Empire Knock off Soul to become ArenaBowl 32 Champs
Albany, NY – The Albany Empire took on the Philadelphia Soul on Sunday, August 11, 2019 at the Times Union Center in downtown Albany, New York in front of 12,042 amazing fans. The game was certainly exciting enough for an ArenaBowl, especially since in the first half both teams battled back and forth. Albany would end scoring the streak right before halftime. The second half just seemed like the Empire made the adjustments they had to and executed perfectly. Albany would run away with the game in the second half to help secure their 1st championship as the Empire and 2nd since the Firebirds team in 1999.
The first quarter things were taking off right away when the Soul drove down the field and scored with Dan Raudabaugh throwing a 34-yard touchdown to Darius Prince with the game’s first points. The Soul’s defense would make a huge early on stop, led by James Romain, by recording the first forced fumble of the game, which was then picked up by the Soul’s Tyrell Robinson. Albany’s defense was answering the Soul throughout the game and it all started in the first quarter when Maurice Leggett would intercept Raudabaugh and take it back 54 yards for a touchdown tying things up. The next two drives, the Soul and Empire would simply exchange scores. BJ Bunn would catch a nice 38-yard pass to give the Soul a brief lead. A quick response by the Empire’s Tommy Grady to Quentin Sims’ amazing 11-yard reception to tie it back up. The first quarter would end with a tie of 14-14.
The Empire would continue with solid defense into the second quarter. They would force Raudabaugh to throw off target and continue with strong pass coverage, causing the Soul to turn it over on downs. This season’s MVP Tommy Grady would then find Sims again on a short 6-yard touchdown. Soul would then drive down the field and score with Darius Prince catching a 4-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone evening up the game at 21. Philly would gamble on an onside kick, which proved successful with the help of Kyle Chandler recovering it. But the very next play, Darius Prince would fumble caused by Terrence Moore and recovered by Albany’s Leggett. The very next drive would be capped off with a 11-yard touchdown pass to Sims. Albany would try and succeed on their onside kick via Terence Moore leaping up to recover it. This would set up another Empire scoring drive down the field. Sims would be a recipient of another touchdown pass, his fourth of the game just in the first half alone. The Soul would get the ball back but with 21 seconds left and eventually out of timeouts, they just couldn’t make anything of it. The score would be 35-21 at half with the Albany Empire in lead.
Albany Empire would get the ball in the second half and drive down the field to set up a well drawn screen pass to Mykel Benson for a 8-yard touchdown. The Empire’s defense would step up in the red zone big time, causing a turnover on downs for the Soul. Philadephia’s defense would not be over shadowed and led by James Romain, would get two near interceptions that would fall in an out of his hands. The third quarter would end with 42-21 Empire leading. At this point of the game all 12,042 fans were screaming and making the arena loud.
The fourth quarter opened up with the Soul driving down the field, Lonnie Outlaw would use his height advantage and reach up to catch a 3-yard touchdown pass but Kenny Spencer would miss the ensuing PAT making the score 42-27. Soul would be unsuccessful on the next onside kick setting up the Empire with great field position. The Soul’s defense would step up again for a what was to be a key stop, but this time the Empire would elect to kick a field goal. Adrian Trevino would prove why he is the kicker of the year as he nails a 31-yard field game putting the score now to 45-27. The Soul would drive down the field but again stopped at the goal line by Albany’s red zone defense. The Empire defense was determined to put the game away. The next drive James Romain and DJ Stephens get into a dead ball scuffle which resulted in both players getting unsportsmanlike calls thus being ejected for the rest of the game. But the Albany offense would chew up enough time to seal the game with a couple of kneel downs making it official that the Albany Empire would win the game with a final score 45-27 and sealing their ArenaBowl championship.
On a losing, but yet valiant, effort Dan Raudabaugh threw for 26/39 for 300 yards and 4 touchdowns but with 1 interception. Raudabaugh would make a record during this game, breaking the record for most career completions in ArenaBowl history. His two favorite targets were BJ Bunn and Darius Prince. Bunn caught 10 passes and picked up 129 yards and 1 touchdown. Darius Prince caught 9 passes for 99 yards and 2 touchdowns. The defense played well with Dwayne Hollis leading the team in tackles and James Romain forcing a fumble. When asked about the unsportsmanlike call, Romain said “A few years ago I smoked Stephens in L.A. and I told him that so at the end of the game he tried to throw a cheap shot”. Romain certainly had fire and said the young guys are taking it real well compared to the veterans and that Coach Dolezel said to them that he still loves and care for them. Speak of Coach Dolezel, he said after the game that Albany played hard and had a great crowd and that Albany won that game and how giving up 45 points is usually good in the Arena Football League and can get a win out of it.
Tommy Grady would end up being the MVP of the game, he would throw 16/25 for 200 yards and 5 touchdowns. His favorite targets were Quinten Sims who would catch 9 passes for 93 yards and 4 touchdowns. Malachi Jones would also catch 5 passes for 84 yards. Big fullback Mykel Benson would catch one pass but that was for an 8-yard touchdown too. The Empire defense stepped up big with the help of Maurice Leggett who got an interception and a touchdown but also picked up a fumble recovery. Terrence Moore caused 2 forced fumbles, 2 tackles for loss, and 2 pass breakups. After the game, head coach Rob Keefe said he can’t thank the fans enough and how the city really embraces the team and how he is proud of the fan turnout and the home field advantage.
The game itself was great and competitive all the way up until about mid way through the third quarter. This was certainly a better game than last year’s version ArenaBowl and this will be one that the fans and people of Albany won’t forget. The fan reception was great and the lower bowl was filled to capacity along with the upper bowl being about 1,000 short of filled. The entire arena was close to a little over 1,000 people short of being a complete sell out. This is an ArenaBowl that the league would be proud of especially with the two teams that really fought to get there. Next season will be great and exciting with who ever the expansion teams are to join the league along side with the current teams.