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Empire Take Game One in Playoffs Against Valor

Saturday July 14, 2018

 Hold One-Point Lead in Home-and-Home Aggregate Scoring Playoff Series

The top-seeded Albany Empire (9-4) defeated the fourth-seeded Washington Valor (2-11) to take a one-point lead in the home-and-home playoff series with a 57-56 Saturday night in overtime at the Capital One Arena in Washington, DC in front of a crowd of 5,160. The two teams square off next Saturday, July 21, at 7:30 pm at the Times Union Center in Albany to wrap up the second game of the playoff series.

Empire quarterback Tommy Grady went 25 of 39 passes for 340 yards, seven passing touchdowns and one interception earning himself the game MVP award. Valor quarterback Arvell Nelson went 26 of 38 passes for 269 yards, six passing touchdowns, and two rushing touchdowns being named Offensive Player of the Game. Valor defensive back Fred Obi led the game with 10 total tackles and one interception being named Defensive Player of the Game.

Albany received the game’s opening kickoff and began their first possession from their own nine-yard line. On one play, the Empire were across midfield as quarterback Tommy Grady found receiver Collin Taylor for a 17-yard gain. One play later, the Empire were on the board as Grady hit the league’s leader in receiving yards, Malachi Jones, for a 24-yard touchdown. Washington received the ensuing kickoff and thanks to an Albany penalty, the offense took the field on their own 12-yard line. On the first play of the drive, quarterback Arvell Nelson found receiver Jared Dangerfield in stride for the quick response and a 38-yard touchdown.

Grady and company came back onto the field after a nice return by Jordan Williams who ran the ball out to their own 12-yard line. The drive began with a quick sling to receiver Joe Hills for six yards followed by a first down carry by fullback Mykel Benson. With the new set of downs, Grady went right back to his top target as a wide-open Hills carried the ball down to the opposing six-yard line. After recovering their own fumble, Albany was helped by an offsides penalty to bring the Empire down to the three-yard line. Grady handed the ball back off to Benson who ran the ball into the end zone for the short score.

After nearly losing the ball as it bounced off far off the net, the Valor offense took the field starting from their own three-yard line. Nelson found his top receiver, Reggie Gray, for 21-yards to reach midfield. Following a defensive pass interference penalty, Nelson tucked and ran for a 16-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14.

Albany began their next possession from their own five-yard line. After consecutive incomplete passes, Albany was helped by an offsides penalty on defensive back Jake Payne, who was forced to sit for the remainder of the half due to being penalized twice as the first quarter came to an end. On first down, Albany was pushed back for a false start penalty, bringing the ball inside of their own five-yard line. Grady hit Jones on a quick-hitter to pick up nine-yards and set up for a second down and short situation. Grady found Jones for the first down as the Empire reached midfield. Going right back to Jones, the rookie was able to use his elusiveness to work the ball down into the red zone. One play later, Grady was intercepted by defensive back Fred Obi as the ball popped out of Hills’ hands in the end zone.

Two plays following the interception, the Valor had a first down and approached midfield. Following a short rush by Nelson and a short pass to Dangerfield, the Valor were setup on for a third and five before Nelson found Gray for the quick first down. After a short gain and an incomplete pass, Washington was pushed back five yards due to a false start penalty. On third and long, Nelson hit Gray for a quick seven-yard gain. Electing to go for it on fourth down, Nelson threw an incomplete pass to Dangerfield as the Empire offense took over on downs from their own 20-yard line.

The Empire were quickly across midfield as they began the new drive with a five-yard pitch to Benson. Following a 13-yard completion to Taylor and two incomplete passes, Albany was pushed back ten yards due to a holding penalty as the Empire faced a third and long from their 22-yard line. Grady was able to find a wide-open Williams who ran the ball down to the five-yard line as the first half approached the one-minute warning. On fourth down, Grady found Malachi near the goal line who muscled his way into the end zone to reclaim the Empire lead.

Washington recovered the Albany onside kick attempt and set up shop inside of the red zone on the nine-yard line. Nelson threw a short pass to Gray as the Valor gained two-yards and Albany used their first timeout of the half. Following an incomplete pass, Nelson found Gray in the end zone as the Valor tied the game back up at 21. Receiver Greg Carr then recovered a Valor onside kick attempt as Albany’s offense came back out on the opposing 22-yard line with just 36 seconds remaining. Washington challenged the Empire recovery and lost, forfeiting a timeout. Albany forced the Valor to burn another timeout following a short rush by Jones. Grady found Hills for a seven-yard gain as Washington used their final timeout of the half. After picking up the first down thanks to a short carry by Benson, Grady found Taylor near the sideline dasher leaving less than a second left on the clock. From the Valor seven-yard line, Grady’s pass was incomplete leaving the game tied, 21-21 at the half.

Receiver Chris Duvalt took the initial kickoff of the first half to the nine-yard line as Nelson led the Valor offense back onto the field. Following two incomplete passes and a short gain, the Valor were quickly in a fourth down and five hole. Unable to pick up the necessary yardage, Albany forced a turnover on downs and Grady marched the offense back onto the field starting from the opposing 14-yard line.

Washington recovered the Empire kickoff in their own end zone after the ball bounced around, nearly into the hands of the Empire. Following a nine-yard pickup, Nelson found Gray across the middle of the field to push the ball to the 24-yard line. Three plays later, the Valor were in the end zone as Nelson hit Gray for a 21-yard touchdown; his second of the night.

Starting from their own eight-yard line, Grady quickly went deep to Jones who reeled the ball in and took it down to the two-yard line. Following a delay of game penalty, Grady floated on up to Carr in the end zone for the Empire score. After a nice return by Duvalt, the Valor were set up on their own 12-yard line. In one play, Washington was across midfield after a 15-yard catch by receiver Josh Reese. Nelson found Duvalt for a short gain as the third quarter concluded. To open the fourth quarter, Nelson picked up a first down on a quarterback keeper up the middle. One play later, Nelson found receiver Doug McNeil III from 12-yards out to tie the game at 35.

After the Valor nearly recovered the ensuing kickoff, the Empire offense took the field from their own one-yard line. Grady continued to target Jones as he found the night’s top receiver near the sideline dasher for a gain of 18 yards. Following a five-yard rush by Benson, Grady connected with Hills over the middle who spun his way down to the Valor five-yard line. On first down, Benson carried the ball and lunged forward, being stopped just inches short of the goal line. After a delay of game penalty on Albany, Grady found Malachi on a flat route for his fourth score of the game.

Beginning on their own 12-yard line, Nelson hit Reese near the sideline who made a couple moves to run the ball down to the opposing 15-yard line. Following two short passes to Gray, the Valor set up a first and goal thanks to a keeper by Nelson. Three plays later, Washington was in for the score on a one-yard rush by Nelson.

Washington failed to recover the onside kick attempt as Jones hauled the ball in for the Empire on the 18-yard line. Albany quickly picked up a first down following a completion to Jones and a rush by Benson, as the one-minute warning approached. After a short rush by Benson, Washington used their first timeout of the second half. Grady then connected with Hills from six-yards out to reclaim the Empire lead, 49-42.

After an Albany onside kick attempt, Washington was set up in the red zone on the eight-yard line. In one play, Nelson hit Gray who made an impressive catch for the score to tie the game. Williams recovered the deep kickoff as the Valor attempted to beat Albany in a dash down the field. From their own two-yard line, Grady connected with Hills for a quick six-yard gain. One play later, Grady found Jones over the middle to move the ball to the 23-yard line as Albany used it’s first timeout. After consecutive incomplete passes, Grady was pressured and hit in the pocket, forcing an intentional grounding penalty. On fourth and long, the Empire attempted a long field goal that came up short as Duvalt returned the field goal to the Valor 13-yard line with just three seconds remaining in regulation. In one play, Nelson was sacked by defensive lineman Brandon Sesay sending the game to overtime.

Duvalt brought back the kickoff to start the overtime period to the five-yard line as the Valor offense came onto the field. Following three incomplete passes, the Valor were quickly looking at a fourth and 10 situation. Helped by a defensive holding penalty on Albany, Washington had the ball moved out to the 15-yard line and a fresh set of downs. The Valor were quickly backed up due to an offensive pass interference penalty on McNeil. On first and long, Nelson found Duvalt for a quick 16-yard pickup. Following a short first down completion to Gray, Nelson connected with McNeil for another first down as Washington reached the red zone. On first down, Albany was penalized for roughing the passer, moving the Valor inside of the five-yard line. Following a one-yard rush by James Atoe, Nelson found Gray once again in the end zone to take the lead.

Following a kickoff nearly recovered by Washington, the Empire were set up at the five-yard line. On the first play, Grady found Hills over the middle for a quick 13-yard gain. Two plays later, Grady went right back to Hills as Albany reached the opposing five-yard line. After a two-yard loss by Benson and an incomplete pass to Hills, Grady found Hills wide open in the corner of the end zone for the score. Grady connected with Carr on the two-point conversion to give Albany the one-point victory in overtime.

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 7/21. Season memberships for the inaugural 2019 season are on sale now. For tickets, contact the Albany Empire sales department at (518) 533-2200 or by going to Follow the team on Facebook at and Twitter at

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 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.