The First AFA Championship Game, known retroactively as Victory Bowl I, was played on December 15th, 1946. The Western Division Champions, The Guardians of Cincinnati (10-2-0), hosted the Eastern Division Champions, the New York Imperials (9-2-1). The game was played at Taft Field (the Guardian's home field).
Before the GameEdit
The 1946 Season Edit
The 1946 Season by all accounts lacked suspense." New York ran through the Eastern Division, cruising to a 9-2-1 record. Similarly, The Guardians of Cincinnati dominated the Western Division, ending the regular season with a 10-2-0 seasons. By the Thanksgiving holiday, it was clear that New York and Cincinnati would meet in the Inaugural Championship Game.
Most sports writers and experts picked the Guardians to win easily.
The game started much as expected. New York got the ball first, but Cincinnati forced a three and out. Superstar QB Wendell Ridley then immediately led a touchdown drive, which ended with a 10 rush by RB Albert Leyton. After falling down 7-0 in the opening minutes of the game, the young Imperials squad managed to find their composure, and the teams spent much of the first quarter exchanging punts.
Late in the quarter, New York managed to put together their first scoring drive of the day. On 3rd and 1 from the Cincinnati 20, the Guardians stacked the box, expecting a run by All-Star RB Luther Foth, but mistakenly left Herman Trucco, New York's #2 wideout, uncovered. Rookie QB Charlie Kadlec adjusted the play at the line, took the snap, and hit Trucco for a wide open touchdown to tie the game.
The Guardians made another crucial mistake on their first play after the ensuing kickoff. Foth, who played LB on defense, came through the offensive line untouched and blindsided Ridley, knocking the ball loose. It was scooped up by LB William Fender, who took it 18 yards into the end zone to give the Imperials a 14-7 lead after a 14 point swing in just 16 seconds.
New York extended their lead to 17-7 with a long field goal in the second quarter. The Guardians showed signs of life in the second half, kicking a field goal to make it a one score game on their first possession, and adding another to bring the score to 13-17 midway through the fourth. But with 7:31 remaining, Luther Foth took over the game. On the following possession, the Imperials handed the ball to him on every play, and he imposed his will on the Guardians, ending the drive with a 2 yard dive into the end zone to bring the score to 24-13
With just over three minutes remaining, the Guardians tried to fight back, but their offense wasn't well-suited to a hurry up attack, and they managed just one first down before failing to convert on 4th and 4 from their own 41. Foth and the Imperials managed to run out the clock, and claim a win in the First Victory Bowl. Forth was named MVP.
Although the game itself lacked much suspence, the weight of it being the first Victory Bowl makes this game very important to many AFA fans. New York and Cincinnati would go on to face each other in the first three Victory Bowls, New York finishing with wins in all three.