Courtesy: Albany Empire Media Relations
Albany Clinches Playoff Berth with the Victory
The Albany Empire (7-1) defeated the Washington Valor (4-4), 56-55, in front of 7,179 fans at the Capital One Arena on Saturday night. With the victory, Albany became the first team to clinch a playoff berth this season. The win also marked the third-largest comeback in League history, trailing by 27 points during the game. Empire receiver, Quentin Sims, caught nine passes for 186 yards and four touchdowns earning himself the game MVP award. Valor quarterback, Arvell Nelson, completed 23 of 33 passes for 262 yards and seven total touchdowns, being named Offensive Player of the Game. Empire defensive back, Tevin Homer, led Albany with 8.5 total tackles and two pass breakups, one leading to an interception, being named Defensive Player of the Game.
Washington received the game’s opening kick and began on their own five-yard line. In one play, the Valor were in the endzone as quarterback Arvell Nelson connected with Josh Reese on a 45-yard bomb to take the lead. Albany’s offense would take the field for the first time on their own five-yard line after the ensuing kickoff traveled through the slack net. On first down, Tommy Grady hit Quentin Sims on down the sideline to move the ball into Washington territory to the 24-yard line. Following an incomplete pass, Grady went right back to Sims who made a leaping catch over a Valor defender in the end zone to tie the game.
The Valor began their second drive with an 11-yard pass to Dezmon Epps to move the ball to their own 19-yard line. After an incomplete pass, Nelson hit Jared Dangerfield on a screen pass to gain five yards. Following another incomplete pass, Washington picked up a first down as Nelson connected with Reggie Gray to move the ball down to the Empire 15. After being backed up by a holding penalty, Nelson went to Doug McNeil III on the sideline to pickup most of the lost yardage. One play later, Nelson found Gray in the corner of the endzone for an 18-yard score.
Starting from their own five, Grady threw a quick hitter to Malachi Jones to move the chains. Following three consecutive incomplete passes, Albany was helped by an offsides penalty on the Valor, setting up a fourth and five situation. Attempting a shot at the end zone, the pass fell incomplete, turning the ball over to Washington. After an incomplete pass, the first quarter came to an end with the Valor in the lead by a touchdown. To open the quarter, Nelson connected with Dangerfield for a gain of seven on first down. One play later, Nelson found Epps who muscled his way into the end zone.
The Empire would begin on their own 12-yard line after a nice return by AJ Coney. Following a short completion to Collin Taylor, Albany would pick up a first down on a carry by Mykel Benson. On the next play, Grady found Sims down field for a completion, but Sims fumbled the ball back to the Valor at their eight-yard line. Two plays later, Washington was in Empire territory after completions to Epps and Dangerfield. After another first down completion to Dangerfield and an Albany penalty, Nelson completed a pass to Gray who maneuvered his way down to the one-yard line. On the following play, Nelson rushed ahead for a yard and a touchdown to increase the early lead.
From their own 11-yard line, Grady hit Jones for a gain of four to open the new drive. On the next play, Grady was intercepted by Svante Davenport for returned the ball to the Valor 11-yard line. In one play, Washington was across midfield after Nelson found an open Epps along the sideline. After consecutive incomplete passes, Nelson connected with Gray over the middle to move the ball into the red zone. The following play, Nelson slipped one to Anthony Parker on a screen pass who walked in for the score, moving the Valor lead to 34-7.
With the aid of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Valor, Albany would begin their next drive from their own 15-yard line. On first down, Grady connected with Taylor to quickly cross midfield. One play later, Grady threw a laser to Sims who easily made his way into the end zone to chip into the Valor lead before halftime. The Washington offense would begin their final drive before the half from their own five. After an incomplete deep attempt, the Valor used their second timeout of the half with 11 seconds to go. Washington would use their final timeout of the half as Nelson connected with McNeil III to move the chains. Taking another shot at the end zone, the Valor would get one more chance with no time on the clock after a defensive penalty on Albany. Unable to complete a pass, the game would move to halftime with the Empire trailing by 20 points for the first time in franchise history.
Albany would receive the second half’s opening kickoff and begin on their own 10-yard line. In one play, Grady found a wide-open Jones down field who walked in easily for a 40-yard touchdown. From their own one-yard line, Washington was helped by a defensive pass interference penalty on Albany to move up 10 yards. The Valor would move up another five yards thanks to an offsides penalty on the Empire. On first and five, Nelson would float one up to McNeil III who made an impressive one-handed grab on the Albany 20-yard line. Following an incomplete pass, Nelson would find Epps in the corner of the end zone who held on despite slamming into the wall.
Coney would take the ensuing Valor kickoff near midfield to the 19-yard line. Albany would enter Washington territory on the first play as Grady found Jones over the middle. Valor jack linebacker committed his second jack out of the box penalty on the play, removing him from playing defense for the rest of the game. On the next play, Valor defensive lineman, Roderick Henderson, committed his second offsides penalty, also removing him from playing defense for the remainder of the game. After a first down to Sims, Albany would move down to the three-yard line after a short swing pass to Taylor. Following a short gain on the ground by Benson, the Empire went right back to Benson in motion who juked his way ahead for the one-yard score.
Empire receiver, Troy Grant, recovered the onside kick attempt by Adrian Trevino to keep the ball in Albany’s possession. Two plays later, Albany moved into Valor territory after Grady connected with Jones over the middle who broke a tackle for additional yardage. Following a short completion to Coney and an incomplete pass, Grady would be intercepted in the end zone by former teammate, Marrio Norman, who ran the ball back to midfield before fumbling it back to the Empire. Two plays later, Albany was in the red zone thanks to a defensive penalty on Washington. Grady then hit Mo Ruffins on a screen pass to narrow the gap to just a touchdown. Washington’s Josh Reese would recover the Empire onside kick attempt and run it in for a quick Valor score to push the lead to 48-35.
The ensuing kickoff would go through the slack net, giving Albany the ball on their own five, but thanks to a penalty on Washington, the Empire would begin on their own 15. Following an offsides on the high motion man, Grady found Taylor on the sideline who made a one-handed catch as he moved near midfield. Albany would then pick up the first down on a short rush by Benson. Grady found Sims over the middle who maneuvered his way all the way down to the Valor one-yard line, nearly scoring. Grady would hand the ball off the Benson again who dove over the goal line for the easy Albany score.
Albany would attempt another onside kick, but it was recovered by Washington, who took over at the Empire seven-yard line. Moving ahead, Nelson threw a quick one to Dangerfield near the sideline for a four-yard gain. After losing a yard on second down, Nelson connected with Gray to move the ball down to the one. Backing up due to a false start penalty, Nelson was able to scramble out of the pocket to find Dangerfield in the end zone for the Valor touchdown. Starting on their own five, Albany took one play to score as Grady hit Sims who broke a tackle and ran the ball down field into the end zone.
Attempting another onside kick, Washington’s Reese would recover and be taken down at the two-yard line, but a penalty would back them up to the 12. After consecutive short passes, Nelson tried to carry the ball himself, and was stopped at the four-yard line. On fourth down, Nelson was intercepted by Brad Muhammad in the end zone. With just under a minute to go in regulation, Grady hit Jones over the middle who moved the Empire over mid field as the clock stopped at the 30-second mark. After consecutive incomplete passes, Grady would connect with Sims along the sideline to set up a fourth down and seven situation from the Valor 20. Grady would then go right back to Sims who was open in the end zone to give Albany their first lead of the night with just 12 seconds left.
After the Empire nearly recovered the loose ball off of the bar, Washington’s offense would take the field from their own five-yard line with 10 seconds to go. On the first play, Nelson was intercepted by Arkeith Brown to seal the victory for the Empire. Grady would kneel the ball to run out the clock as the Empire won, 56-55 and clinched a playoff berth.
Albany Empire 2019 Season Presented By CDPHP.