Empire Stay in the Hunt after Defeating Valor, 55-41
Big second quarter contributes to win
After the first quarter, it appeared that the Washington Valor were primed to upset the Albany Empire. In the following quarters, that hope was shattered.
The Empire bounced back from being shut out in the first quarter and scored 27 points the second quarter to catapult them to a 55-41 win over the Valor. The win would give the Empire a season sweep against the Valor heading into the final week of the regular season and improves their record to 7-4. Washington, meanwhile, falls to 1-10.
The Valor held the ball for the majority of the first quarter thanks to two long touchdown drives and their first turnover against Empire QB Tommy Grady this season. Valor QB Arvell Nelson made his first appearance against Albany and accounted for two touchdowns in the opening quarter of play, the first being a 12-yard run and the second a 19-yard pass to WR Chris Duvalt. For the third time this season, the Empire were held without a point in a quarter as they didn’t get on the board until the eight seconds into the second quarter.
Similar to last week’s game in Baltimore, the defense would change the game for the Empire with turnovers. The first turnover came following a 16-yard run by Nelson when LB Terence Moore’s strip of Nelson was recovered by LB Wesley Maiua. On the Valor’s second possession of the quarter, DB Marrio Norman picked off Nelson in the end zone. Both touchdowns turned into 13 points with two Grady touchdown passes to WR Malachi Jones. The teams traded touchdowns to end of the half with the Empire up seven.
In their previous three meetings, the Empire defense did not allow the Valor to score in the third quarter. Following an uncharacteristically long touchdown drive by the Empire to start the second half (capped by a Grady-to-Collin Taylor touchdown pass), the Valor started their initial possession of the second half at the 7:15 mark. But penalties and a sack by DL Darryl Cato-Bishop prevented the Valor from getting into the end zone and for the final time this season, the Valor were skunked by the Empire in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter turned into a shootout with each team scoring three touchdowns in the final frame. For three quarters, Empire WR Joe Hills’ was held without a score and it looked like his streak would come to an end. But at the 11:22 mark of the fourth quarter, Grady found Hills on an eight-yard touchdown pass to bring the ticker up to 91 consecutive games. The Valor had one more chance to bring themselves within seven but penalties pushed them back their own 16. The Empire defense finished the game with Moore’s sack of Nelson.
The Empire’s final test of the regular season will be Philadelphia next Saturday night in Albany in what will determine seeding for the playoffs. Will they be playing for first or second place? That will be determined based on Saturday’s Brigade-Soul game in Philadelphia.
Game MVP: Albany QB Tommy Grady: 19-24, 256 yards, 7 TD, 1 INT
Offensive MVP: Washington QB Arvell Nelson: 24-36, 303 yards, 5 TD, 1 INT
Defensive MVP: Albany LB Terence Moore: 9 total tackles (6 solo), 1 FF, 1 sack
Empire Odds and Ends: After seven touchdown passes tonight, QB Tommy Grady ends his season against Washington with 25 touchdown passes in four games… TE Moqut Ruffins caught his first pass of the season, which resulted in a 22-yard gain on the second play from scrimmage in the fourth quarter… LB Terence Moore’s impact on defense has been significant this season. With his forced fumble in the second quarter, he has played a part in nine of 24 turnovers for the Empire (2 FF, 2 FR, and 5 INT).
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