The top seeded Albany Empire defeated the fourth-seeded Washington Valor (2-11) to take a one-point lead in the best of two, home-and-home playoff series with a 57-56 win in overtime. The new playoff format featues aggregate scoring, which means Washington must now win Game 2 of the series by at least two points to advance to ArenaBowl XXXI.
Albany wasted no time getting on the board on the first drive of the game, taking a 7-0 lead on just the second play into the first quarter on a 24-yard pass from QB Tommy Grady to WR Malachi Jones. The Valor would answer on the ensuing drive on the very first play when QB Arvell Nelson hit wide receiver Jared Dangerfield down the sideline for a 38-yard touchdown evening the game at 7 all. The ensuing drive for the Empire ended in a score when FB Michael Benson runs it in for the 3 yard touchdown to make the score 14-7 with 6 mins to play in 1st Quarter.
On Washington’s following possession Nelson was able to break the pocket and scrambled for a 16-yard touchdown, 7th rushing touchdown of the season tying the score at 14-14. After consecutive stops by both defenses, first a Washington interception of Grady and a turnover on downs forced by the Albany defense. Albany was able to finally break the tie with less than 1 minute remaining in the half when on fourth down, Grady found WR Malachi Jones in the end zone to make the score 21-14. Washington would recover a Albany onside kick attempt inside of the red zone, and would capitalize on the short field when nelson found Gray in the back of the end zone as the Valor tied the game back up at 21 to end the first half.After a
Washington would turnover the ball on downs on their opening drive of the second half, and Albany was able to take a 28-21 lead when Grady found Jones once again for a 14 yard pass and catch touchdown. The valor would respond back when Reggie Gray caught his second touchdown of the night on the ensuing drive tying the score once again at 28-28. on the ensuing drive with just over three minutes left in the third quarter Grady found WR Greg Carr for an eight-yard score to retake the lead at 35-28. Less than a minute into the fourth quarter Valor wideout Doug McNeil III scored on 14 yard catch tying the game at 35. Albany’s jones scored his fourth touchdown of the nigh on the ensuing drive on a 6 yard pass from Grady giving Albany a 42-35 lead.
On washington’s next drive Nelson once again tied the game on a rushing touchdown from 1 yard out with 2 minutes left in in the game. Empire would respond to take a late lead when WR Joe Hills finally caught his first touchdown of the game with 51 seconds left, but the Valor would answer back with Gray’s 3rd receiving touchdown of the night tying the game at 49 to send the game into overtime. Washington would receive the ball first to start overtime and would score on 3 yard pass from Nelson to Gray their fourth connection of the game to take a 52-49 lead. With the game now in sudden death the empire would score on their ensuing drive on a 7 yard score that brought Albany within one point, and the Empire elected to go for 2 and successfully converted on a Greg Carr two-point conversion to win the game.