Albany, NY - The Albany Empire (0-1) opened their inaugural season with a loss to the Philadelphia Soul (1-0), 56-35, Saturday night in front of a sold-out crowd at the Times Union Center. Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh, threw for six touchdowns on his way to winning the Offensive Player of the Game award. Torez Jones was named Defensive Player of the Game with five tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception.
The Empire offense was led by quarterback Tommy Grady, who tossed for 529 yards and five touchdowns. His top target Greg Carr, caught eight passes from Grady, tallying for 74 yards and two touchdowns.
“I was ecstatic with the fan base,” said Rob Keefe, Head Coach of the Albany Empire. “We didn’t even have a name two or three months ago and to have this many people believe in us and give us a shot, we are greatly appreciative of that.”
Philadelphia came out firing on all cylinders. After returning the opening kickoff to Nearly midfield, the Soul marched their way into the end zone, capping off their drive with a seven-yard touchdown to wide receiver Shaun Kauleinamoku.
The Empire answered right back on their first drive. Despite being the first time in game action together, the Empire gelled quickly and made their way to the end zone. The empire capped off their first ever offensive possession with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Carr.
The Soul wasted no time going right down the field again on their second possession. Raudabaugh found receiver Darius Prince 15 yards downfield in the back of the end zone for this first touchdown reception of the night at the end of the first quarter.
The first score of the second quarter came on a deep, 27-yarder to receiver, to Collin Taylor, for his first touchdown as a member of the Empire. After another Soul touchdown to answer, the Empire recovered a failed onside kick from Philadelphia, giving Albany great field position. The Empire capitalized with another hookup between Grady and Carr for six. To end the half, the Soul scored two touchdowns in the final minute, giving Philadelphia a 35-21 lead. At the end of the half, Grady had 132 passing yards for three touchdowns. His counterpart, Dan Raudabaugh, compiled 110 yards for four touchdowns.
After a halftime ceremony highlighted by the retirement of Albany Firebird legend “Touchdown” Eddie Brown’s number 17, the Empire took the ball. Despite moving the ball downfield, Philadelphia forced a turnover on a backwards pass fumble from Grady. The Soul marched their way down for another score.
Down 42-21, The Empire made their way down the field in large part to a huge gain on the ground from fullback, Wes Mauia. The drive was completed with a short, six-yard touchdown pass from Grady to Doug McNeil III. The next Philadelphia drive ended with a missed field goal that bounced in play and was recovered for a Soul touchdown. The Empire wasted no time responding, tossing a 48-yard touchdown to receiver, Malachi Jones.
On a crucial driving being down by only two touchdowns midway through the fourth quarter, the Empire turned the ball over on downs on the opposing three-yard line. Philadelphia milked a lot of clock and moved the ball down field for another score, increasing their cushion to 21.
The Empire were unable to convert on their next possession, giving the ball back to Philadelphia. The Soul maintained control until the final seconds ticked off the clock. The final score of the game was 56-35.
“We still have a long way to go, it’s a journey,” said Keefe, post-game. “I don’t want to use the excuse ‘they were two-time defending champs,’ the fans were telling me that it was a great show, and I appreciate that, but our job is to beat the two-time defending champs.”
The Baltimore Brigade (1-0) opened their 2018 season with a win, topping the Washington Valor (0-1), 61-56, Friday night at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, Md. Brigade quarterback Randy Hippeard threw for five touchdowns and ran for another two on his way to winning the game’s Most Valuable Player award. “We came out and we found a way to win,” Brigade Head Coach Omarr Smith said after the game. “I’m proud of the way we played offensively…to be able to go out and win the first game is important for us. We’re all about trying to improve from last year. It feels good to be 1-0, but we have to enjoy it for 24 hours and then get back to work.” Baltimore got on the board first when quarterback Randy Hippeard, the AFL MVP in 2017, connected with wide receiver Kendrick Ings for the game’s first score, giving the Brigade a 7-0 advantage. Minutes later, Hippeard notched his first rushing touchdown of the season and gave the Brigade a two-score lead early in the first quarter. Davila found wide receiver Chris Duvalt for Washington’s first score of the season late in the opening quarter. Another Hippeard passing touchdown, this time to Brandon Thompkins, who is playing in his second season with the Brigade, gave Baltimore a 20-7 lead after the first quarter. Davila tossed his second score of the game to Rod Windsor to bring the game back within one score. Baltimore and Washington traded scores throughout the remainder of second quarter, which ended with another Hippeard rushing touchdown as time expired on the first half, giving the Brigade a 40-28 lead. Davila started off the second half scoring with a 17-yard rushing touchdown, cutting the Baltimore lead to 40-35. Wide receiver Brandon Collins answered for the Brigade, hauling in another Hippeard touchdown to make the score 47-35. Davila and Hippeard traded passing touchdowns, keeping the game within two scores for the entirety of the fourth quarter. With under one minute remaining, Davila found Windsor for their third scoring connection of the game, setting the final score at 61-56. MVP: BAL QB Randy Hippeard OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: WAS QB Nick Davila DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: BAL DB Joe Powell
The Arena Football League announced today that Brigade quarterback Randy Hippeard has been named Week 1’s Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Washington Valor. Hippeard accounted for seven total touchdowns – five passing and two rushing – and threw for 240 yards, leading Baltimore to a 61-56 win.
Hippeard, the 2017 AFL Most Valuable Player, found wide receiver Kendrick Ings for a 31-yard touchdown on the game’s opening possession. After a defensive stop, Hippeard tallied his first rushing touchdown of the season to give Baltimore a two-score lead. The five-year AFL veteran accounted for four touchdowns in the first half and three in the second half – capping every Brigade drive with a score, excluding the game’s final possession, when the team intentionally ran the clock out.
“He made a play every time we needed one,” Brigade Head Coach Omarr Smith said after the game. “I was really proud of our offense…to score every possession is a huge confidence builder for us.”
The Brigade are in Philadelphia this Saturday, taking on the defending-champion Soul at 7 p.m. at Wells Fargo Center. The game will be broadcast nationally on CBS Sports Network. The next Brigade home game will be on Saturday, April 28, when Baltimore hosts Albany at 3 p.m. at Royal Farms Arena.
- Finding the Silver Lining: Positives after Empire Drops Home Opener
- Albany returns to AFL, lose in Soul-crushing fashion
- Valor Game Preview: Open The Season On The Road
- Arena Football in Albany, Version 2.0
- Countdown to the 2018 AFL Season
- Empire Serve Up Food and Fellowship
- An Empire is Unleashed in Albany
- Valor Hopefuls Look to Land Roster Spot
- Albany AFL Opens its Doors
- ArenaBowl XXX Game Log
During his seven seasons in Lehigh Valley, Thompson was the Steelhawks head coach and offensive coordinator. He won the 2017 National Arena League (NAL) Coach of the Year. They also played in the postseason all seven seasons under him. Continued Here
Albany gets Arena Football League franchise for 2018
By David Johnson, The Saratogian
LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. >> Pro indoor football is officially returning to the Capital District in 2018.
A new Albany Arena Football League franchise was announced by the team’s local ownership group, which includes Times Union Publisher George Hearst III, Dan Nolan and Ed Swyer at the Hearst Media Center Tuesday. The local owners have partnered with owners of the two-time defending AFL champion Philadelphia Soul, including former NFL stars Ron Jaworski and Marques Coleston, current Green Bay Packers lineman Jahri Evans and ex-NFL head coach Dick Vermeil.
“When you talk about a partnership that’s second to none, you’re marrying a brand new city that I think is going to be outstanding with regard to area football with what has become our proudest franchise right now with two straight championships and running,” AFL Comissioner Scott Butera said.
John Adams will serve as president of both teams but individual staffs for each franchise will be unique. The union of the ownership between the Soul and Albany’s unnamed team will not affect the competition on the field, Jaworski said.
“The ownership group doesn’t play,” Jaworski said. “We invest our money, we organize the teams and it will be a fierce competition on the field. We have nothing to do with the outcome of the game on the field.”
Albany will play it’s games at the Times Union Center, the former home of the Albany Firebirds, an AFL team who played until the team moved to Indianapolis in 2000.
Another area indoor football franchise called the Albany Conquest played in Arena Football’s development league from 2002-09.
“I’ve been around the AFL long enough to remember the Albany Firebirds. Watching them on ABC in an Arena Bowl game, fans going crazy up here in Albany,” Jaworski, a 17-year NFL veteran who is now an analyst, said. “It’s back. The good times are back in Albany.”
Many of the speakers Tuesday mentioned the opportunities the franchise will provide to the area as things to look forward to, including Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan.
“This wonderful world-class facility is going to have premier professional football,” Sheehan said. “It’s going to bring tremendous excitement to downtown.”
Fans can go to AlbanyAFL.com and submit a team name suggestion. Final choices will be selected and made available for fan vote. The winning name will be announced after the voting period. The person that submitted the team name that was ultimately selected will receive a special team prize pack.
The ownership cited the league’s exciting product at an affordable family price as an advantage for the AFL in any market.
“I love being around kids who play football,” Vermeil a Super Bowl-winning coach of the St. Louis Rams, said. “It gives people an opportunity to play, people an opportunity to coach and people an opportunity to go to a game. You can afford to come. The first time I took (my wife) Carol to a game she intercepted a pass. It’s fun to identify with a team to feel close to other than a TV screen.”
The Albany team will be the sixth team to join five current franchises listed on the league website. Although that number may grow before the 2018 season kicks off in the spring of 2018.
Butera also mentioned a large fantasy sports company will soon partner with the league and sports betting options going forward.
There are several other competing indoor football leagues around the country, including the Indoor Football League and the fledgling Can-Am Indoor Football League, which will field a first-year team in the Glens Falls Civic Center in the spring of 2018.
SOUL WIN ARENA BOWL XXX 44-40
Wells Fargo Center, the home of the 13-1 Philadelphia Soul, was the site of Arena Bowl XXX, the 2017 AFL Championship Game. The visiting Tampa Bay Storm, with a regular-season record of 10-4 came in hoping to gain their sixth AFL title game and their first win of the season over The Soul. 0-3 during the regular season vs. The Soul, The Storm came in with determination as well as four All-AFL offensive starters, including QB Randy Hippeard, WR’s Joe Hills, and Kendrick Ings. The Soul, playing in front of 13,648 boisterous fans, defeated the team from Tampa the last eight meetings in a row including three times in this season. Those victories were hard-fought affairs but in the end, Philadelphia always took home the W by an average score of nearly 13 points. With that kind of dominance Head Coach Clint Dolezel had every reason to be confident Philly would reward their fans support with their second straight Foster Trophy.
On the opening drive, Hippeard missed a wide-open Kendrick Ings for an easy six. Missed opportunities would plague both teams throughout the first half. A couple of plays later, Hippeard was bumped from behind causing an errant pass which was picked off by Soul DB #25 James Romaine. With the ball for the first time, Soul QB Dan Raudabaugh hit #24 Torez Jones for a long gain into the Tampa Bay end of the field. Unable to close the deal and backed up by penalties Philadelphia chose to try a field goal. It went wide and was played off the net and returned for a Tampa TD by Ings.
All season long the Soul’s special teams had played spotty and Tampa knew it was a weakness they could exploit. They kicked off and pinned Philadelphia on their own 7. Raudabaugh missed a wide open #7 Darius Prince for an easy touch, and then Prince dropped another big gainer on 4th and one. With the ball back in Tampa’s hands, #81 Joe Hills missed a gimme 6 after falling in the end zone on 4th down. Philly got the ball back on their own 11, and after a Raudabaugh run for a 1st down the quarter ended with Tampa up 6-0.
The jittery play continued into the 2nd quarter as Raudabaugh missed #21 Shaun Kauleinamoko for an easy big gainer which would have put the Soul, if not in the end zone, then at least inside the Tampa 5-yard line. After that, Philadelphia chose a more methodical approach. The drive ended with a Darius Prince 2-yard reception for a TD giving the Soul a one-point lead 7-6.
After a kick-off through the goal posts for a touchback, Hippeard and the Storm finally began exploiting the opportunities the Philly D were giving them. Hills hauled in a 35-yard pass for the TD and this time Kicker Mark Lewis hit the PAT giving Tampa the lead at 13-7. Philadelphia’s return unit sputtered again and a couple of plays later, Raudabaugh threw a pick 6 to Storm Jack Linebacker, Alvin Ray Jackson. Lewis hit the PAT and Tampa extended their lead to 13 points 20-7. With another poor kick return and the crowd quieted, Philly appeared to be on the ropes. Continuing their methodical approach The Soul fought their way back. They worked the ball down to the 1-yard line and All-Arena First Team FB Mykel Benson powered his way into the end zone for the 6. K Adrian Trevino tacked on the PAT, and the teams went into halftime 20-14.
Having won the coin toss and deferring until the second half, Philadelphia caught Tampa by surprise. Expecting Philadelphia to continue its dink and dunk approach, they were shocked by a 40-yard strike to Darius Reynolds for the tie. After Trevino tacked on the PAT, The Soul regained the lead 21-20. The Lewis missed PAT appeared to be having major consequences for The Storm and with the crowd coming back to life Tampa had their work cut out for them.
Three minutes and thirty-two second later, The Storm retook the lead with what was possibly the best pass throughout the night from either quarterback. From their own 22 playing over the left hash, high-motion man Kendrick Ings streaked down the right side of the field and hauled in the strike just ahead of Soul DB #22 Dwayne Hillis. He ran the last few yards into the end zone and The Storm retook the lead by 6, 27-21.
Raudabaugh hit Prince with a short pass and after breaking a tackle, he turned it into a 34-yard gain down to the Tampa 6. That is when the most controversial play during the night occurred. Mykel Benson ran right side off-tackle but was called down by contact just short of the end zone. On replay, it appeared he might have been in and with crowd's encouragement Soul Head Coach Clint Dolezel threw out the challenge flag. The end zone view clearly showed when Benson’s knee went down, but not where the nose of the ball was at that moment. The sideline camera angle clearly showed the ball, but it was hard to see when the knee came down. Though it appeared to be a six-point play, without incontrovertible proof, the Referees were forced to uphold the ruling on the field. Undeterred, Raudabaugh hit Prince for the touch on the very next play. With the PAT good The Soul captured the
momentum, and extended their lead to eight.
On the kick-off Ings barely made it onto the field of play, and on the next play Philadelphia Safety # 55 Sean Daniels wrestled Randy Hippeard down in the end zone for the safety and a ten-point lead. Tampa succeeded with the surprise onside kick and Hippeard hit #15 Justin Hilton for the 42-yard TD to bring The Storm back to within 3. Then, with 5:54 left in the game, Tampa ordered up another onside kick. This time Philadelphia was ready, and they recovered the ball deep in the Tampa end. One minute and twenty seconds later, they sealed the victory with a beautiful 16-yard pass to Kauleinamoku. The Storm D bit on the Benson off left tackle run. Raudabaugh ran to his right parallel to the line of scrimmage drawing the remaining defenders towards him. They were hoping to prevent him from picking up the 1st down or possibly scoring. That’s when he spotted Kauleinamoke running from right to left along the end zone wall. Raudabaugh stopped and popped back across the middle for the clinching points. Tampa would hit for another 6 on a Hippeard to Ings pass, but it was too little too late. With five lead changes, long TD passes, some power running, and a few timely defensive and special team plays. The AFL Championship game offered everyone in attendance something to cheer about.
This past AFL season was marred by the defections of several of the leagues best teams. With the addition of Baltimore and DC, the league was barely viable with only five teams. Next year, it was announced two expansion teams will be joining the league bringing the number of teams up to the minimally adequate seven. While the AFL still considers itself to be the top league in the world, it's a claim is built on shaky ground. There's no question both Philadelphia and Tampa can claim to be two of the best teams in any league. The other three teams, however, would be competitive but not dominant in the NAL. The AFL's strength is its perceived longevity and marketing ability, but until they once again have a deep well of competitive teams throughout the country, they will only be a regional league boasting a big name with a dearth of competition. In the meantime, the nearly 14,000 fans in the Wells Fargo Center were treated to a good old-fashioned arena football game between two of the best teams in the world. Congratulations to the Philadelphia Soul taking advantage of your opportunities and delivering everything your fans could hope for two years in a row.
|AFL Final Standings|
|Tampa Bay Storm||10||4||.714||710||662|