Albany returns to AFL, lose in Soul-crushing fashion
Empires weren't built in a day. Just ask the Romans.
The city of Albany welcomed Arena Football back to the Times Union Center this past Saturday when the newly-minted Empire hosted the Philadelphia Soul. The defending ArenaBowl champions began their quest for a third straight Arena Bowl title with a convincing 56-35 victory over the Empire.
On a night where the building was packed and Albany’s football past was honoured, the Empire came out and stayed toe-to-toe with the Soul but penalties and some costly throws from Empire QB Tommy Grady were simply no match for Philadelphia.
Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh had a masterful performance, going 22 for 37 and throwing for 236 yards, six touchdowns with zero interceptions. First year receiver Darius Prince had himself a game, scoring three touchdowns for Philadelphia. The Soul’s other Darius also scored a touchdown, as the veteran Reynolds notch a 9 yard TD strike to further distance themselves from Albany.
But perhaps the wackiest touchdown that this neophyte Arena writer has ever seen scored came late in the third quarter, when a field goal attempt by Soul kicker Adrian Trevino bounced off the upright and into the hands of 330 pounder Neal Tivis, who rumbled two yards into the end zone.
Even more astounding is that this kind of play happens quite frequently in the Arena league and is known as a Net Recovery. That touchdown, along with the 28 yard TD reception by Shaun Kauleinamoku late in the fourth quarter were the final nails in the coffin for Albany’s first loss of the 2018 season.
The history books will show that the first ever touchdown in Albany Empire history was scored by Arena veteran Greg Carr, who hauled in a 10 yard pass from Grady in the first quarter. He’d later snag another one to finish with a pair of TDs and 74 yards in the air.
Malachi Jones can lay claim to the longest TD catch in the Empire’s early history, taking a hitch pass from his quarterback 48 yards to the house. Doug McNeil III and Collin Taylor also caught TDs to keep Albany competitive, but the Empire let some prime opportunities slip away.
They will now hit the road in search of the club’s first win while the Soul will return home to officially celebrate their back-to-back ArenaBowl championships.
Albany arena football history repeats itself
For the first time since 2009, fans of Arena football were able to take in a game at the Times Union Center. Nearly 14,000 packed the stands last night and they were beyond amped for this new incarnation of professional football in the state capital.
The atmosphere was already at a fever pitch when an Albany legend came out to assist in the first ever coin toss for the Empire. Known simply as “Touchdown” Eddie Brown, this Arena Football great emerged from a limousine at midfield and the Times Union faithful welcomed home their favorite son in raucous fashion.
He was joined at midfield by his son, who just happens to be a chip off the old block. Yes, Eddie Brown’s son Antonio is unquestionably one of the biggest superstars of the NFL and is regarded as one of the best football players on the planet.
But this past Saturday night, Antonio was not an NFL superstar for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rather, he was simply Eddie’s kid as the elder Brown had his #17 retired by the Empire in honour of his indelible mark left on the city of Albany.
The Empire also paid homage to that 1999 Arena Bowl championship team that Eddie played for by re-hanging their championship banner from the rafters. It’s clear that the Empire is looking to forge their own path towards Arena football history, but they also acknowledge their past and for fans of the old Firebirds team, this was a perfect tribute.
Musings from an Arena Football newbie
I haven’t watched a whole lot of indoor football myself, but the atmosphere in Albany was nothing short of incredible. While it did seem at times that fans were more apt to getting loud for the freebies being tossed into the stands, they also got loud when their defense needed them to.
I hope for their sake that this momentum continues regardless of how the team’s record on the field is. After going without Arena football for so long, it’s clear that this region is jonesing for more. There’s some great veteran presence on this Empire team and the youngsters have come to play, so the wins will happen.
There was a lot of orange in the stands, so I think that fans have already started to buy into this team. It was a very smart move on the Empire’s part to have a block party in front of the Times Union Center 3 hours before kickoff. Tailgating may not be an Arena League thing, but everyone loves a good party. And Albany showed up big time.
If you’re within driving distance to Albany, you owe it to yourself to take in this terrific experience. It’s not the NFL but these fellas grind just as hard and thanks to the closeness of playing football in what is essentially a hockey rink, they are in your face and ready for you.
Congrats on having professional football in your backyard once again, Albany. Make sure you support this team and help bring this region back to its glory once again.
Many thanks to ArenaFan for allowing me the opportunity to experience this event first-hand and to share it with you good readers. Be sure to check out ArenaFan.com for all your news, stats, and info and so much more on the Arena Football League.