Courtesy: Atlantic City Blackjacks Media Relations
Warren Smith Gets First Start
ALBANY, NY- The Atlantic City Blackjacks (3-6) came up just short against the Albany Empire (8-1) in the high-scoring contest Saturday afternoon. Warren Smith made his first start throwing for 329 yards and seven touchdowns. Antwane Grant had 177 receiving yards and four touchdowns for Atlantic City as well.
The Albany Empire received the ball first to start the game and scored on their first possession with an 18-yard pass from Tommy Grady to Malachi Jones. Warren Smith took the field for the first time as the starting quarterback for the Blackjacks and looked sharp on his first drive. Smith only needed two plays to tie the game after he connected 20 yards to LaMark Brown. The Blackjacks looked to steal a possession with an onside kick, but the ball touched the wall before they could jump on it and the Empire would find Jones again on their next play for the touchdown, but the extra point was missed. Smith answered back quickly with a 38-yard touchdown pass to Antwane Grant. Coach James elected for the onside kick again but was cleanly recovered by Albany and scored another touchdown on their next play. The Blackjacks faced their first fourth down and were able to convert on the play with a nice pass from Smith to Kendrick Ings. With a fresh set of downs, Smith went deep to Grant again as he made a miraculous catch for the 30-yard touchdown as the Blackjacks regained the lead. The first quarter would come to an end with the Blackjacks leading 21-20.
The Empire started the second quarter from their own five-yard line. Atlantic City forced the Empire with their first fourth down of the game, but Grady went deep to Quentin Sims on the 29-yard pass as Albany took the lead back. The Empire returned the favor and forced the Blackjacks to face another fourth down. On a beautiful play call, Smith faked the handoff to Wes Mauia as he leaped into the end zone to once more reclaim the lead for the Blackjacks. Third times the charm as Mark Lewis tried his third onside kick of the game as Rashad Still was able to get it first, giving the Blackjacks the ball right back. Smith capitalized on the opportunity as he capped off the drive to Grant again, his third of the game. With under a minute to go in the first half, the Empire quickly went down the field and scored as time expired and converted on the two-point conversion to tie the game at 35-35.
Warren Smith took his offense down the field on their first drive of the second half. It was capped off by a one-yard run from Brown to put the Blackjacks in the lead by a touchdown. Grady and his offense would respond with a touchdown of their own. Mykel Benson plowed his way across the goal line to tie the game back up. Smith moved the ball down the field but after a deflection on a quick pass the Empire came away with the interception. The third quarter ended in another tie at 42 all.
The Empire took the lead two and a half minutes into the fourth quarter on a 12-yard pass to Sims. With the crowd behind the Empire, Smith marched the offense down the field. On fourth down Smith kept the play alive and was able to find Grant for his fourth touchdown of the game. Mark Lewis failed to connect on the extra point and the Empire now led by one. Lewis tried for another onside kick, but Sims fielded it cleanly and was able to return it for the touchdown. The Empire tried their luck on the onside kick, but the Blackjacks recovered it as an Empire player touched it before the ball crossed the 10-yard line. Smith found Still in the end zone again for the touchdown. The two-point conversion was no good as Fred Ruff had it slip through his hands. Lewis again attempted the onside kick, but the Empire would recover it with two minutes to play. Grady was able to find Sims once more for the touchdown. The Blackjacks needed to move fast, and Smith did just that. He found Still for the touchdown on a two-play drive with 15 seconds to play to pull the Blackjacks to within two points. The man of the night, Sims was able to secure the ball on the onside kick attempt. Atlantic City came up just short of an impressive win and will head to Washington to take on the Valor in Week 10 on Saturday, June 29th at 7pm.