Albany Empire Press Release
The Albany Empire (2-2) defeated the Washington Valor (0-4) 53-42, Friday night at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. in front of a crowd of 9,036. Empire quarterback Tommy Grady threw for 257 yards and seven touchdowns earning himself the game MVP award. Empire receiver Malachi Jones had six receptions for 120 yards and three receiving touchdowns, while chipping one rushing touchdown and earning himself Offensive Player of the Game. Terence Moore was named Defensive Player of the Game with six total tackles and a fumble recovery.
The Empire received the opening kick and began their drive just inside the 10-yard line. With the first play of the game, Grady found Malachi Jones for a 41-yard bomb and a touchdown giving the Empire an early 6-0 lead. The Valor’s Chris Duvalt returned the ensuing kickoff to nearly midfield, giving the Valor excellent field position for their first drive in their home opener. Three plays later, Valor quarterback Warren Smith connected with wide receiver TT Toliver for the score.
Grady found Jones for a quick first down to open the team’s second drive of the game. After a few Valor penalties and a couple of hookups between Grady and his top target Joe Hills, the Empire were able to cap the long drive off with three-yard touchdown to a wide-open Greg Carr.
The Empire attempted to surprise the Valor with an onside kick, however the try was unsuccessful, giving the Valor the ball on the Albany nine-yard line. The Valor were able to capitalize on the short field position with another touchdown to Toliver to end the first quarter with the lead, 14-12.
In response, the Empire opened the second quarter with a quick-hitter to Joe Hills that moved the ball to midfield. The very next play, Grady connected with Jones for a 19-yard touchdown; Jones’ second of the game. The Valor were able to keep the back and forth pace up with the Empire as they marched down the field and ended with a 21-yard touchdown to Duvalt.
After a nice kickoff return by Jordan Williams, the Empire were set up on their own 15-yard line. Two plays later, Grady found a wide-open Collin Taylor in the end zone from 19 yards out, giving the lead back to Albany, 26-21. The Empire once again attempted an onside kick but failed to recover, setting up the Valor on the Albany 5-yard line. The very next play, the Valor scored on a 5-yard touchdown run by Warren Smith.
With under two minutes to go the Empire went to work inside of their own five-yard line. Two plays later, Grady found Hills for a long completion as Hills smartly stayed out of the end zone to keep the clock running. The Empire capped the drive with a two-yard rushing touchdown by Malachi Jones: his third touchdown of the half. At the end of the first half, the Empire led 32-28.
The Valor began the second half with the ball and were able to methodically work down field, but the drive stalled inside of the Empire 5-yard line and turned the ball over on downs. With 45 yards of turf ahead of them the Empire picked up where they left off by finding Malachi Jones for a completion over the middle. The next play, Grady connected with Jones for a short pass, but Jones was able to make some elusive moves and make his way into the end zone for his fourth total score of the night.
On the next Valor possession, defensive end Joe Sykes recorded a sack, making him the all-time league leader in career sacks with 58.5. The next play, the Empire got to Warren Smith again and forced a fumble that was scooped up by Terence Moore. The Empire were able to capitalize on the turnover by starting the fourth quarter with a 12-yard touchdown completion to Joe Hills; his 84th consecutive game with a reception touchdown.
In comeback mode, the Valor quickly worked to get the ball down field and eventually capped a drive with a 24-yard touchdown to receiver Reggie Gray, cutting the Empire lead down to 46-35. Wasting no time, the Empire were across midfield after a great kickoff return by Taylor and a short pass to Jones. Soon after Grady found Hills in the end zone once again to expand the Empire lead.
The next Valor possession began with a quick pass, but a Valor penalty brought the offense back inside of their own 10-yard line. Washington worked the ball with ease and ended the drive with a five-yard touchdown pass to receiver Josh Reese. The Valor attempted to get the ball back with an onside kick, but failed, giving the ball to the Empire on the short side of the field. The Empire took a knee and watched the clock wind down on their way to a 53-42 victory.