takes to occupy a roster spot again. For fans, it was a glimpse into what one day could become the way the sport is played and broadcast at all levels.
In just one night, the AAF proved that football will indeed not miss kickoffs. That play clocks can afford to lose five seconds. That upstairs replay officials should always be shown in full transparency. That mic’d up coaches are unbelievably entertaining (Ok, maybe that’s just a Spurrier thing). That TV timeout commercials can be shown in a split screen format while action on the field continues. That a football game can be completed in roughly two and a half hours. And last but not least, football can still be a lot of fun this way.
Led by linebacker Terence Garivn it was the Apollos’ defense that stymied the Legends all evening long – laying the foundation for the blowout. Garivn had 11 tackles, two interceptions, and one touchdown.
Spurrier also unleashed his ‘Sun ‘n Gun’ offense, allowing quarterback Garrett Gilbert to let loose. Gilbert completed 15-of-25 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns. The highlight of the night saw Gilbert on the receiving end of the “Spurrier Special.” This is the Apollo’s version of the “Philly Special” that helped the Philadelphia Eagles defeat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 52. The double reverse pass back to the quarterback worked to perfection. Wide receiver Jalin Marshall found a wide-open Gilbert towards the pylon for a 5-yard score just prior to halftime.
“I think the fans had a good time and we put on a little bit of a show. Hopefully we can earn our way with the fans where they may want to come out and pack this place before it’s all said and done.” Spurrier exclaimed postgame.
The bottom line Orlando, is that football season is in fact back in full swing. Those looking for a fun, affordable entertainment option should make their way out to Spectrum Stadium at some point this season. The ten-week regular season has just nine weeks remaining and culminates with the first ever championship game in Las Vegas on Saturday, April 27th. The Apollos entered Saturday’s opener the odds-on-favorite to win the championship at a 4.5:1.
The team returns to the field with a matchup vs. the San Antonio Commanders on Sunday February 17th at 4PM. The next home game will take place Saturday, February 23rd at Spectrum Stadium vs. the Memphis Express.