The Norfolk Nighthawks 2002 season began amidst hopes of an ArenaCup Championship and talks of offensive explosion. With a veteran cast of weapons the Nighthawks looked poised to contend with the Richmond Speed for the American-Atlantic Division title.
The Nighthawks were stunned after their encounter with the Cape Fear Wildcats. The expansion team from Fayetteville, NC looked like anything
but a first year franchise as they rolled over Norfolk 69-19.
Following road losses to Mohegan and Richmond, The Nighthawks were returning home facing their second straight 0-4 start. On May 4, the Mohegan Wolves came to Norfolk for their second match-up.
The Nighthawks won a 58-51 overtime thriller. Trying to use their momentum, the Nighthawks traveled to Roanoke, one of only two places they have won on the road during the first two seasons of play. After a poor display of execution, and giving the Steam 17 points off turnovers, Norfolk dropped a 27-23 decision to their in-state rivals.
The Nighthawks signed former Orlando slinger Chris Wallace to start at QB, to turn things their way. Unfortunately for Wallace, his first start in almost two years would be in Fayetteville against the Wildcats. Wallace would lose his first start 57-32, a great improvement from opening night.
Wallace got his first win against his former af2 team, the Carolina Rhinos. Following a second consecutive home win, this one against Greensboro, and a three-point road loss at Charleston, the Nighthawks were facing a three-game home stand with a (3-6) record and preparing to take on the (8-1) Richmond Speed. Richmond had never won a game in the Norfolk Scope, and nothing would be different this season.
The Nighthawks tripped up the Speed, 55-48, behind great defense and stellar play from Wallace (5 total TD) and their offensive line, who didn’t allow a single sack to the top pass rushing defense in af2.
Now riding some momentum, Norfolk would reel off five straight wins and get to (8-6), but had no shot at the playoffs because of Richmond and Cape Fear putting together winning streaks of their own. Heading into their final two games, both on the road, Norfolk was looking to finish (10-6) and tie their best record ever. New Haven and Augusta, however, had other plans.
New Haven took advantage of another turnover-laden contest and escaped with a 55-42 win, while Augusta scored 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter against the Wallace-less Nighthawks and won 60-45.
Norfolk would finish the season (8-8) and the roller coaster ride finally came to an end.
But, if Norfolk can return the core of players that helped them finish 7-1 at home and win seven out their last ten, they can go through an off-season with some serious hopes of contending for their fist ever ArenaCup in 2003.
This was written on behalf of the Norfolk Nighthawks, an af2 franchise, which competed at Norfolk Scope from 2000-03.