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Courtesy: Albany Empire Media Relations

Albany Hands Brigade First Home Loss of the Season

BALTIMORE, MD – The Albany Empire (6-4) defeated the Baltimore Brigade (7-3) 56-49 Saturday night at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, MD in front of a crowd of 5,552.  Empire quarterback Tommy Grady went 14 of 20 passes for 199 yards and seven passing touchdowns earning himself the game MVP award.  Empire receiver Joe Hills had 6 receptions for 76 yards and four receiving touchdowns being named Offensive Player of the Game.  Empire defensive back Marrio Norman led the way with 10 total tackles and was named Defensive Player of the Game.  With the victory over the Brigade, Albany now holds the tiebreaker for the playoff seeding should the two teams finish even in the standings.


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Baltimore received the opening kick and began the game’s initial drive from their own five-yard line.  On the first play of the possession, Brigade quarterback Randy Hippeard fired a dart to receiver Brandon Collins for a quick four-yard pickup.  On the very next play, Hippeard hit his top target Brandon Thompkins for a 41-yard touchdown to give Baltimore the early lead.  After the Brigade failed to recover an onside kick, the Empire set up shop on the opposing 16-yard line.  On the first play of the drive, Empire quarterback Tommy Grady found the league’s leader in receiving touchdowns, Joe Hills, for the 16-yard score to tie the game.  The touchdown reception marked the 90th consecutive game with a receiving touchdown for Hills.

The ensuing kickoff was returned by Thompkins to the Baltimore seven-yard line.  On the first play of the drive, Hippeard found Collins over the middle who ran the ball down to the Empire four-yard line.  After a three-yard rush by fullback Rory Nixon and an incomplete pass, the Brigade were able to capitalize on third down with a one-yard touchdown rush by Nixon.  The Empire took over on their own one-yard line after a mishandled return by Jordan Williams that was recovered by Collin Taylor.  With the first play of the drive, Grady found rookie receiver Malachi Jones for the quick first down.  On the following play, newly acquired fullback Mykell Benson rushed ahead for 12 yards as the Empire approached midfield.  After an incomplete pass, Grady found Hills who broke a tackle and pushed forward for another Albany first down.  Facing fourth down after a short pass to Jones and an incompletion to Hills, the Empire were helped by a pass interference penalty as Grady was targeting Hills in the end zone.  Wasting no time with the new set of downs, Benson was able to get a block on the outside and rush for a six-yard touchdown.

Thompkins had a nice return on the kickoff, but the yardage was quickly taken away thanks to a block in the back penalty, setting the Brigade up on their own two-yard line.  Baltimore gained some space on an eight-yard completion to receiver Milton Williams.  Two plays later, the Brigade were unable to convert on fourth down giving the ball back to Albany on the opposing 10-yard line.  On the first play of the new drive, Grady found Jones on a screen pass who was able to take it the 10 yards for the Albany touchdown to take the lead early in the second quarter.

Baltimore was set up nicely after Thompkins was able to return the kickoff to the 14-yard line.  On the first play of the drive, Hippeard went deep to Collins who caught the ball in the back of the end zone but was called back because the ball hit the wall before Collins was able to corral it.  After an incomplete pass and a short gain, the Brigade were helped by a roughing the passer penalty to advance the ball across midfield.  The next play was intercepted by Terence Moore who brought the ball to the short side of midfield.  The interception marked a league-best fifth on the season for Moore.  Three plays later, Grady found Hills once again for a 24-yard touchdown.

Starting on their own six-yard line, the Brigade were able to move the chains and pick up a first down after two short throws from Hippeard.  After an incomplete pass thanks for pressure by defensive end Darryl Cato-Bishop and a short throw, Baltimore was set up on a third and short situation as the first half approached the one-minute warning.  The Brigade picked up the first down on a quarterback sneak by Hippeard and let the clock run down inside of 30 seconds.  Despite an incomplete pass, the Brigade were helped by a defensive holding penalty and entered the red zone with just 14 seconds remaining in the half.  One play later, Hippeard found Collins for the eight-yard score.  The Empire were set up on their own 21-yard line after a timely return by Jordan Williams.  After being setback by a false start penalty, with just five seconds on the clock, Grady found Jones over the middle to push the ball back to midfield as the Empire field goal unit came onto the field.  The first field goal of the Empire’s inaugural season was missed from 40-yards out by kicker Kenny Spencer as Albany entered halftime with a 28-21 lead.

Albany began with possession to start the second half on their own 13-yard line.  On the first play of the half, Grady couldn’t handle the snap and fumbled the ball back to the Brigade who took over on their own nine-yard line.  After two plays to get within two yards of the goal line, Hippeard found Collins who was ruled short of the end zone setting up the Brigade on a fourth and inches.  Baltimore was quickly pushed back due to a false start penalty but on fourth down were bailed out by a defensive holding on Albany.  After a series of incomplete passes, the Brigade faced another fourth and goal situation and were unable to convert, turning the ball back over to the Empire.  On the first play from scrimmage, Grady found Jones over the middle who found a seam and ran the ball down to the opposing 11-yard line.  Two plays later, Grady hit Jones on a back should throw for an eight-yard Albany touchdown.

Another nice return by Thompkins set the Brigade up on their own 15-yard line.  Two plays later, Hippeard found Collins deep down field for the 31-yard touchdown.  Starting on their own six-yard line, Grady found Taylor down the sideline who made a leaping catch over his defender to quickly set the Empire up in the red zone.  Wasting no time, Grady was able to find Hills from seven yards out for the Albany touchdown as time expired in the third quarter.  The catch marked Hills’ third trip to the end zone of the game.

Down two possessions to start the fourth quarter, the Brigade offense took the field on their own five-yard line.  On the second play of the drive, Nick Seither forced and recovered a fumble right in front of the Empire bench as Albany took over on the opposing 18-yard line.  Two plays later, Grady found Hills once again who made a bobbling grab in the end zone for his fourth touchdown of the night to widen the lead.  From their own 13-yard line, the Brigade were aided by a roughing the passer penalty to advance the ball to midfield.  After a few short completions, Hippeard was able to find Collins for the 14-yard touchdown; his third touchdown reception of the night.

The Brigade attempted an onside kick, but were unable to recover, giving the Empire possession on the six-yard line.  Albany failed to capitalize on two rushing attempts to Benson but capped the drive with a two-yard pass to Jones for the quick score.  Baltimore would begin their next drive on their own five-yard line and in two plays make their way down to the one-yard line on a long catch-and-run by receiver Demetres Stephens.  Taking three plays on the goal line, Hippeard was able to rush forward for one yard for the Brigade touchdown.

Baltimore recovered the onside kick attempted and the offense was back on the field starting from the 25-yard line.  After an incomplete pass down field, the clock trickled to the one-minute warning.  On third down, Hippeard hit receiver Williams for the 25-yard score to pull within a touchdown.  Albany was able to recover the ensuing Baltimore onside kick attempt.  After two kneel downs, the Empire were victorious 56-49.

Albany Empire 2018 Inaugural Season Presented By CDPHP.

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