To paraphrase Yogi Berra, it ain’t over even after it’s over.
The Atlantic City Blackjacks play one more home game on their schedule, concluding against the Baltimore Brigade Sunday at 4 p.m. at Boardwalk Hall.
It will mean nothing in the standings, because Atlantic City was eliminated from the post-season when the Washington Valor defeated Baltimore over the weekend.
But it will mean a lot for branding.
Atlantic City brings a 4-7 mark into its finale and wants to gain momentum going forward. A win on Sunday would give Atlantic City a winning home record for the year. It is 3-2 at Boardwalk Hall.
The area has gotten exposure from arena football and enjoyed it. A season-high attendance of more than 7,000 watched the Blackjacks’ critical game against the Philadelphia Soul in early July.
They were treated to a spectacle with quarterback Warren Smith passing for 306 yards, five passing touchdowns and a rushing score in a 50-45 setback to the league’s hottest team. Philadelphia won its fourth consecutive game and the teams displayed a post-July 4th fireworks show with 45 points in the final quarter. The Blackjacks were ahead in the final minute before giving up the winning score with 13 seconds left.
“Just wait until you see what we do with the marketing in the off-season,” says Ron Jaworski, one of the team’s operators, an entrepreneurial local presence and former Eagles quarterback. “These fans have identified the Blackjacks as being their team and with the chance to go into schools and build more community support, this team can do well.”
Atlantic City fans obtained a taste of the 50-yard indoor field, caroms off the net, high-scoring games and no punting. All signs point to attendance rising next year, especially if the team wins. They discovered a unit that became the league’s best offensive unit over its last three games, averaging nearly 60 points per outing.
Jaworski also operates the Philadelphia Soul, which provided the barometer of where Atlantic City stood in terms of talent — just a couple plays away from getting over the top. Atlantic City opened the season with a close loss in Philadelphia, absorbed its worst setback to Philadelphia in mid-season and, after some key personnel change, fired on all cylinders but just missed beating the Soul in a must game.
Atlantic City owns three victories against playoff teams but could not beat top-dogs Philadelphia or Albany, and stumbled with a loss to the last-place Columbus Destroyers. That game, when the final standings are assembled, will likely come back to hurt them. It is Columbus’ only win of the season.
The Blackjacks split their first six games in a home-heavy first half of the season, but could not gain the split in a four-game subsequent road trip. They only won one of the four and needed the win against Philadelphia that did not materialize.
Statistically, Atlantic City can match the league’s top offenses, but has yielded a league high 515 points. Atlantic City lost two recent games to the class of the league — Albany and Philadelphia — by a combined seven points.
The season finale for Atlantic City marks the end of its opening act, and it was a good one. If you think the Baltimore Brigade look familiar in Atlantic City, you are correct. This is Baltimore’s third trip to Boardwalk Hall this year. The Blackjacks have captured both games.