Albany Empire Press Release
The Albany Empire (0-2) played the team’s first game on the road in Baltimore and left with a loss to the Baltimore Brigade (2-1) 52-49, Saturday night at the Royal Farms Arena. Brigade quarterback Randy Hippeard threw for seven touchdowns on his way to winning the game MVP award. Empire’s Joe Hills caught four touchdown passes in his debut, earning Offensive Player of the Game. Virgil Gray was named Defensive Player of the Game with ten tackles and an interception.
The Empire offense was led by quarterback Tommy Grady, who threw for six touchdowns. His top target, Joe Hills, caught four of those touchdown passes from Grady. Malachi Jones and Collin Taylor chipped in receiving touchdowns of their own as well.
Baltimore received the first kick and started inside of their own 5-yard line. Reigning league MVP Hippeard took the field for the first time against the Empire and led the Brigade to a score, finishing with a 34-yard touchdown to Milton Williams on third down.
In response, The Empire came out firing as Grady connected with Malachi Jones for a first down on the team’s opening play. After missing on a bomb to Joe Hills, Grady completed another medium gain to Collin Taylor for first down. The drive ended with a 6-yard touchdown hookup to Joe Hills, his first touchdown reception of the game. This touchdown extended Joe Hills’ active streak and league record of consecutive games with a touchdown reception to 82 games.
After a touchback, Baltimore began their second drive on their own 5-yard line. After a couple of penalties, Joe Sykes got to Hippeard to force a fumble, recovered by Darryl Cato-Bishop. The Empire began with great field position but fumbled on their first play of the new drive, turning the ball back over to Baltimore. At the end of the first quarter the score was tied 7-7 with Baltimore maintaining possession going into the second quarter.
With the first play of the second quarter, Hippeard found receiver Brandon Thompkins for a 26-yard touchdown. Shortly after, Grady was picked off trying to go deep to Hills by Virgil Gray. Hippeard capitalized on the Empire turnover with a short touchdown pass to receiver Lamark Brown.
After a long catch-and-run by Malachi Jones and a couple of penalties by the Brigade, the Empire scored with a 5-yard touchdown to Collin Taylor; his second in as many games.
Baltimore opened their next drive up with a 9-yard gain, but it was quickly erased by a 10-yard sack by Joe Sykes. On the ensuing play, Brigade’s Quentin Sims fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Arthur Hobbs. The Empire took over on their own 21-yard line as the final minute of the first half approached and capped a drive off with another touchdown connection from Grady to Hills. After a failed onside kick attempt, the Brigade had a short field and capitalized three plays later with a touchdown pass to Sims.
After a nice kickoff return from Jordan Williams, Brigade linemen Rodney Austin commits an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and was ejected for throwing a punch. The penalty added 10 yards onto the return, giving Albany the ball at midfield. One play later, Grady throws a 25-yard lob to Hills for another Empire touchdown and Hills’ third of the half. The Brigade then took the lead as the clock expired in the first half with a 30-yard field goal to go up 31-28.
The Empire began the second half with the ball and methodically worked down the field. The drive was capped off with a 1-yard touchdown run by Collin Taylor; the first rushing touchdown of the Empire’s young franchise. The Brigade answered by marching down the field to take back the lead with another touchdown pass to Brown.
The Empire took over and ran a quick-hitter to Malachi Jones who turned it into a 42-yard catch-and-run from deep in Empire territory for a touchdown; his second consecutive game with a 40+ touchdown catch.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Brigade controlled the ball and opened the quarter with a long touchdown pass to Williams; Hippeard’s sixth touchdown toss of the game. The Empire then took over on the Baltimore eight-yard line after a Brigade failed onside kick. The very next play, Grady connects with Hills for the pair’s fourth touchdown giving the lead back to Albany, 49-45.
With just over 12 minutes remaining in regulation, Hippeard leads the Brigade on a long drive down the field, capping off with another touchdown to Sims; his second of the day.
The following possession for the Empire began inside their own 10-yard line. Grady completed a pair of short passes to Hills and Jones before misconnecting with Hills deep in the end zone. Shortly after, the snap was mishandled by Grady and recovered by Baltimore as the Brigade took over with 52 seconds remaining in regulation. The Brigade were able to milk to remaining seconds on the clock and come away with a close game victory.
Albany Empire 2018 Inaugural Season Presented By CDPHP.