Empire Gain Edge Over Cobras 55-41
Empire and Lions Advance to 2021 NAL Championship in Albany, NY
ALBANY - The (3-5) Carolina Cobras went toe to toe with the #1 Albany Empire (7-1) tonight in the NAL playoffs. A heavy underdog the Cobras refused to play their #4 role against the #1 Empire leading Albany 14-13 at the end of the first quarter, shocking the crowd in an incredible first series where the Cobras scored on the ground with full back Dashawn Johnson then stopped the top offense in the NAL as the Cobras defense forced a turnover on downs. Towards the end of first quarter, Empires’ Jeramie Richards ran it in for a touchdown to bring the score 7-6. Just five seconds later, quarterback Aaron Aiken finds Kendrick Ings for six with a 30 yard pass to bring the score. Proving the Cobras will not be a pushover opponent, as Carolina looked to make franchise history by winning their first playoff game on the road.
Entering the second quarter the Cobras found themselves in trouble as the Empire scored 21 points with back to back touchdowns from Darius Prince from Tommy Grady. Aiken looked to put a dent in the score deficit but was picked off by Albany’s Malik Brown who had a huge interception returned for a touchdown. To make matters worse receiver Prince did not let up, he scored his third touchdown before the end of the half but he was met by a quick strike back from Cobras Kendrick Ings that Carolina is still in this game. Ings & Prince had been announced to be the top receiver matchup in the NAL as the two receivers lead in the league in multiple receiving categories and are considered to be the top receivers in the NAL.
Coming out of the half, the Cobras were down 34-21, with their biggest concern to stop the Empire offense. Carolina’s defense responded with an interception from Herbert Waters and a near 3rd quarter shut out limiting the Empire to only 7 points scored in the third quarter, the exception coming from former Cobra Phillip Barnett who led the Empire night in receptions. The defensive tidal wave sparked the Cobras comeback as they entered the fourth quarter with momentum on their side of the bench after a Aaron Aiken quarterback sneak for a score putting Carolina close with 41-35 score. The Empire’s hopes of a home championship seemed to be in jeopardy as Grady took the field in front of a concerned Empire fan base. A quick strike to Phillip Barnett put the Empire up 48-35, the Cobras rushed back onto the turf ready to answer. Aiken got the Cobras in striking distance but had a game changing fumble in the red zone that resulted in a crucial touch back turnover giving the Empire back the ball on a near guarantee scoring drive for the silver and black. The game crumbled from there Barnett gained his third touchdown against the Cobras and Kendrick Ings was able to throw the last blow with late touchdown but the play did not effect the outcome, the Empire gained the edge over the Cobras in this playoff game 55-41.
Despite coming up short, the story of this season and the effort put on the field tonight in upstate New York will not go unnoticed as the underdog Cobras put up an incredible fight and made headlines this year with their Cinderella story to the NAL playoffs. Quarterback Aaron Aiken who was a late addition to the roster this year but a masterful leader on the Cobras offense tonight finished the night with 24 passes for 248 yards, four passing and one rushing touchdown. His top target Kendrick Ings beat his arch rival tonight despite the team scores. The Cobras star wide out led both teams in receiving tonight with eight receptions for 101 yards and three touchdowns. His biggest opponent Darius Prince only caught the ball in the endzone tonight with three catches & three touchdowns short of Ings accolades this game, Prince & Ings have been compared all season long as the best at their position this season in the NAL. This game, although a loss was a great building block to prove that the Cobras belong in the top 4 NAL conversation, the talent assembled and executed proved that the Cobras are within reach of a championship season. The present however will see the Albany Empire hosting the 2021 championship next weekend against the Columbus Lions who defeated the Orlando Predators tonight 61-43 to compete for the league’s fourth league title. The game can be watched on the National Arena League YouTube channel or directly on nationalarenaleague.com.
ABOUT THE CAROLINA COBRAS
The Carolina Cobras are members of the National Arena League (NAL). Founded in 2017, the Carolina Cobras are in their inaugural season in 2018 at the Greensboro Coliseum. Cobra Season Ticket Memberships are on sale now call (336) 445-7232 or visit carcobras.com. Follow the Cobras on Facebook at facebook.com/carcobras, twitter.com/carcobras and instagram.com/carcobras.