Opponent Preview: Baltimore Brigade
In November of 2016, it was announced that the Arena Football League granted an expansion franchise to the city of Baltimore. In January, the team was named the Baltimore Brigade, taking after the city’s rich military history.
The Cleveland Gladiators will get their first look at the first of two new opponents on Saturday, April 15th, 2017 at Quicken Loans Arena. Led by Head Coach Omarr Smith, formerly of the LA Kiss, the Brigade will kick off their inaugural season in Washington on April 7th before heading to Cleveland in week two.
As the lone participant in January's AFL Expansion draft, the Brigade picked up a slew of current AFL players, including a few from Cleveland. Among those former Gladiators players who will don the blue and silver in 2017 are DL/MLB Collin Keoshian (6’2, 295), DB Brandon Stephens (5’11, 210), and OL Chris Jasperse (6’4, 300).
Perhaps one of the biggest questions surrounding the Brigade in their inaugural season is the quarterback position. In February, it was announced that the Brigade signed QB Shane Carden (6’2, 218) out of East Carolina. As a college player, Carden was named the 2013 Conference USA MVP after posting 4,139 yards and 33 touchdowns, both of which are school records. Carden will be competing against QB Chase Cartwright (6’3, 220). Cartwright attended Northern Arizona University, where he tallied 2,809 yards and 23 touchdowns throughout his career.
The receiving unit will be led by veteran Reggie Gray (5’10, 185), who was voted 2015 First Team All-Arena while playing for the San Jose Sabercats. In that season, he collected 162 catches, 1,698 yards, 44 touchdowns, and took home MVP honors in Arena Bowl 2015. “Reggie Gray is a significant signing for us. He is one of the most exciting players in the AFL,” said Brigade Head Coach Omarr Smith.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Brigade have high expectations for DB Varmah Sonie (5’8, 175). Sonie played for the Portland Thunder from 2014-2015, where he was named First Team All-Arena and set a franchise record of 86 total tackles as a rookie. He comes off of a stellar 2016 campaign in Orlando where he posted 86 tackles. The defensive front will be bolstered by veteran DL Khreem Smith (6’4, 265), who was named First-Team All Arena in 2010 as a member of the Milwaukee Iron.
The Gladiators will travel to Baltimore on Saturday, May 27th. The final matchup of the season between the two teams will take place in Cleveland on Friday, June 16th.