Empire Gets Huge Win in Baltimore
The Albany Empire snapped a two-game losing streak as they handed the Baltimore Brigade their first home loss of the season, 56-49, in front of 5,552 at Royal Farms Arena on Saturday night. The win moved Albany within a game of Baltimore for first place. The teams split the season series, but the Empire are nine points ahead in point differential.
The teams traded touchdowns in the first quarter, but the Empire’s defense took over in the second quarter. They forced a four-and-out on the Brigade’s first possession and the Empire offense made quick work of the short field when QB Tommy Grady threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to WR Malachi Jones. The Brigade’s next possession would feature two key plays that would make a big impact for the Empire: on the first play of the new possession, it appeared that Brigade QB Randy Hippeard threw a long touchdown pass to WR Brandon Collins. The play was challenged by Empire head coach Rob Keefe and it was overturned as it was found that Collins trapped the football against the end zone wall. Three plays later, Empire LB Terence Moore picked off Hippeard for his league-leading fifth INT of the season. The Empire offense again took advantage with a Grady touchdown pass to WR Joe Hills.
The second half started disastrously for the Empire as the snap exchange was fumbled on the first play from scrimmage and the ball was recovered by Brigade LB Royce LaFrance. Unlike the Empire, the Brigade offense, could not take advantage of the short field. Brigade head coach Omarr Smith challenged a play on third down as he argued that Hippeard’s pass to Collins was a touchdown. However, the replay showed that Collins’ momentum carried him into the side wall at the one-yard line. After being awarded a fresh set of downs following a defensive holding call, Hippeard’s pass on fourth down was deflected by Moore and the ball would be turned over on downs. This resulted in another score for the Empire offense when Grady found Jones for a seven-yard touchdown pass.
The teams traded touchdowns again and entering the fourth quarter, the Empire defense would come up with another game-changing play. On Baltimore’s first possession, DL Nick Seither forced and recovered a fumble from Collins. The Brigade challenged the call, but it was confirmed upon review and the Brigade would lose their second time out of the half. Grady found Hills for another touchdown and the Empire would go up by 21. The Brigade would get within 14 and an onside kick recovery with 3:32 remaining in the game lead to a Hippeard touchdown pass to WR Milton Williams to bring them within seven. They attempted one more onside kick with less than a minute left in the game, but Empire WR Greg Carr recovered Mark Lewis’ kick and the Empire would come away with an enormous win.
The Empire travel to DC on Friday night to take on the Valor, while the Soul will host the Brigade on Saturday night as both games have massive implications on playoff seeding.
Odds and Ends: It took 10 games, but Empire K Kenny Spencer finally attempted his first field goal of 2018. With 0.8 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Spencer missed a 40-yard FG attempt. One silver lining for Spencer: he went 8/8 on PAT attempts after struggling in the past two games… Empire DB Marrio Norman was named Defensive Player of the Game as he recorded 10 solo tackles. He is now tied with LB Terence Moore for the team lead with 58 total tackles… Saturday’s game saw the 2018 debut of veteran FB Mykell Benson, who joined the Empire this week. Benson had 5 rushing attempts for 25 yards and scored a touchdown.