Albany Empire Press Release. Photo via:https://twitter.com/Albany_Empire/status/1132463751721099264
The Albany Empire (5-0) defeated the Atlantic City Blackjacks (2-3), 54-35, in front of 4,386 fans at the Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall on Saturday night to remain undefeated to start the 2019 season. Empire quarterback, Tommy Grady went 24 of 31 passes for 228 yards and five passing touchdowns earning himself the game MVP award. Empire receiver, Malachi Jones, hauled in 12 catches for 106 yards and three touchdowns, being named Offensive Player of the Game. Empire defensive end, Joe Sykes, came up with a game-clinching fumble recovery and touchdown, being named Defensive Player of the Game.
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Atlantic City received the game’s opening kickoff and began their first possession from their own two-yard line after return man, Kendrick Ings, failed to escape his own end zone. On first down, Blackjack quarterback, Randy Hippeard, connected with Ings over the middle to quickly move the chains. One play later, Hippeard found Antwane Grant to push the ball into Empire territory. Following a short loss on first down, Hippeard went back to Ings, setting up a third and short. After converting thanks to a pass interference penalty on Albany, the Blackjacks were knocking on the door on the five-yard line. Three plays later, Atlantic City struck first with a five-yard touchdown pass to Ings.
The Empire offense took the field on their own 22-yard line after a shifty return by DJ Stephens. On first down, quarterback Tommy Grady found an open Quentin Sims along the sideline dasher to move the ball over midfield. Following a short pass to Malachi Jones and an incomplete pass, Albany converted on fourth and short to advance the ball to the Blackjack 15-yard line. Two plays later, Grady connected with Jones in the end zone from 12-yards out. The extra point attempt was no good, keeping the Blackjacks in the lead by a point, 7-6. Ings returned the ensuing kickoff 56-yards for the score to extend the early lead.
Starting from their own eight-yard line, Grady found Stephens who worked his way over midfield. On the next play, Grady floated one up for Jones who came down with it 24-yards down field in the end zone for the score. The Blackjacks took over on their own four-yard line and quickly picked up a first down and were in Empire territory thanks to a penalty on Albany. One play later, Hippeard found Ings once again, this time from 19-yards out, for his third trip to the end zone of the game.
Taking over on their own 14-yard line, Grady handed the ball off to fullback Mykel Benson, who muscled his way forward for a 13-yard rush. After a short completion to Jones and an incomplete pass, Grady threw a dart to Sims who made a diving catch in the corner of the end zone for the score. The Blackjacks offense began on their own two-yard line and opened up the new possession with rush to fullback Wes Mauia for minimal gain. The Blackjacks then moved the chains on a screen pass to Lamark Brown. Following a defensive penalty on the Empire, Hippeard went to his favorite target, Ings, who ran the ball inside the red zone. On the next play, Hippeard connected with Ings in the end zone for the third time of the night; Ings’ fourth overall in the half.
Albany opened up their next drive with a quick 20-yard pickup by Jones. Following a short completion to Collin Taylor, the Empire advanced forward due to a defensive pass interference penalty on Atlantic City. After a short completion to Jones, the Blackjacks used their first timeout of the half. On the next play, Grady connected with linebacker, Terence Moore, who came in for a rare offensive play and scored from five yards out. With time winding down Hippeard found Ings along the sideline for the quick first down. Time expired on the following play as the Empire headed to the locker room down 28-27.
The Empire began the second half on their own 12-yard line. Following an incomplete deep attempt, Grady hit Sims on the sideline for a first down. Going right back to Sims, Grady found his target over the middle who stiff-armed his way for another first. Following an incomplete pass, and two short gains, Grady narrowly avoided a sack by rolling out of the pocket and found Jones in the end zone who hauled the ball in while being blanketed by Blackjack defenders to give the Empire their first lead of the night. On the ensuing kickoff, Ings could not handle the ball off the net and Empire defensive back, Juwan Offray, scooped up the ball in the end zone for a quick score.
The Empire nearly recovered another ball off the net, but the Blackjacks secured the loose ball and took over on their own five-yard line. After two plays of no gain, Atlantic City was set up with a fourth and short situation after a nine-yard completion to Ings. The Blackjacks picked up the necessary yardage with the aid of a defensive pass interference penalty on Albany. The offense would back up five yards on first down due to a holding penalty. After a short gain on a screen pass, the Blackjacks were across midfield after Hippeard found Ings along the sideline. Following consecutive penalties on Atlantic City, and an offsides on Albany, the Blackjacks converted on third and long and moved down to the 11-yard line as the game entered the fourth quarter. Two plays later, Hippeard found Rashad Still in the end zone for the Blackjack touchdown to narrow the gap.
Nearly losing the kickoff after the ball bounced off Stephens’ hands, the Empire offense began on their own three-yard line. Following a short rush by Benson and an eight-yard pickup by Jones, Albany picked up a first down by handing the ball off to Jones who picked up the yardage on the ground. Two plays later, Grady connected with Sims down field who took a shot but held onto the ball on the Blackjack 14-yard line. Albany picked up another first down following consecutive receptions to Jones. After nearly scoring on a rush attempt by Jeramie Richardson, the Empire scored on the next play as Benson carried the ball over the goal line to expand the lead with six minutes remaining in the game.
Albany’s kickoff hit off the field goal post and bounced out of play, setting up the Blackjack offense on their own five-yard line. Atlantic City picked up a first down after two consecutive completions by Hippeard. After an offsides penalty on Albany, the Blackjacks were in the red zone after Hippeard found Still down field. Three plays later, Hippeard was sacked by Harold Brantley who forced a fumble that was recovered by Moore. Methodically working down the field, Grady connected with Stephens and AJ Coney on consecutive throws, forcing the Blackjacks to start using their timeouts. On first down, Grady took a knee as Atlantic City burned their second timeout. Following the 30-second clock stoppage, Grady connected with Stephens over the middle, forcing the Blackjacks to use their final timeout. Throwing an incomplete pass on fourth down, the Empire turned the ball over on downs and were stopped for the first time all night. In two plays, Atlantic city picked up a first down and stopped the clock. On the next play, the snap was fumbled and recovered by Joe Sykes who ran the ball down field for an Empire touchdown. The clock then expired as the Empire remained unbeaten after a 54-35 victory.
Albany Empire 2019 Season Presented By CDPHP.