It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
The 2016 season opener turned out to be a tale of two halves for the NightWatch.
On the one hand, Nashville had some excellent contributions from players both new to the team (Ray Davenport, Player Pierce) and old (Tom Radcliffe). On the other hand, a game which was neck and neck for 3 quarters, got out of hand quickly when the 4th quarter rolled around.
And, as an aside, both teams were missing a premier player, with Matt Smith not suiting up for Atlanta and Paul Lally sidelined by a nagging injury. Lantern insider Eric Williams is reporting that Lally expects to be ready to go for Week 3 against Jacksonville.
Back to the game, Nashville clearly won the first half, demonstrating a swarming defense and efficient, crisp O. An excellent bookends (get the D, score the goal) by Nick Peppers put Nashville up early 2-1 and the team kept rolling from there. Nashville widened the lead to as many as 4 points in the early going, but weren’t able to keep the pressure on, eventually yielding to a 5-2 Atlanta to end the 1st half. Still, Nashville had an 11-10 lead after 30 minutes of play.
Nashville and Atlanta essentially traded goals to start the 2nd half until a huge Callahan score by Atlanta’s JP Burns tied the game up and Atlanta went ahead—for good, as it turned out—a short while later. What a deflating play it could have been, yet the NightWatch were not about to quit on this day. Nashville fought back answering Atlanta scores with their own, until the Hustle caught fire.
When Ray Davenport found Tyler Conger in the back of the end zone for a beautiful half-field dime piece, Nashville looked poised to have the momentum with the score 16-15 Atlanta early in the 4th quarter. But a costly Conger penalty and a Hustle score merely 48 seconds later snuffed out the last of Nashville’s fire.
It’s amazing how the scorecard can show one thing, and the game can mean something else entirely. For a solid 3+ quarters Nashville showed it belonged on the field with Atlanta, forcing D’s and flying around the field. Nashville’s relative inexperience came through when the NightWatch were faced with adversity late in the game and the team buckled.
For Nashville, it serves as both a beacon of hope and a painful reminder of what could have been to compete so strongly with Hustle today, only to fall well short of expectations.
It says something towards how far this team has come that this year the expectations are much greater and, thus far, the disappointment hits even harder.
The Tale of Two Halves: on the one hand, disappointment and frustration; on the other, hope and potential