ALBANY, N.Y. – The Baltimore Brigade fell to the Albany Empire at the Times Union Center on Saturday night, 61-26 , in the first game of the AFL playoffs. With the loss, Albany holds a 35-point advantage leading into the final game of the home-and-home playoff series. Baltimore will host the final game of the series next Saturday, August 3 at 7:00 p.m. at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, MD. The team with the highest aggregate score at the end of the series will advance to ArenaBowl 32 to be played on Sunday, August 11 at 8:00 p.m. ArenaBowl 32 will be broadcast on ESPN2.
Baltimore allowed 35 unanswered points in the loss until Brigade backup quarterback Shane Morris connected a touchdown pass to wide receiver Joe Hills in the third quarter. Morris, who came in for quarterback Shane Boyd in the second half, completed 8 of 12 passes for 72 yards and two touchdowns, both to Hills. Empire wide receiver Quentin Sims recorded an impressive seven receptions for 106 yards and five touchdowns.
Defensive back Joe Powell took the opening kickoff 55 yards to the end zone for a Baltimore touchdown. During the 2019 regular season, Powell returned a kickoff three times for a touchdown, which was tied for first in the league. Albany went on to score 21 unanswered points with Empire quarterback Tommy Grady throwing two touchdowns and fullback Mykel Benson rushing in for a score to finish 21-6 at the half.
Baltimore lost three players and two starters in the first half. Defensive lineman Robert Hayes, offensive lineman Kyron Samuels, and defensive back Kenric Young all left the game due to injuries. Samuels, who started every game at center during the regular season, suffered a knee injury. Young, the rookie defensive back, suffered a concussion. Hayes, who started all season long at defensive end, left the game in the second quarter but returned at the half.
Albany scored twice during the third quarter, including one touchdown following an interception before Baltimore added points to the board. Morris, entering the game on Baltimore’s second possession of the half, connected with Hills for a 14-yard touchdown. Hills, who finished the regular season with 103 consecutive games with a touchdown reception, has now caught a receiving touchdown in 11 consecutive postseason games.
In the fourth quarter, wideout Maurice Morgan rushed two yards in for a score, his first career touchdown and Hills picked up his second touchdown of the night. Grady threw a total of three more touchdowns, two to wideout Quentin Sims and one to wide receiver Malachi Jones to lock in their win.