ALBANY, NY - The Carolina Cobras’ outstanding 2022 season ended short of its desired destination as they fell 47-20 to the Albany Empire in the NAL championship game Saturday. The defending champs are now back to back NAL Champions as the Empire reeled off 41 unanswered points after Carolina took a 7-6 lead midway through the first quarter. Albany quarterback Sam Castronova tossed 6 touchdowns in the win, while the Empire defense did an excellent job of keeping the Cobras’ exceptional receiving corps at bay.
Albany (10-4) set the tone early, returning the opening kickoff deep into Carolina territory. Castronova cashed on the good field position with a 3-yard touchdown run to open the scoring less than two minutes into the game. The Cobras answered with a Kendrick Ings 3-yard touchdown pass, and the game was shaping up to be another barn burner. The Cobras elected to surprise the Empire with an onside kick, which was recovered by Carolina. A subsequent review of the kick overturned the play and gave the Empire the ball once again deep in Cobra territory.
This time, Castronova took to the air and found Aaron Wascha for the first of his 2 touchdown receptions, giving Albany a 13-7 lead with 6:07 left in the first quarter. Carolina was unable to answer and Albany struck with 2 more touchdown passes before trying an onside kick of its own. The Empire recovered and the Empire punctuated the half with a 10-yard Darius Prince exclamation point touchdown to lead 34-7.
There was no quit in the Cobras, as Carolina took the second half kick and marched all the way to the Albany 1-yard line before a fumble gave the ball back to the Empire. Touchdown passes to Marquel Wade and big linemen Cornelius Lewis gave Albany a 47-7 lead at the end of 3 quarters. The fourth quarter was highlighted by a Zack Brown fumble recovery in the end zone and a 38-yard Adam Smith touchdown catch but the come back attempt was cut short at 47-20 as time expired and the Albany Empire fans roared in another NAL Championship trophy for their players to hoist.