1. #1
    Mr KLC
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    NAL Preview : Albany At Columbus

    This Saturday the Albany Empire and the Columbus Lions will battle in arguably the biggest game of the season as the two teams will fight for first place outright in the NAL and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Both teams remain undefeated at home and have been dominant throughout the season with the Lions having the best defense, while the Empire and Tommy Grady have the best offense.

    This game is a rematch from the season opener in May which saw the Empire take a commanding lead early and hold off a late comeback from the Lions to win 65-60. Grady was excellent with eight touchdowns and only one interception on his way to victory while Mason Espinosa tied the all-time record for passing touchdowns in a game with nine. Now the two teams meet again with the Lions looking to avoid a repeat of the season opener.

    Both teams officially clinched their playoff spots with wins last week and regardless of the next two weeks, they will remain in the top two spots.

    The Empire are coming off a narrow 55-48 victory over the Jersey Flight, which saw Grady find Darius Prince in the end zone with only ten seconds left to put the Empire ahead. The Empire appeared to be in trouble heading into the fourth quarter, but Grady rallied the offense and they scored 29 points in the final ten minutes to come away with the victory.

    Grady finished the game with six touchdowns and one interception, his sixth straight game with five or more touchdowns. While Grady has thrown an interception in three straight games, he only has four total this season, second best in the NAL. Grady’s favorite target Darius Prince put on a show yet again, with eight catches for 61 yards and three touchdowns.

    The duo of Grady and Prince has been the strength of the Empire this year and they are showing no signs of slowing down. Prince leads the NAL in nearly every receiving category by a wide margin, including receptions (60), yards (791) and touchdowns (25). The only category he does not lead the league in is yards per reception, which he ranks second in.

    While the Lions have run a “wide receiver by committee” offense, utilizing each player and rarely relying on one, Prince has been the number-one guy for the Empire the entire season. He has had three or more touchdowns in every game this year.

    Prince’s impact has been felt on the offense and the Empire lead the league in a number of offense categories, including points per game (63.8), passing yards per game (259) and even rushing yards per game (35.7).

    The Empire seemingly have no weakness on the offensive end, with an excellent passing game complemented with a good running game. The team’s main weakness comes on the defensive side of the ball.

    While the Empire offense has been gashing opponents throughout the season, the Empire defense has been getting gashed as well. They are fourth in points allowed per game (48.8), fifth in yards allowed per game (269.3) and last in the NAL in passing yards allowed per game (278.5). Aside from a June 4 victory over the Jersey Flight, the Empire defense has allowed 40 or more points in every game this season. The Empire offense has been able to outscore most of their opponents, despite their issues on defense, but when the Empire visited the Sharks on June 26, the Sharks were able to control time of possession and slow down the Empire offense on their way to a 62-58 victory.

    The Empire have found success on defense in pressuring the quarterback and they are second in the league in sacks with 14, behind only the Lions. When the Lions and Empire first met the Empire defense got to Espinosa four times for a combined 44 yards lost. Both defenses will be looking to apply pressure to the opposing quarterbacks in order to disrupt the rhythm of the two best signal callers in the league.

    This Saturday the Columbus Lions will face their toughest challenge yet when the Empire come to the Civic Center. The Lions defense has been dominant throughout the season but now they will face the best offense in the NAL. The only time the Lions have allowed more than 40 points this season was against the Empire in the season opener.

    On offense, Mason Espinosa and company will look to build off the 67 point performance against the Sharks as the NAL MVP candidate continues to put up efficient numbers with few mistakes. The last time Grady and Espinosa met the two quarterbacks combined for 17 touchdowns and this Saturday there could be even more with both offenses improving throughout the season.

    $20
    Angelman
    donation 02/15/2021


  2. #2
    Mr KLC
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    Join Date: 12-19-07
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    $20
    Angelman
    donation 02/15/2021


  3. #3
    Mr KLC
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    Join Date: 12-19-07
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    COLUMBUS - In the NAL Game of the Week, the Columbus Lions could not stop the Empire offense in a 63-43 loss to the 2019 AFL Champions. With the victory, the Empire clinched home field advantage throughout the NAL playoffs while the Lions will host the first round game but could travel to Albany for the second round game if the Lions and Empire advance.

    Despite the two high scoring offenses present in the contest, the first quarter was a defensive battle with no touchdowns from either team.

    The Empire offense managed only a deuce on the opening kickoff and saw their first drive shut down in the red zone when Kendrick Washington intercepted Tommy Grady in the red zone.

    The Lions offense did not fare much better, managing only three points on a 35 yard field goal from new kicker Craig Camay.

    Both offenses finally found some rhythm in the second quarter and did not look back. The scoring started with an Empire touchdown on a run from Jeramie Richard to put Albany up 9-3. The teams continued to exchange touchdowns, with Antwane Grant accounting for both of the Lions touchdowns, until late in the second quarter when the Lions got the ball following a Darius Prince touchdown.

    With the Empire winning 23-16 and set to receive the second half kickoff, the Lions began a long drive and methodically marched down the field, hoping to score with no time left for the Empire. The Lions eventually got in the red zone with under a minute to play but the Empire made key stops and on 4th and three, Mason Espinosa’s pass, intended for Lonnie Outlaw, was deflected the Lions gave the ball back to the Empire.

    With only 50 seconds left before halftime, Grady and offense were able to find holes in the Lions defense and Grady eventually found Prince in the endzone to expand the Empire lead to 30-16 just before the half.

    With this late touchdown, the Empire completely shifted the momentum going into the locker room and now the Lions needed to not only keep pace with the best offense in the NAL, but also find a way to keep them out of the end zone.

    The Lions found a way to start the second half when Marvin Ross picked off an errant throw from Tommy Grady and gave the Lions offense a chance to cut the lead to one possession. Mason Espinosa and the offense did not waste that chance and quickly found the end zone with another Antwane Grant receiving touchdown, his third of the day. Once again both offenses continued to trade touchdowns through the third and fourth quarters, including a failed onside kick attempt from the Lions that was taken into the endzone uncontested by the Empire.

    The Empire continued to score with another Darius Prince touchdown, his second rushing touchdown of the day and fourth overall, extending the lead to 56-43 following a missed extra point.

    The Lions offense once again tried to keep pace with the Empire and put more points on the board, but the Empire defense stuffed back to back running plays and when a fourth down trick play for Antwane Grant failed, Albany got the ball back with seven minutes remaining. The Empire took six minutes off the clock on the ensuing drive and capped it off with Darius Prince’s fifth touchdown of the night, his third on the ground.

    While the Lions defense found some success in stopping the Empire in the first quarter, Grady and the offense never looked back after a 28 point explosion in the second and the Lions offense struggled to keep up. While the connection between Grady and Prince has been a big part of the Empire offense and was again today, Prince had eight receptions for 128 and two scores, it was the Empire running game that gave them the edge.

    The Empire came to Columbus with the number one rushing attack in the NAL and proved why with 52 yards on the ground and five touchdowns against the Lions. The running game’s success came in part due to Grady’s own performance. Despite being picked off twice, Grady completed over 70% of his passes and was not sacked once, giving him time to find his receivers.

    As for the Lions offense, Espinosa and his receivers were finding holes in the Empire defense throughout the game, with Espinosa completing 31 passes for 342 yards and six touchdowns, but issues on 3rd and fourth down halted drives and gave the Empire offense more opportunities.

    Lonnie Outlaw and Antwane Grant both eclipsed 100 yards receiving, with Grant leading the team in receptions (13) and touchdowns (five) while Outlaw led in yards (147).

    The Lions will be back home again next week when the Jersey Flight come to Columbus for the regular season finale. With their playoff spot secure and a first round home game guaranteed, it will be interesting to see if the Lions choose to rest some of their starters, or if they use this game as a chance to build some momentum before the playoffs. The first playoff game will be on August 7 at the Columbus Civic Center.

    $20
    Angelman
    donation 02/15/2021


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