The Albany Empire (2-0) defeated the Baltimore Brigade (0-2), 62-21, in front of 5,282 fans at the Royal Farms Arena on Saturday night. Taking both games of the home-and-home series and winning the aggregate score, 123-47, the Empire advance to ArenaBowl 32. As the top overall seed in the playoffs, the Empire will return home to Albany to play in ArenaBowl 32 at the Times Union Center on August 11 at 8pm. This will be the first time the AFL championship has been hosted in Albany since 1999 when the Firebirds won the title. Firebird legends, “Touchdown” Eddie Brown, will serve as the honorary captain for the game as the Empire look to bring the championship back to Albany for the first time in nearly twenty years to the date. Fans can secure their tickets to ArenaBowl 32 by visiting www.TheAlbanyEmpire.com or by calling 518-533-2200.
Empire jack linebacker, Terence Moore, had two scores on the night, returning an interception and an Empire kickoff for touchdowns, earning himself the game MVP award. Empire receiver, Collin Taylor, hauled in three catches for 59 yards, and one receiving touchdown while also running in a score on the ground, being named Offensive Player of the Game. Empire defensive back, Tevin Homer, had 7.5 tackles and an interception return for a touchdown, being named Defensive Player of the Game.
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Baltimore kicked it deep to open the game as AJ Coney returned the ball to the nine-yard line where the Empire offense took the field for the first time. On the first play from scrimmage, Tommy Grady dropped back and threw a 41-yard bomb to DJ Stephens who came down with the ball in the end zone to open the scoring.
Second Team All-Arena special teams man, Joe Powell, returned the ensuing kickoff to the Baltimore 19 where the Brigade took over. On first down, Shane Morris threw a quick pass to the sideline and connected with Milton Williams. In the hurry-up offense, Morris through an incomplete pass before the offense huddled ahead of third down. Morris went back to Williams who crossed midfield and was stopped just short of the chains. On fourth down, Morris’ pass was incomplete, turning the ball over to the Empire at the Albany 23-yard line. On the Empire’s second offensive play of the night, Grady connected with Collin Taylor from 28-yards out for another Albany score.
Starting on their own eight, Morris threw a screen pass to Ervin Phillips for a gain of just two. Keeping the quick tempo, Morris hurried the offense to the line before his pass was deflected at the line and incomplete. Following another incomplete pass on third down, Morris avoided a sack and rushed ahead over midfield for a first down at the Empire 23-yard line. After a six-yard completion to Williams, Morris completed another quick pass to Phillips for a first down as the Brigade entered the red zone. From the seven, Morris went to Joe Hills, who muscled his way in for a Baltimore score.
Quentin Sims recovered the dribbling Brigade onside kick attempt, giving Albany the ball on the Baltimore 20. On first down, fullback Mykel Benson took the handoff and plowed ahead for a gain of four yards. Grady then threw a dart to Sims who maneuvered his way into the red zone for a first down. Following an incomplete pass towards the end zone, Grady threw a screen to Stephens who pushed the ball down to the three. Aided by a pass interference penalty on Baltimore, Albany was granted a new set of downs inside of the two-yard line. One play later, Benson took a handoff and plowed his way forward for a score as the first quarter ended with the Empire ahead, 21-7 (82-33 aggregate).
At the start of the second quarter, Powell returned the kickoff to the five-yard line. On the opening play, Morris’ pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by Terence Moore, who ran the ball back for a short Empire score. Powell took the short kickoff out of the end zone before being stopped at the nine-yard line. Under pressure, Morris rolled out of the pocket for a gain of 11. After consecutive throwaways, Morris once again fled the pocket for a short gain, but it was called back due to an illegal formation penalty. One play later, Morris was intercepted again, this time by Tevin Homer, who ran the ball back 29 yards for another Albany defensive score.
On the following kickoff by Adrian Trevino, the ball hit off of the bar and bounced into the hands of Moore who ran it in for another Empire score, pushing the big lead to 42-7. Returning the next kick, Powell would bring the ball out to the 12 where the Brigade offense would take the field. On first down, Morris completed a pass to Rod Windsor for a quick gain of eight yards. After a big loss of yards thanks to a sack by Joe Sykes, Morris attempted a deep ball that fell incomplete, bringing up fourth and long. Following a holding penalty to back Baltimore up even further, Morris was nearly intercepted again, but the ball fell incomplete, turning the ball over on downs. With just under four minutes to go in the half, Benson took another handoff and pushed a pile ahead down to the two-yard line. Following another short carry by Benson, Taylor took the handoff coming from high motion and fell ahead into the end zone to add onto the big lead.
Starting on their own one-yard line, Morris’ pass was incomplete as the Brigade elected to use their second timeout of the half. Completing a short pass to Williams, Baltimore used their final timeout of a half on third down from their own nine-yard line. After a deflected pass was caught by Powell who was in at receiver, he was tackled short of the yardage to gain as time expired in the first half with the Empire up big, 49-7 (110-33 aggregate).
Baltimore would receive the kickoff to start the second half. From their own five-yard line. Down by 77 in the aggregate score, Morris opened the drive by connecting a quick out to Williams for a gain of four. Following a short completion to Hills, Morris found a wide-open Phillips who picked up a first down as he crossed midfield. After two short completions and an incomplete pass, Baltimore was bailed out by a penalty on the Empire. After nearly being sacked on first down, the Brigade were backed up due to an offensive pass interference penalty on Hills. Two plays later, Morris found Phillips who made a nice catch in the back of the end zone for a Brigade touchdown.
Now into the game, quarterback Mason Espinosa completed his first pass to Taylor who was tripped up at the Baltimore five. Three plays later, Coney ran the ball in for another Empire score. The extra point attempt was blocked, leaving the Empire ahead, 55-14. After a nice return by Powell, the Brigade were setup on their own 21. On first down, Baltimore was helped by a defensive holding penalty to move the ball over midfield. Two plays later, Morris’ pass was tipped at the goal line and intercepted by Homer. On first down, Espinosa’s pass was complete to Taylor who picked up 20 yards. Following an offsides penalty on Baltimore and an incomplete pass, Espinosa completed a pass to Coney who was stopped just two yards short of pay dirt. Three plays later, Espinosa connected with Stephens for a short Empire score.
From their own one, Morris handed the ball off to Rory Nixon who moved ahead for a gain of three. Morris evaded another sack on second down and scrambled ahead downfield to the Empire 20. Morris’ first down pass was complete to Phillips for a gain of five. Following a facemask penalty on the Empire, Hills took a handoff from Morris and rushed ahead for six yards and a Brigade touchdown. Coney would take the ensuing long kickoff to the six-yard line. On first down, Espinosa completed a pass to Coney for a quick gain of 10 and a first down. With the new set of downs, Espinosa took a knee to salt away more time. After three more kneel downs, the Empire turned the ball over on downs with just over a minute to go in the game. Following an incomplete pass by Morris, the game reached the 30-second stoppage. Coming out of the break, Morris completed a pass to Phillips for a short gain. On the final play from scrimmage, Morris threw an incomplete pass as time expired. The Empire came away victorious, 62-21 (123-47 aggregate) and advance to ArenaBowl 32.
Albany Empire 2019 Season Presented By CDPHP.