The Albany Empire is exceptionally good at arena football. Migrating AFL fans will remember the Empire as the last ArenaBowl champion, defeating the Philadelphia Soul. In the NAL, Albany kept their brand to expand in a new league.
True to their brand, the Empire look like a championship contender a quarter through the season. They’re as new to the league as the players on their team, consisting mainly of rookies.
Albany fans travel well, matching the Jersey Flight fans in attendance. Throughout the fans in attendance, there was a healthy mix of Empire and Soul memorabilia. In a tongue-in-cheek way, for everyone in attendance, this NAL game was a homage to the final AFL season. These two teams featured a steady mix of two championship contender markets from 2019. A statement victory from Albany kept them undefeated while bringing a little closure to their ex-life with the AFL.
Next week is a gut check for the Flight.
Jersey, winless, didn’t make the right play against the Empire on many occasions. A week ago, the Flight competed closely against the Carolina Cobras, losing on a walk-off field goal. Last night, Jersey didn’t compete. Albany assumed control and never looked back.
Visiting Hollis Island
For the second week, the Jersey Flight began strong on defense. They played an honest first quarter against a top-tier offense. Dwayne Hollis, who played against Tom Grady in 2019, made the final stop to force a turnover on downs on fourth and goal. Two plays later, Jared Dangerfield caps off a quick drive down the field after a deep catch by Larry Beavers. It was the only lead the Flight would have during this game.
Again, Jersey forced the Albany Empire into a fourth-down situation. Similar to last week against the Carolina Cobras, the Flight struggled to defend on fourth down. Phillip Barnett bailed Grady out, tying the game, 7-7.
The Fresh Prince
Darius Prince, formerly an ArenaBowl 30 MVP and champion with the Philadelphia Soul, was dialed in with Tom Grady (ArenaBowl 32 MVP and champion.) When that sort of connection is in sync, the field becomes wide open for the Albany Empire on offense. It’s why they ran away with the win beginning in the second quarter.
“Not only is he [Prince] physically gifted but mentally he’s done a good job of getting other guys open.”Tom Grady; 6/4/21
Coupled with Prince’s three touchdowns in the second quarter, the Jersey Flight turned the ball over. One turnover was an interception by Warren Smith in the red zone. It wouldn’t be the only time he missed a throw to a receiver in this game. Smith did connect one time with Tyron Laughinghouse for a touchdown.
As the Empire picked up the pace on the scoreboard, the Flight added one to the injury report. Sean Daniels didn’t return after leaving in the second quarter.
“We’re looking at it [Daniels’ knee] right now as a hyperextension, questionable for next week.”Terrence Foster; 6/4/21
Kenneth McGruder put the exclamation point on a dominating second quarter with a hit on Laughinghouse, breaking up a catch. Albany led Jersey, 34-13 at halftime.
Jersey Has To Get Field Goals Down Pat
Following the news that Daniels wouldn’t return, the Jersey Flight played a sound, defensive third quarter. Jared Dangerfield scored a rushing touchdown to match Darius Prince in the third quarter. Unfortunately, Pat Clarke missed his second extra point of the game.
Lately, that’s been an issue for Clarke. Crucial points were left untouched after a touchdown last week.
At what point is an adjustment made to go for the rogue point?
“We still have not yet to practice in the arena. The only time he really gets to kick is during and right before the game. We’ll get him in here a couple of times this week.”Terrence Foster; 6/4/21
In the CURE Insurance Arena, the rogue point plays hard to get. With a low-hanging scoreboard, the Flight plays in the most fickle arena to score a rogue point. Clarke has to correct his woes on extra point and field goal attempts. Jersey cannot continue to keep themselves off the scoreboard.
Carey Scores First Defensive Touchdown
With the game out of reach, both teams put in backup quarterbacks to finish. Warren Smith sat for Chris Barrett after missing Larry Beavers wide open in the end zone. David Pindell replaced Tom Grady. Only Pindell produced between the two backup quarterbacks.
“In arena football, it comes down to inside the ten-yard-line. The defense has another defender behind them [the wall] and they don’t blitz the linebackers. We’re playing six-on-three.” We got to find those little cracks and I got to make some more precise throws.”Warren Smith Jr; 6/4/21
Pindell scored a rushing touchdown to help put away the Jersey Flight by a final score of 60-25. Barrett seemed overwhelmed, fumbling on the goal line to seal the loss with a kiss.
CC Brooks wasn’t the only person to score on a turnover. Armonti Carey did return a fumble for a score too. His was the first defensive touchdown in Flight history.
Photo Credit: Jersey Flight