EMPIRE CLOSE OUT SEASON SWEEP OF VALOR
Albany Keeps One-Seed Hopes Alive for Playoffs
The Albany Empire (7-4) defeated the Washington Valor (1-10) 55-41 Saturday night at the Capital One Arena in Washington, DC in front of a crowd of 5,044. Empire quarterback Tommy Grady went 19 of 24 passes for 256 yards, seven passing touchdowns and one interception earning himself the game MVP award. Valor quarterback Arvell Nelson went 27 of 42 passes for 303 yards, five passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown and one interception being named Offensive Player of the Game. Empire jack linebacker Terence Moore led the way with 9 total tackles including a sack and a forced fumble being named Defensive Player of the Game. The victory for the Empire completed the season sweep of the Valor.
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Washington took the field on offense to start the game on their own five-yard line after Empire kicker Kenny Spencer kick the ball through the slack net. On the opening play, quarterback Arvell Nelson hit his top target, Reggie Gray, for a quick nine-yard gain. After an incomplete pass, the Valor were able to pick up a first down on a one-yard quarterback sneak by Nelson. After receiving the new set of downs, Nelson quickly found receiver Jared Dangerfield for a short pickup. One play later, Nelson went right back to Dangerfield as the Valor crossed into Empire territory. Two plays after, Nelson was able to escape the pocket and rush ahead for 12 yards for the Valor score.
The Empire began their opening drive on the five-yard line after Valor kicker Pat Clarke also found the slack net on the kickoff. On the first play, quarterback Tommy Grady found receiver Joe Hills for a four-yard gain. Working quickly, Grady found Malachi Jones on a short pass to give Albany a first down. Trying to target receiver Collin Taylor down field, Grady was intercepted by defensive back Oshay Dunmore as Washington took over on their own five-yard line. The Valor picked up where they left off, pushing the ball towards midfield on just three plays. On third and one, Nelson rushed ahead for a yard and Washington was helped by a defensive penalty to push the ball further into Empire territory. One play later, Nelson hit receiver Chris Duvalt for a 19-yard touchdown giving the Valor a 14-0 lead.
Albany went back to work on their own five-yard line following a touchback on the kickoff. Grady found Hills on a short route for eight yards as the first quarter came to a close. To open the new quarter, Grady found Taylor near the sideline dasher who was able to make a move on his defender and take the ball into the end zone for a 37-yard score. The Valor offense came back out starting on their own five-yard line and began with a quick four-yard pass to Gray. Washington was able to cross midfield on the following play as Nelson hit Dangerfield for a 22-yard gain. Keeping the pace, Nelson rushed ahead for 16-yards down to the three-yard line before Varmah Sonie was able to upend him and force a fumble recovered by Wes Mauia.
Starting from their own three-yard line, Albany came out firing with two quick-hitters to Joe Hills. The second reception marked the 800th catch of Hills’ career. After a penalty and an incomplete pass, Grady found Taylor across the middle to set the Empire up for a fourth and three situation. Albany picked up more than the necessary yardage as Jones was able to break through the coverage downfield and haul in a 29-yard touchdown to tie the game.
Washington’s offense took over on their own five-yard line after the kickoff bounced high off the back net and was nearly recovered by Albany. Nelson was able to find receiver Josh Reese on consecutive throws as the Valor moved forward for a first down. After two rushes by Nelson, he was intercepted by defensive back Marrio Norman as he looked deep to the end zone. On the first play of the new possession, Grady found Jones deep down field for a 45-yard bomb. The extra point was blocked as the Empire took their first lead of the game, 20-14.
Albany failed to recover an onside kick setting up the Valor inside the red zone on the six-yard line. Nelson rushed forward down to the two-yard line on the first play as the Empire took their first timeout of the half. After another short rush attempt by Nelson, the quarterback was able to find receiver Doug McNeil III for the short score to tie the game at 20 apiece.
Washington was unable to recover an onside kick attempt of their own as Albany began their next drive from the opposing 10-yard line. In an effort to run some clock, Grady pitched it back to fullback Mykel Benson who plowed ahead for two-yards, Washington used their first timeout of the half. The Empire went right back to Benson on the following play as he worked his way into a pile for another two-yard gain as the Valor used their second timeout. On third down, Grady found Hills to move the ball down to the one-yard line as Washington burned their final timeout. On fourth down, Albany handed the ball off to Benson who found space on the outside for the short score leaving just 14 seconds on the clock before halftime. Duvalt brought the ensuing kickoff to the seven-yard line as the Valor offense took the field with must nine seconds left in the half. Nelson was able to hit Reese who worked his way across midfield but was taken down and time expired as Albany took a 27-20 lead into halftime.
To open the second half, newly acquired returner Terrance Smith brought the ball to the nine-yard line as Grady and company came back onto the field. With Taylor in high motion, Grady was able to hit him for a five-yard gain to open the drive. On the following play, Grady went back to Taylor on a screen who moved ahead for 16-yards to the Valor 20-yard line. Albany was helped by a couple of Valor penalties to bring the ball into the red zone, but the yardage was quickly erased due to an offensive pass interference penalty on Hills. Two plays later, Taylor was able to blow past the defense as Grady found him wide open in the end zone for the 20-yard touchdown.
The Valor began their initial drive of the second half from their own five-yard line with a three-yard pass to Reese. On second down, the Valor were helped by a facemask penalty on Albany to push the ball to their own 20-yard line before Nelson connected with Gray to move across midfield. On first down, Nelson rolled out of the pocket, eventually being sacked by defensive end Darryl Cato-Bishop for a loss of three yards. Washington was able to pick up the long yardage on a pass to Reese over the middle for another first down inside of the red zone. After two penalties, Washington was backed up to their own 24-yard line looking at a third down and 26 yards to go situation heading into the fourth quarter. On the first play of the final quarter, Nelson connected with Gray in the back of the end zone who made an impressive catch as he slammed against the wall.
After attempting to recover a squib kick down the sideline, Albany took over on their own 17-yard line. Starting with the ground game, Benson took the pitch from Grady and rushed ahead for five yards. On the following play, Grady found tight end Mo Ruffins on a short screen who carried the ball all the way down to the Valor six-yard line. Two plays later, Grady found Hills in the end zone for an eight-yard score. The touchdown marked the 91st consecutive game for Hills with a receiving touchdown.
Starting from their own six-yard line, the Valor opened with a short scramble by Nelson for two-yards. On the following play, Nelson hit Dangerfield over the middle who was able to run the ball down to the Albany 15-yard line. After an incomplete pass, Nelson found Reese in the corner of the end zone for another Valor touchdown. Albany recovered the Washington onside kick attempt and were set up on the Valor 16-yard line. After a five-yard rush by Benson, Grady found Jones on a screen who burst past a defender and into the end zone for an 11-yard score.
Down two possessions, the Valor offense took the field on their own 11-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Nelson found Dangerfield over the middle who ran down field to the 14-yard line. After a short gain and two incomplete passes, Washington was about to pick up a first down inside of the two-yard line approaching the one-minute warning. One play later, Nelson found McNeil III for his second score of the night leaving just 56 seconds on the clock.
Albany recovered the onside kick attempt and the offense came out on the 18-yard line. After a no gain rush by Benson, Grady floated one up for Hills who came down with the ball in the end zone for his second score of the night. Washington was quickly in a hole due to a false start penalty on McNeil III. The Valor used their second timeout following a big gain over the middle to Reese as he pushed across midfield. After an incomplete pass and two false start penalties, Nelson was sacked by linebacker Terence Moore leaving no time on the clock as the Empire came away with a 55-41 victory.
Albany Empire 2018 Inaugural Season Presented By CDPHP.
About Albany Empire
The Arena Football League’s newest franchise, The Albany Empire, are back home at the Times Union Center on 7/7. Season memberships for the inaugural 2019 season are on sale now. For tickets, contact the Albany Empire sales department at (518) 533-2200 or by going to TheAlbanyEmpire.com. Follow the team on Facebook at facebook.com/TheAlbanyEmpire and Twitter at twitter.com/Albany_Empire.
About Arena Football League
The Arena Football League will enter its 31st Season in 2018. Since its inception in 1987, the Arena Football League has showcased a fast-paced and exciting game to millions of fans in a myriad of markets across the country. Teams slated for 2018 include: Albany, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. CBS Sports Network nationally broadcasts AFL games each week, culminating with the ArenaBowl. The AFL launched AFLNow, the League’s streaming “Over-the-Top” network to give fans even more access to the League on arenafootball.com. For all the latest news and discussion on the Arena Football League follow the AFL on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@aflarenaball)
About Times Union Center
Albany’s Times Union Center, formerly Pepsi Arena, continues to have great success. Renamed in January 2007, the Times Union Center is “Upstate New York’s Premier Sports and Entertainment Facility. Owned by Albany County and operated by SMG, the world’s largest private management firm for public assembly facilities, the Times Union Center has an adaptable seating capacity between 6,000 and 17,500. Since Frank Sinatra christened the building on January 30, 1990, more than seven million patrons have walked through the turnstiles. As a multi-purpose facility, the Times Union Center has hosted a variety of events, including concerts, family shows and sporting events, averaging 165 events each year.
Established in 1984, CDPHP is a physician-founded, member-focused and community-based not-for-profit health plan that offers high-quality affordable health insurance plans to members in 24 counties throughout New York. CDPHP is also on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Founded in 1988 and headquartered in Schenectady, New York, Transfinder is a national leader in intelligent transportation systems, providing transportation management systems and services to school districts, municipalities and adult care facilities. Transfinder, an Inc. magazine “fastest-growing company” for the past eleven straight years, has offices in Austin, Texas, and Shanghai, China. The software company develops and supports routing and scheduling solutions for optimal transportation logistics.