Courtesy: Albany Empire Media Relations
Albany Remains Unbeaten After Rematch
COLUMBUS, OH – The Albany Empire (4-0) defeated the Columbus Destroyers (0-4), 56-40, in front of 7,035 fans at the Nationwide Arena on Saturday night to remain undefeated to start the 2019 season. Empire quarterback, Tommy Grady went 22 of 32 passes for 320 yards and seven passing touchdowns earning himself the game MVP award. Columbus receiver, Fabian Guerra, hauled in 13 catches for 202 yards and six total touchdowns, being named Offensive Player of the Game. Empire defensive back, Tevin homer, led Albany with six tackles and one interception, being named Defensive Player of the Game.
Receiving the game’s opening kick, the Albany offense took the field for their first drive on their own seven-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Tommy Grady found receiver Malachi Jones open over the middle who quickly moved the Empire into Destroyer territory. Following a short rush by fullback Mykel Benson and an offsides penalty on the Empire set them back to the Columbus 19-yard line. On third down, Grady connected with receiver Quentin Sims to move the ball down to the Destroyer six. Failing to complete a pass to Jones in the end zone, the Empire turned the ball over on downs.
On Columbus’ first play from scrimmage, quarterback Grant Russell fumbled the snap and the ball was recovered by linebacker Terence Moore, turning the ball over to Albany on the one-yard line. One play later, Benson plowed ahead for the short score to take the early lead. The Destroyers began their ensuing possession on their own five-yard line after the kickoff traveled through the slack net. On first down, Russell connected with receiver Paul Revis for a quick five-yard gain. Following an illegal formation penalty on Columbus, Russell went right back to Revis who muscled his way ahead for a first down. One play later, Russell connected with Fabian Guerra for another quick Destroyer first down. After being leveled by two defensive linemen, Russell threw the ball away and was penalized for intentional grounding, moving the Destroyers back. Russell then found Guerra again, who fought his way across midfield, setting up a third and six situation. On the next play, Russell went right back to Guerra from 19 yards out for the score to even the game.
Albany began the team’s third possession on their own 17-yard line following a short return by DJ Stephens and a facemask penalty on Columbus. Grady connected with Stephens over the middle for a quick Empire first down as the ball moved across midfield. After losing three yards on first down, Albany was helped by an offsides penalty on Destroyer lineman, Khreem Smith. Two plays later, Grady was intercepted in the end zone by Aaron Ivory as the first quarter came to a close.
Following a false start penalty, Russell linked up with Revis once again, and with the help of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Albany, Columbus was set up on the opposing nine-yard line. The following play, Russell was picked off by Tevin Homer, turning the ball back over to Albany. Moving quickly, Grady hit Jones over the middle to push the ball to their own 16-yard line. One play later, Grady went deep to Stephens for a 34-yard touchdown to reclaim the lead.
Starting from their own five-yard line, Revis made a nice diving catch along the sideline for a quick seven-yard gain. On second down, Russell connected with Guerra who was launched into the stands but moved the chains for the Destroyers. Following penalties on both teams and a short gain for Columbus, Russell found Guerra open along the sideline who rolled his way into the end zone for the score. Failing to recover an onside kick attempt, Albany was set up on the Destroyer seven-yard line. Grady then connected with Collin Taylor on consecutive throws, including a four-yard touchdown to put Albany ahead, 21-14.
The Empire attempted an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, but failed recover, giving Columbus the ball on their own six-yard line. After two consecutive incomplete passes, Russell was intercepted by Terrance Smith in the end zone. Starting from their own five, Grady opened the drive with consecutive incomplete passes before finding Sims along the sideline dasher for a first down. Following a holding penalty on Albany, Grady fired a dart to Jones over the middle who was taken down near midfield setting up a third and short for the Empire. One play later, Grady went back to Jones from 26-yards out for the score to expand the lead with under a minute remaining in the first half.
Starting from their own one-yard line, the Destroyers picked up a quick first down as Russell connected with Guerra over the middle as Columbus burned their final timeout of the first half. On the ensuing play, Russell was sacked by Rodney Fritz and Joe Sykes with seconds remaining in the half. The first half came to an end after a completed pass to Revis who was stopped on the sideline with the Empire leading 28-14.
Albany’s kickoff went through the slack net, as the Destroyers offense marched onto the field for the first possession of the second half starting from their own five-yard line. Columbus picked up a quick first down as Russell went right to Guerra on a slant. Following another short gain to Guerra and an incomplete pass, Russell found Revis along the sideline who was short of the first down marker. On fourth down, Russell connected with Guerra who ran down to the Empire seven-yard line. Following consecutive penalties on the Empire, Russell handed the ball off to Guerra who ran in for the short score.
Albany began their first possession of the second half on their own one yard following an illegal block in the back penalty on the return. Picking up a quick first down, Grady found Stephens along the sideline for a 15-yard gain. Three plays later, Grady found his top target, Jones, deep down the field to push the ball into Columbus territory. On the next play, Grady went right back to Jones for the nine-yard touchdown to expand the lead to two possessions. Columbus began their next drive on their own 16 after a nice return by Guerra. On first down, Guerra caught another pass, his tenth of the night, for moved down to the Empire 11-yard line. On the following play, Russell was tackled behind the line of scrimmage by Moore. On second down, Russell found Guerra in the end zone for his third receiving touchdown of the night.
Taking over on their own five, Benson took the first down hand off and muscled his way near midfield picking up 16 yards to close out the third quarter. Following an offsides penalty on Columbus, Grady lobbed one over the middle to Jones from 24-yards out for the score, Jones’ third touchdown of the night.
Beginning on their own 13-yard line, Russell opened up the new drive with consecutive incomplete passes before connecting with Jenson Stoshak, setting up a fourth and short. On fourth down, Russell found a wide-open Guerra down field for 28-yard touchdown. The extra point attempt was no good, as the score moved to 42-34. Hesitating and spinning his way through the Columbus defenders, Stephens set the Empire offense up on their own 18-yard line on the ensuing kickoff. In just one play, Albany was in the end zone after Grady Connected with Sims from 34 yards out. Guerra returned the Empire kickoff 53 yards for a quick Columbus score. The two-point conversion attempt was no good, keeping Albany with a nine-point lead with under eight minutes remaining in the game.
Opening the drive with back to back incomplete passes, Grady found his target in Jones at midfield along the sideline who was launched over the boards. Following a short gain to Taylor, Albany was moved backwards due to a delay of game penalty. On third down, Grady went right to his top receiver, Jones, for another Empire first down. Following a short rush by Jeramie Richardson and a minimal gain by Jones, Albany let the clock run down to the 30 second stoppage. Columbus used their first time out of the half following a short loss by Richardson. One play later, Albany was in the end zone on a Grady to Sims connection from six yards out to extend the lead to 57-40 with just 20 seconds to go in the game.
Columbus began their final possession from their own five-yard line with a completed pass to Guerra as the Destroyers used their second timeout of the game with 10 seconds left. On the following play, Russell connected Stoshak for a decent gain over the middle, but the clock expired as the Empire remained unbeaten with a 56-40 victory.
Albany Empire 2019 Season Presented By CDPHP.