The Albany Empire (10-2) defeated the Philadelphia Soul (7-5), 72-27, in front of 10,981 fans at the Times Union Center on Sunday night. The 72 points put up by Albany were the most points scored in a single game by any team this season. Having already clinched the top seed in the 2019 AFL playoffs, the Empire will host the Baltimore Brigade in a home-and-home playoff series with the winner going to the ArenaBowl. Albany will play the first game of the series at home in the Times Union Center on July 27 at 7:00 p.m. The pregame block party will begin at 3:00 p.m. Tickets for the game are on sale now at TheAlbanyEmpire.com or by calling 518-533-2200. The second game of the series will be on Saturday, August 3 at 7 p.m. at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore. Times are subject to change based on television rights.
Empire defensive back, Cheatham Norrils, had three interceptions, earning himself the game MVP award. Empire receiver, DJ Stephens, hauled in four catches for 93 yards, and two receiving touchdowns, being named Offensive Player of the Game. Empire defensive lineman, Rodney Fritz, added a sack and a forced fumble, being named Defensive Player of the Game.
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Philadelphia received the game’s opening kickoff and began with the ball on their own seven-yard line. On first down, Dan Raudabaugh threw a quick pass to Jordan Williams who made his away over midfield to the Empire 19. Following an incomplete pass, Raudabaugh found BJ Bunn along the sideline for a gain of five. The Soul avoided a delay of game penalty by calling their first timeout of the half. On third down, Raudabaugh connected with Darius Prince near the sideline dasher for a first down. After consecutive incomplete passes, Raudabaugh went back to Bunn, who fumbled inside of the five-yard line, turning the ball over to the Empire. On first down, Tommy Grady slung a quick one to Collin Taylor for a short gain. One play later, Grady found Stephens 40-yards down field in the end zone to open the scoring.
Williams was tackled in his own end zone by newly acquired, Maurice Leggett, spotting the ball at the three-yard line for the Soul’s second drive of the night. Following a short gain on first down, Philadelphia was able to move the chains on another short completion to Bunn. Raudabaugh went right back to Bunn, connecting deep from 34-yards out for the score to tie the game at seven.
AJ Coney returned the ensuing kickoff to the 10-yard line as the Empire took the field for the second time of the evening. After connecting with Malachi Jones for the first time of the game, Grady lofted one to Stephens near the sideline who elusively worked his way inside of the Soul 10-yard line. On first down, Grady hit Jones over the middle who was upended at the three-yard line. After attempting to run the ball in with Mykel Benson, Grady found the League’s touchdown leader, Quentin Sims wide open in the end zone for a touchdown as time expired in the first quarter.
Starting from their own seven, the Soul opened up with a quick pass for a minimal gain. On the next play, Raudabaugh’s arm was hit by Fritz as a Soul player recovered in the end zone for a safety. The Empire would open their next drive with a nice return by Coney and a completion to Taylor to quickly advance the ball over midfield. Grady then found Stephens on a 24-yard connection in the end zone to extend the Albany lead early in the second quarter to 23-7.
From their own five-yard line, Raudabaugh threw a quick pass to Bunn on the sideline who was quickly wrapped up by Norrils. Raudabaugh would connect with Williams near midfield to move the chains for the Soul. Raudabaugh would then go right back to Williams a few plays later as the receiver made an impressive catch while being thrown over the wall in the end zone for the score. The extra point was no-good, leaving the Empire ahead by 10 on the scoreboard.
Beginning on their own 10, the Empire opened up with a five-yard rush by Benson. Two plays later, Grady went deep to Jones who hauled in the ball for another Empire score, this time from 35-yards out. Albany failed to recover an onside kick attempt, giving the Soul the football on the Empire 13-yard line. In one play, Raudabaugh floated one up for Prince who snuck past a defender for a touchdown.
The Soul would attempt to recover a pooch kick down field, but the Empire recovered and took over on their own three-yard line. Following an offsides penalty on Philadelphia and three consecutive incomplete passes, Grady would find Jones along the sideline at midfield for a first down. The Empire would use their first timeout of the half with 25 seconds to go after Grady threw a dart to Stephens who was taken down at the 15-yard line. Albany would use their second time out after a quick completion to Jones. From the nine-yard line, Grady would fire one to Taylor over the middle who was stopped just short of the goal line. Unable to complete a pass, the clock would expire as the Empire took a 30-20 lead into the locker room.
Albany would begin the second half with the ball on their own five-yard line as Mason Espinosa entered the game at quarterback. After a five-yard completion to Coney, Espinosa found an open Taylor who ran the ball all the way down to the Soul one-yard line before being stopped short. On the next play, Espinosa kept it on a quarterback sneak and dove into the end zone to open the second half with a score.
Philadelphia would take the field on offense for the first time in the second half from their own five-yard line. After just entering the game at quarterback, Patrick O’Brien would connect with Lonnie Outlaw along the sideline for a quick completion. Following another short completion, O’Brien connected with Williams to move the chains for the Soul. Narrowly avoiding a sack, O’Brien managed positive yards on a short scramble. After consecutive incomplete passes, O’Brien was picked off by Cheatham Norrils as the defensive back returned the ball to the opposing nine-yard line. Albany would pick up the majority of the yards following two rushes by Benson who carried the ball down to the one. Benson would get the ball again on third down and this time muscle his way into the end zone to extend the Empire lead to 44-20.
From their own two, the Soul were quickly backed up a yard after a false start penalty. After gaining some ground on first down, O’Brien’s pass was tipped by Tevin Homer and intercepted by Norrils, his second of the half. One play later, Espinosa found Sims in the end zone to push Albany over the 50 mark on the scoreboard. The Soul would begin their drive on their own one-yard line following a false start penalty. After an incomplete pass, the third quarter would end with Albany in front, 51-20. After three more incomplete passes, the Soul would turn the ball over to the Empire just two yards shy of the end zone. In one play, Coney took the handoff and walked into the end zone for another Albany score.
Now down by 38 points, the Soul would begin their next drive on the five-yard line after Adrian Trevino’s kick sailed through the uprights. Finally completing a pass, O’Brien connected with Bunn for a quick gain of 10 yards and a first down. Following an incomplete pass, O’Brien scrambled out of the pocket and was leveled by Aaron Tiller and Terence Moore, knocking the ball loose as Albany recovered the football on the opposing 18. On first down, Espinosa was sacked for a loss of two yards. One play later, Espinosa went to Coney who juked a Soul defender and carried the ball into the end zone to further the Empire lead.
From their own eight, O’Brien would open with a two-yard pass to Williams. After an incomplete pass, O’Brien was picked up by Norrils for the third time in the half, giving the Empire offense the ball on the Soul 14-yard line. Espinosa completed his first pass of the drive to Taylor, who maneuvered his way down to the four. Recovering a squib kick, the Soul would take over on the opposing 20. O’Brien would connect with Williams over the middle who ran down to the four-yard line. After nearly being picked off again, O’Brien would throw two more incomplete passes as the Soul faced fourth down at the 30-second stoppage. On fourth down, O’Brien went back to Williams for a short score.
Coney would recover the Soul kickoff to the five yard-line. After one kneel by Espinosa, the game was over with the Empire victorious, 72-27.