The Albany Empire got their first win of the season on Saturday night with a 61-60 overtime win against the Jacksonville Sharks at Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
It was QB Sam Castronova’s debut for the Empire, and he did not disappoint. Coming out in the first half strong, he connected with WR Darius Prince for two touchdowns. Jacksonville was quick to come back with another touchdown with QB Malik Henry and WR Rob Jones proving to also be a dynamic duo in this game. The first quarter ended with a pick from Empire DB Dwayne Hollis which led to a Tiberius Lampkin rushing touchdown with just under two minutes left. Quarter one ended with Albany on top, 19-13.
The Empire entered Quarter two with great confidence and proved that on the field. Castronova’s mobility was on full display as he continually escaped the pocket as the Sharks defense ramped up the pressure. Prince added six to the board with the first touchdown in Quarter two, Grant later in the quarter followed suit scoring his first touchdown of the game. The Sharks continued to fight back scoring twice, but the Empire finished out the half strong. Castronova put the ball in the endzone with his legs to close out the first half with the Empire up 40-26.
Jacksonville started off the second half hot scoring back-to-back touchdowns while also securing a couple of turnovers. A momentum shifting play was made by TE Jimmie Goodloe as he caught the attention of scrambling Empire QB Sam Castronova as the two linked up for a 20-yard touchdown reception. At the end of the third quarter the Empire still found themselves on top, 47-40.
Late in the fourth quarter Empire RB Tiberias Lampkin saw a workload increase as he received four straight hand offs from which led to Lampkin’s second rushing touchdown of the game. The Sharks bounced back however with WR Rob Jones scoring for Jacksonville with only 0:35 seconds left on the clock in quarter four. Jacksonville decided to go for two, with the Empire defense applying the pressure to Sharks QB Malik Henry, it was not enough, Henry took the ball into the endzone himself to tie up the game 54-54. With 2 seconds left in regulation Albany had one more shot to win it in but a 39-yard field goal from Kicker Marc Orozco sailed wide left of the uprights sending the game to overtime, tied at 54.
The Empire did not waste time in overtime scoring on their very first play from scrimmage on a touchdown pass from Castronova to Grant. After a successful extra point from Orozco, the Empire moved ahead 61- 54. The Sharks hit right back though with Henry getting the ball to WR Devin Wilson. Jacksonville with a difficult decision decided to kick the extra point to tie the game and extend overtime, but their extra point attempt by kicker Brandon Behr missed wide right and the Empire completed their first win of the season on the road 61-60.
In week three, the Albany Empire (1-1) find themselves traveling back to the sunshine state to play the Orlando Predators (1-1) at the Amway Center on Saturday May 7th at 7pm. You can watch the action live at the National Arena League YouTube channel.