The Orlando Apollos got back to their winning ways in AAF Week 7 after losing last weekend with a blowout over Atlanta thanks in part to a brilliant defensive play by Deji Olatoye.
Defenders showed up big time all weekend long, including on a brilliant special-teams play, and one receiver put up jaw-dropping stats in a loss for his team.
These are the players who stood out the most from the four games in AAF Week 7.
Deji Olatoye, cornerback, Orlando Apollos
Already with a 14-point lead in the third quarter against Atlanta, Orlando got a major play out of cornerback Deji Olatoye. He jumped a route and returned his first interception of the season 65 yards to the house.
A former undrafted free agent out of North Carolina A&T, Olatoye has bounced around the NFL since 2014. Appearing in just his third game this season for Orlando, he finally made his impact felt.
Nelson Spruce, wide receiver, San Diego Fleet
The Fleet got blown out of the water against Arizona in AAF Week 7, but San Diego receiver Nelson Spruce did everything he could to give his team a chance. Spruce was targeted by quarterback Mike Bercovici 14 times, and he came down with 12 receptions for 146 yards, including and incredible 69 yards after the catch. This performance marked the biggest game of the season by far for the former Colorado Buffaloes star.
Shaquille Richardson, cornerback, Arizona Hotshots
Shaquille Richardson had himself quite a game in AAF Week 7. He racked up eight solo tackles, forced a fumble, and came down with a clutch interception in the red zone late in the fourth quarter.
A player who has bounced around the NFL and CFL quite a bit since being drafted in the fifth round by Pittsburgh back in 2014, Richardson played like he knew what he was doing on Sunday against San Diego.
Reece Horn, wide receiver, Memphis Express
Everyone was excited that Johnny Manziel got into Sunday night’s game, and he certainly made some waves. But the Memphis player who showed up the most on offense was receiver Reece Horn. Horn only had two catches for 29 yards in the first half. He exploded in the second half against Birmingham and finished with seven catches for 113 yards and a touchdown.
This was the first touchdown reception of the season for Horn. Better yet, Memphis converted the two-point conversion to tie the game and send it to overtime. Horn also was electric in the return game for Memphis and was a big reason why the Express were in the game at all in the end.
Mike Purcell, defensive tackle, Salt Lake Stallions
Mike Purcell had a huge game rushing the passer against San Antonio. Putting together his best game to date for the Stallions, the 6-foot-3, 328-pound big man came into AAF Week 7 with just five quarterback hits and one sack on record. Against the Commanders, he racked up two solo tackles, two sacks, and hit the quarterback four times. That’s a monster game for any player, but it’s rare to see an interior lineman putting up stats like this.
Trey Williams, running back, San Antonio Commanders
Trey Williams didn’t do much on the ground against Salt Lake. Nobody did, if we’re honest. He only managed 19 yards on six carries, including a long run of eight yards. While the ground game stalled in a big way, Williams came up with a game-changing play in the pass game. In the fourth quarter, he took a simple swing pass from Marquise Williams and shredded Salt Lake’s defense en route to an impressive 36-yard receiving score.
The best part about this play is that it was a go-ahead score in the fourth quarter for the Commanders, who eked out a 19-15 win — their fourth straight victory.
Garrett Gilbert, quarterback, Orlando Apollos
Thanks to an outstanding effort by his defensive teammates, and thanks to a balanced offensive approach that saw Orlando rush the ball 31 times, Garrett Gilbert didn’t need to throw the ball much Saturday night against Atlanta. But when he did throw, Gilbert was on the money.
All told, Gilbert threw 23 passes and completed all but four of them for 217 yards and a touchdown.
DeMarquis Gates and Terrell Bonds, special teams, Memphis Express
When the Express needed a big play in the third quarter, their special teams came through with a timely score. Down 19-8 at that point, linebacker DeMarquis Gates broke through to block a punt, which was recovered by Terrell Bonds for six points.
Johnny Manziel, who made his highly anticipated debut Sunday night, attempted to convert the two-point conversion but failed, meaning the Express only got six points out of this brilliant play, rather than eight.