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Empire Fall Short to Brigade in Rematch

Sunday June 10, 2018

 The Loss Snaps Albany’s Five-Game Win Streak

The Albany Empire (5-3) was defeated by the Baltimore Brigade (6-2) 59-56 Saturday night at the Times Union Center in Albany, NY in front of a crowd of 8,767. Brigade quarterback Randy Hippeard threw for 270 yards and eight touchdowns earning himself the game MVP award. Brigade receiver Brandon Thompkins had 17 receptions for 159 yards and three receiving touchdowns on his way to being named Offensive Player of the Game. Empire defensive back Brandon Stephens was named Defensive Player of the Game leading both teams with 11.5 total tackles.

Albany received the game’s opening kickoff and were setup on their own 11-yard line after a nice return by Larry Beavers. Grady went right to work finding the league’s leader in receiving yards Malachi Jones on a short pass to the side for a 9-yard pick up. On the next play, Grady went right back to Jones and picked up 21 yards as the Empire were quickly in the opposing red zone. One play later, Grady found Jones once again from 10-yards out as the Albany took the early 7-0 lead.

After a high kick off the net, Baltimore went to work on their own nine-yard line for their first possession of the game. After an incomplete pass on first down, Hippeard found his top receiver for a six-yard game to set Baltimore up in a third and short situation. The next play Hippeard went right back to Brandon Thompkins to pick up the first down and approach midfield. Three plays later, Brandon Sesay hit home for the sack to back the Brigade up to the 17-yard line for third and long. Joe Sykes assisted on the sack, tying him for the all-time career lead in sacks with 60.5. In two plays, Baltimore was able to pick up the necessary yardage to set up a first down on the one-yard line. On first down, Hippeard was sacked by Darryl Cato-Bishop. In response, Hippeard found receiver Quentin Sims who made an impressive one-handed catch in the end zone to tie the game.

After a touchback, the Empire began their second drive on their own three-yard line. After two incomplete passes, Grady found receiver Joe Hills for the Empire first down as the first quarter came to a close. Albany was quickly across midfield as Grady found Collin Taylor over the middle for another first down. The next play, Grady found Hills for an 18-yard touchdown as the ball was tipped and Hills made a nice play to recover in the end zone. This touchdown marked the 88th consecutive game with a receiving touchdown for Hills, an active league record.

Baltimore went back to work on their own 20-yard line as the Empire kickoff sailed out of bounds outside of the net. In one play the Brigade were across midfield as Hippeard found Sims for the 10-yard gain. Three plays later, Hippeard was intercepted by jack linebacker Terence Moore thanks to pressure from defensive end Joe Sykes. On the first play of the drive, Grady found Jones and the Empire were quickly threatening on the Brigade 14-yard line. Two plays later, Grady found Hills again in the end zone as he battled defensive back Josh Victorian before eventually coming down with the Empire touchdown.

The Brigade took over on their own 10-yard line and quickly picked up a big chunk of yards on a Hippeard pass over the middle to set the Brigade up on the opposing 13-yard line. Two plays later, Hippeard found receiver Milton Williams for the 13-yard score. After a failed Baltimore onside kick, the Empire took over on the opposing nine-yard line as the game entered the final minute of the first half. After an incomplete pass to Hills, Grady found Jones in the end zone for the score to reclaim the two-possession lead.

The Empire then failed to recover an onside kick of their own as the Brigade went to work on the 14-yard line. Two plays later, Baltimore would answer with a 14-yard touchdown to Thompkins. Baltimore then recovered an onside kick and after an unsportsmanlike penalty on Albany, the Brigade were back on offense on their own 23-yard line. After three completions, Baltimore was inside of the Empire red zone before capping the drive with another touchdown to Sims as the Brigade tie the score at 28 with a mere six seconds remaining in the first half. After a nice return by Beavers, the Empire were pushed backwards by a holding penalty as Albany took over on their own eight-yard line with two seconds left in the half. Albany was unable to move the ball and the game went into halftime tied at 28.

To start the half, the Brigade were set up after a nice return by Thompkins and quickly crossed midfield. Hippeard continued to target Thompkins as the Brigade moved into the red zone. Hippeard went right back to Thompkins from seven yards out for the score to give Baltimore the early second half lead. The Empire would begin their initial drive of the new half on their own 12-yard line. Albany quickly picked up a first down after completed passes to Hills and Jones. On the third play of the drive, Grady hit Taylor for a 27-yard touchdown to tie the game.

The Empire nearly recovered the ensuing kickoff as kicker Kenny Spencer sent a dribbler down the center of the field, but instead, the Brigade took over on their own five-yard line. Hippeard continued to located Thompkins as the Brigade had a first down in two plays. Baltimore was able to move into the red zone after Hippeard was flushed out of the pocket and rushed ahead for seven yards. One play later, Hippeard found Brandon Collins for a 10-yard touchdown.

Starting on their own five-yard line, the Empire were quickly across midfield thanks to a pass interference penalty on Baltimore and a short reception by Jones to end the third quarter. After losing a chunk of yards due to an offensive pass interference penalty, Grady responded by finding Taylor for a 15-yard gain. One play later, Hills caught a five-yard reception to pick up the first down, but the Empire were setback due to another penalty on Hills. Hills bounced back bringing a catch-and-run down to the goal line. The next play, Albany was in the end zone on a one-yard rush by Jones.

Albany would recover the ensuing kickoff on another squib kick from Spencer and take over on the opposing four-yard line thanks to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Baltimore on the previous Empire touchdown. The next play, Grady found Hills again for the short touchdown, Hills’ third of the game. Baltimore would return the ensuing kickoff to the 11-yard line, but thanks to a roughing the kicker penalty on the previous Empire extra point, the ball was moved back to the six-yard line. One play later, Thompkins caught a short pass and made a move to run in for a 44-yard touchdown.

The Empire began their next possession with a short pass to Jones. After an incompletion, Grady was intercepted by Baltimore defensive back Josh Victorian who ran the ball to the Brigade 15-yard line. Baltimore was helped by two Empire penalties pushing the ball to the Albany 10-yard line. The next play, the Brigade were in the end zone on a pass to Sims, his third touchdown reception of the game. Albany would answer with a 43-yard touchdown to Hills on the second play of the following drive to tie the game at 56.

Albany failed to recover an onside kick as Baltimore began their drive on the Empire 11-yard line with one-minute remaining in the game. Hippeard rushed down to the two-yard line on the first play of the game, forcing Albany to use one of their timeouts. Hippeard continued to kneel the ball causing the Empire to use up their remaining timeouts. With five seconds left, Baltimore kicker Mark Lewis drilled a 17-yard field goal to ice the game with a 59-56 victory in favor of Baltimore.

Albany Empire 2018 Inaugural Season Presented By CDPHP.

About Albany Empire

The Arena Football League’s newest franchise, The Albany Empire, are back home at the Times Union Center on 6/16. Season memberships for the inaugural 2018 season are on sale now. For tickets, contact the Albany Empire sales department at (518) 533-2200 or by going to TheAlbanyEmpire.com. Follow the team on Facebook at facebook.com/TheAlbanyEmpire and Twitter at twitter.com/Albany_Empire.

About Arena Football League

The Arena Football League will enter its 31st Season in 2018. Since its inception in 1987, the Arena Football League has showcased a fast-paced and exciting game to millions of fans in a myriad of markets across the country. Teams slated for 2018 include: Albany, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. CBS Sports Network nationally broadcasts AFL games each week, culminating with the ArenaBowl. The AFL launched AFLNow, the League’s streaming “Over-the-Top” network to give fans even more access to the League on arenafootball.com. For all the latest news and discussion on the Arena Football League follow the AFL on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@aflarenaball)

About Times Union Center

Albany’s Times Union Center, formerly Pepsi Arena, continues to have great success. Renamed in January 2007, the Times Union Center is “Upstate New York’s Premier Sports and Entertainment Facility. Owned by Albany County and operated by SMG, the world’s largest private management firm for public assembly facilities, the Times Union Center has an adaptable seating capacity between 6,000 and 17,500. Since Frank Sinatra christened the building on January 30, 1990, more than seven million patrons have walked through the turnstiles. As a multi-purpose facility, the Times Union Center has hosted a variety of events, including concerts, family shows and sporting events, averaging 165 events each year.

About CDPHP®

Established in 1984, CDPHP is a physician-founded, member-focused and community-based not-for-profit health plan that offers high-quality affordable health insurance plans to members in 24 counties throughout New York. CDPHP is also on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram.

About Transfinder

Founded in 1988 and headquartered in Schenectady, New York, Transfinder is a national leader in intelligent transportation systems, providing transportation management systems and services to school districts, municipalities and adult care facilities. Transfinder, an Inc. magazine “fastest-growing company” for the past eleven straight years, has offices in Austin, Texas, and Shanghai, China. The software company develops and supports routing and scheduling solutions for optimal transportation logistics.