Empire vs. Valor: Keys to the Game
Will the Empire continue their winning ways or will the Valor finally win?
The Albany Empire open up a four-game home stand this Saturday night to face the Washington Valor on (6pm, TV: CBS Sports Network; Radio: ALT 105.7 (Albany)). The two teams are no strangers to each other as the Empire have taken wins in both of their meetings this season.
The Empire are riding a wave of momentum off of three consecutive wins, including last week’s 41-36 win in Philadelphia that saw them snap the Soul’s 20-game home winning streak. Albany overcame a slow start in the first half and forced three turnovers in the second half that propelled them to the win. The Valor, meanwhile, are still winless, but there is a glimmer of hope with QB Shane Austin at the pivot. Austin threw for five touchdowns and ran for two as they nearly toppled Baltimore.
Here are the three keys to the game.
The Great Unknown: The Empire will face a newly revitalized Valor team that has been undergone two major changes recently. Last week, Benji McDowell replaced Dean Cokinos as head coach and named veteran Shane Austin his starting QB. The Empire faced Warren Smith in week 3 after Nick Davila went down with a season-ending injury but having not faced Austin could give the Valor a hidden advantage. They will play not only another veteran quarterback but also a new head coach who has seemingly reinvigorated the team.
Third Quarter Woes: The third quarter has been a major hurdle for the Valor this season. They have scored only 28 points in the third quarter this season and they were held scoreless in the same stanza by the Empire in their previous matches. Will the same result happen in this week’s game? It will depend on which Valor team shows up and if the Empire defensive front four can harass Shane Austin like they did Warren Smith in the past two games.
Baking Up Turnovers The Empire defense has cooked up its share of forced turnovers over the past three weeks: four forced fumbles and four interceptions have turned into opportunities for the offense to rack up the points. Last week, DL Nick Seither had two sacks, DL Joe Sykes forced and recovered a fumble, and interceptions by LB Terence Moore and DB Varmah Sonie turned the game on its head in the Empire’s favor. For the Empire to win this game, they must continue to force turnovers.
Prediction: Last week, the Valor almost came away with a victory. The Empire, meanwhile, are starting to become dominant in the second half of games when it counts the most. It’ll be a close game, but the Empire will pull off the win.
Predicted Score: Empire 49, Valor 42.
Ryan McCarthy has been an on-and-off Internet columnist and blogger since 1997. He has been an avid follower of Arena Football since 1990 when the Albany Firebirds were established. Ryan currently attends Regent University, where he is pursuing his Bachelors degree in Communications with a Journalism concentration. He anticipates graduating toward the end of 2019. You can follow Ryan on Twitter at @rwhoisryanmcc