Empire Win on the Road in Washington
The Albany Empire began the first of two consecutive road games on Friday night and came away with a victory in Washington, 53-42, in front of 9,037 at the Capital Once Center. This was the first road victory in the history of the franchise.
The first half was a see-saw battle with both teams going punch-for-punch on their possessions. The primary difference was conversions on special teams: Empire K Kenny Spencer missed his first conversion opportunity and a botched snap prevented a conversion after the second touchdown. Valor QB Warren Smith had a much better game than last week and it showed early: he utilized short passes and scrambling ability to keep plays alive. This included a five-yard scamper for a touchdown in the second quarter.
For the Empire, WR Malachi Jones continued his hot start with three touchdowns in the first half. His first touchdown came on the first play of the game after a 41-pass from QB Tommy Grady. He would score again on the third possession from 14 yards on another Grady pass. His third touchdown came on a two-yard run towards the end of the first half. The Valor would get the ball back with five seconds remaining in the half but could not convert on a long screen pass and the Empire would go into the locker room up by four.
The Valor would get the ball to start the second half and in a repeating theme for the second consecutive week would drive down the field. They would get inside the Empire one-yard line, but the Empire’s defense would hold once again and not let the Valor into the end zone, preventing Smith from scoring on another scamper and forcing a turnover on downs. Grady would connect with Jones for the third time in the game and the Empire would go up by 11.
History would be made on the next drive as Empire DE Joe Skyes would take over as the all-time league leader in sacks when he sacked Warren Smith with 2:21 remaining in the third quarter. On the following play, Empire DE Derrick Summers would get his first sack of the season to force a fumble which was recovered by LB Terence Moore and was brought back to the Valor 12-yard line. For the second consecutive game, the Empire did not allow a point in the third quarter to the Valor.
On the ensuing drive, Grady found Joe Hills with a touchdown to increase the lead to 46-28. The Valor would begin to fight back with Smith finding Reggie Gray to cut the lead to 11. But Grady would throw another score to Hills to put the game out of reach. The Valor scored another touchdown towards the end of the game, but the Empire would beat the Valor for the second consecutive week.
The Empire will travel to Philadelphia to face the Soul next Saturday, May 19 at 6pm.
Offensive MVP: Empire WR Malachi Jones: 6 rec, 120 yards, 3 TD; 3 rushes, 6 yards, 1 TD.
Defensive MVP: Empire LB Terence Moore: 7.5 tackles (7 solo), 1 fumble recovery, 1 pass breakup.
Game MVP: Empire QB Tommy Grady: 16-for-24, 257 yards, 7 TD, 0 INT.
Odds and Ends: In addition to Joe Sykes taking over the all-time sacks lead, Derrick Summers moved into a tie with Beau Bell, who is currently the director of player personnel for the Empire, for fourth in the career sacks category… Joe Hills continued his touchdown streak with 84 consecutive games after the first of two TD catches in the fourth quarter… With 62 yards, Valor WR Rod Windsor would surpass James Roe for 10th on the all-time receiving yards list. Still on the top of the list is Valor WR TT Tolliver.