The Baltimore Brigade (7-5, 0-1) will host the Albany Empire (10-2, 1-0) in the second game of the 2019 AFL home-and-home playoff series on Saturday, August 3 at 7:00 p.m. at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, MD. The Brigade fell to the Empire 61-26 in game one of the series at Times Union Center last Saturday, July 27. In that matchup, Baltimore scored first when defensive back Joe Powell returned the game’s opening kickoff for a touchdown but allowed 35 unanswered points before backup quarterback Shane Morris connected with wide receiver Joe Hills for their first touchdown reception of the night. Baltimore needs to overcome a 35-point deficit for a chance to win in aggregate scoring and advance to ArenaBowl 32, which will be played on Sunday August 11 at 8:00 p.m.
“Last week, we made a lot of mistakes on both sides of the ball,” Brigade Head Coach Omarr Smith said. “We didn’t execute our game plan well and our play last Saturday night is not a good indication of how we have played all season long. We need to play our type of football, better football, this weekend to compete against the best team in the league.”
BRIGADE PLAYER TO WATCH:
DB Joe Powell – Powell was the first player to score during game one of the home-and-home playoff series last week. Powell returned the game’s opening kickoff 55 yards to the endzone for a Baltimore touchdown, the only points scored during the entire half for the Brigade. Powell was the only player in the AFL to be selected in two positions for the 2019 All-Arena teams, earning First Team All-Arena as a defensive back and Second Team All-Arena for special teams as a kick returner. During the regular season, he was an essential part of the defensive unit and special teams leading the league in forced fumbles (5), total passes defended (23), and kickoff return touchdowns (3). He also ranked second in the league in interceptions (7). Powell scored a total of four touchdowns this season, which includes a score on a field goal return, a feat that no other player in the AFL accomplished this season.
EMPIRE PLAYER TO WATCH:
DL Rodney Fritz – Fritz, selected to the AFL Frist Team All-Arena as a defensive lineman, led the defensive front during the first game of the semifinals last week. He recorded three sacks and three forced fumbles and helped rush the Brigade quarterbacks into two interceptions. During the 2019 regular season, Fritz led the league in tackles for loss (9) and ranked second in sacks (6.5).
MATCHUP TO WATCH:
Brigade WR’s vs. Empire DB’s – The Albany defensive unit only allowed Baltimore to score 26 points during game one at Times Union Center and the Brigade wideouts were not able to find the endzone until the second half. Wide receiver Joe Hills was the only Brigade receiver to score on a touchdown pass last weekend, finding the endzone twice. Wideout Maurice Morgan brought in a score on a 2-yard run during the fourth quarter, but Morgan is out for the rest of the postseason due to a foot injury he suffered last week. The Brigade had to make several adjustments over the course of the regular season due to injuries, including losing two of their starting wideouts due to knee injuries. Receivers Ervin Philips, Milton Williams III, Rod Windsor, and Hills will have to find ways to be a threat offensively in order to help the Brigade overcome the 35-point deficit. Albany defensive backs Tevin Homer, Terence Moore and Cheatham Norrils had a combined 14 tackles, six pass breakups, and 2 interceptions last week. Homer picked off Brigade quarterback Shane Boyd in the third quarter and returned the ball 32 yards for a score. The rookie defensive back also led the league in tackles (85.5) during the regular season and was selected for Second Team All-Arena.
BROADCAST INFORMATION: Saturday night’s game will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Washington and ESPN3. ArenaBowl 32 will be broadcast on ESPN2.