Albany Empire Press Release. Photo:

The Albany Empire (6-0) defeated the Washington Valor (3-3), 58-48, in front of 8,744 fans at the Times Union Center on Saturday night to remain undefeated to start the 2019 season.  Empire quarterback, Tommy Grady went 19 of 28 passes for 249 yards and seven passing touchdowns earning himself the game MVP award.  Empire receiver, Quentin Sims, reeled in 6 catches for 89 yards and four touchdowns, being named Offensive Player of the Game.  Empire defensive lineman, Harold Brantley III, blocked a field goal attempt and recorded a sack, being named Defensive Player of the Game. 


Washington received the game’s opening kick and began on their own three-yard line.  The Valor opened up with a screen pass to Jared Dangerfield, who fumbled, but the ball was recovered by Dezmon Epps for a two-yard gain.  Following a short gain and an incomplete pass, Washington was unable to pick up the necessary yardage and turned the ball over on downs.  On Albany’s first play from scrimmage, quarterback Tommy Grady scrambled out of the pocket and floated the ball to the end zone to Quentin Sims who soared over two Valor defenders for the touchdown.

The Valor took the ensuing kickoff to the 14-yard line and opened with a completed pass along the sideline to Epps who ran the ball down to the Empire 14.  Washington scored on the next play as quarterback Arvell Nelson connected with Josh Reese from 14-yards out for the score. The extra point was no good, keeping Albany in the lead, 7-6.

DJ Stephens returned the Valor kickoff to the 13-yard line as Grady and the offense marched onto the field for the team’s second possession.  After an offsides penalty on the Empire, Grady completed a pass to Malachi Jones over the middle who gained all of the penalty yards back and then some.  Following a loss of a yard on the ground by fullback, Mykel Benson, Grady could not connect with Jones, setting up a fourth down and three to go.  Grady couldn’t handle the snap and was unable to complete a pass, turning the ball over on downs.  Washington would score on the next play as Nelson found Gray from 20-yards out. The extra point was once again no good.

Stephens ran the ball out to the 15-yard line but fumbled the ball back to the Valor as the Washington offense took the field from the Empire 16.  After an incomplete pass, Washington picked up a first down over the middle to move the ball down to the six-yard line.  Following two incomplete passes and a loss of two yards on the ground, Nelson was nearly intercepted, but the pass was incomplete, giving the ball back to Albany. The Empire opened up the new drive with a short pass to Sims.  On second down, Grady found Jones near the sideline, moving the ball midway into Valor territory as the first quarter came to a close.  To start the second quarter, Grady lofted one up for Sims in the back of the end zone who came down with the ball to reclaim the lead for Albany. 

After a short return by Epps, Washington began on their own six-yard line.  Losing a yard on first down, Nelson through an incomplete pass to set up a third and long situation.  Throwing two more incomplete passes, the Valor once again turned the ball over on downs.  Losing some yardage on first down, Grady completed a swing pass to Collin Taylor to move the ball down to the three-yard line.  Failing to run to the ball in on third down with Malachi Jones, Grady hit Benson on a short screen who walked in for the easy two-yard Empire touchdown.

Starting from their own three, Washington opened up with three consecutive incomplete passes and a delay of game penalty.  Attempting a long field goal, the ball was blocked and out of play giving the Empire another two points on the safety.  Albany began their next possession on their own eight-yard line after a shifty return out of the end zone by Stephens.  After consecutive incomplete passes, Grady went to Jones over the middle who picked up a first down near midfield.  Backing up due to an offsides, Grady floated one to Stephens who was stopped at midfield along the sideline.  Albany used their first timeout of the half.  Washington elected to use their first timeout of the half after an Empire incomplete pass, leaving 33 seconds on the clock.  On the next play, Grady connected with Jones who caught the ball while diving in the corner of the end zone to extend the Empire lead.  Washington used their final timeout of the half following the kickoff leaving just nine seconds to go in the quarter.  From their own four, Nelson was nearly sacked in the end zone and forced to throw the ball away as time expired in the first half with Albany leading, 30-12.

Beginning the second half on their own eight, Grady took his time in the pocket and found Sims over the middle who did the rest, running 42 yards for the quick touchdown.  Washington’s offense began their first drive of the second half from their own two-yard line down 37-12.  Nelson quickly hit Epps on first down for an eight-yard gain.  Following a short rush, Nelson connected with Doug McNeil III along the sideline who ran the ball 39-yards for the touchdown.  Failing to recover a pooch kickoff, the Empire were set up on their own 15-yard line.  Three plays later, Grady went deep downfield to Malachi who came down with the ball in the end zone from 33-yards out.

Albany’s kickoff went through the slack net, giving the Valor the ball at their own five-yard line.  Following an incomplete pass, Nelson through a short pass to move the ball inches away from the down marker.  Washington would pick up the first as Nelson connected with Reese over the middle.  Nelson then found McNeil III on a slant route who moved the ball into the red zone.  On the next play, Nelson went right back to McNeil III on a fade for a touchdown.  Albany would recover the Valor onside kick attempt and start with the ball on the Washington four-yard line.  Following a no-gain on first down, Grady pitched the ball to Jones who ran it in for the score.

Taking over on their own four-yard line, Nelson went deep down field to Epps who made an impressive diving catch but was stopped at the Empire seven.  On the next play, Nelson went to McNeil III in the corner of the end zone for the quick Valor score.  Nearly losing the kickoff on a bar ball, AJ Coney dove on the football at the one-yard line, but thanks to a Valor penalty, Albany began on their own 10.  Grady fired the ball out wide to Sims on first down who moved the ball six yards before being thrown into the dasher.  The Empire were across midfield on the next play as Grady tossed one along the sideline to Taylor as time expired in the third quarter.  Grady was intercepted by former Empire defensive back, Marrio Norman, giving the ball back to the Valor on their own three-yard line.  On the second play of the drive, Nelson connected with Epps who maneuvered his way to the 22-yard line.  One play later, Nelson found McNeil III in the end zone from 28-yards out; his fourth receiving touchdown of the night.

The Valor’s onside kick attempt bounced to midfield before hitting the wall, giving Albany the ball at the 25-yard line.  On first down, Grady went to his top target, Jones, for a quick 13 yards and a first down.   Following a short completion to Jones, Grady pitched the ball to Taylor who muscled his way down to the five.  After an incomplete pass on third down, the Empire attempted a field goal that was missed and returned out to the ten-yard line.  Following an incomplete pass, Nelson found Epps near the sideline who was hit hard by Tevin Homer halfway to the down marker.  Nelson fumbled the snap on third down but recovered it for a no-gain.  On fourth down, Washington was bailed out by a defensive pass interference penalty and was granted a first down at midfield.  Nelson rushed ahead for six yards on first down to move the ball into Empire territory.  Washington was once again helped by Albany with a penalty to give the Valor a new set of downs.  Three plays later, Nelson found Gray on the sideline who ran the ball in for a touchdown.  Two-point conversion was successful, narrowing the Empire lead to 51-48.

Recovering another Valor onside kick attempt, Albany began on the Washington 11-yard line.  In one play, Grady found Sims in the end zone for his fourth touchdown reception of the game.  Washington’s offense took the field on their own seven-yard line and opened up with an eight-yard rush by Nelson.  After an incomplete pass, Nelson found Dangerfield for a first down.  On the next play, Nelson was sacked and stripped by Fritz, but Washington recovered the loose ball for a loss forcing the Valor to burn a timeout, their first of the half.  Washington used it’s second timeout after an incomplete pass.  On third down, Nelson was sacked by Harold Brantley to set up a fourth in long.  Unable to pick up the necessary yardage, Albany turned the Valor over on downs with just 20 seconds to go in the game.  Grady took a knee as the clock ran out and Albany moved to 6-0 with a 58-48 victory.

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