By Jonathan Burgos –
The National Arena league’s biggest stage is here as the Albany Empire host the 2022 championship in downtown Albany NY against the Carolina Cobras. Albany was (9-4) on the season putting them in first place while Carolina was (11-5) putting them in second place in the standings. The Empire are looking to be back to back champions with the winning it all back in 2021.
Kick off is underway Carolina defers to kick first. Kick off return at the 2 yard line. #10 QB Sam Castranova is under center. Castronova runs it in himself for the 2 yard touchdown, Empire leads it 6-0 with the missed point attempt. Fun Fact Castronova was the former QB for the Cobras last season. First penalty of the game goes to the defense for illegal formation and a 5-yard penalty. Carolina QB #3 Jonathan Bane finds the endzone by connecting on short yard pass to #17 Kendrick Ings, extra point attempt is good, Albany 6, Carolina 7 with 7:39 in the first quarter. Albany challenged the ruling of an offside and won the Empire’s ball with 7:16 left in the first. Castronova scrambles out of the pocket and finds the end zone again this time connecting with #15 WR Aaron Wascha on the short pass for the 2-yard score. The score is Empire 13, Carolina 7, with 4:51 left in the first. Huge down as Albany looks to stop the Cobras offense on 4th & 1, with 34 seconds left in the first quarter and they get the important stop being short Albany’s ball. At the end of the first Quarter The Empire 13, Carolina Cobras 7.
Second Quarter starts with Castronova throwing a 16-yard to #6 Captain Darius Prince who plays the ball off the wall for an Empire touchdown, extra point attempt is good Albany 20, Cobras 7 with 9:60 in the second quarter. Carolina coughs off the football with a interception by Defense man #2 Jake Metz, Albany has the ball with 4:20 in the second quarter. Castronova finds Wascha for his second touchdown of the game. Albany takes a huge lead leading it 27-7 in the second. Onside kick recovered by Albany #13 Markel Wade, Empire with the ball. Albany Empire touchdown as Castronova found Prince for his second touchdown of the game, the point after is good Albany takes a huge lead going into the half 34-7. Prince is showing why he is the NAL reigning MVP. After the first half Albany has a huge score advantage and they keep the momentum going into the second half.
Start of the third quarter Carolina fumbles the ball on the 1-yard line, Albany recovers. Castronova connects on a 7-yard pass to Wade for the Empire touchdown, the point after is good Albany 40, Carolina 7, with 3:27 left in the third. Castronova is unstoppable as he connects for his 6th touchdown of the game, #72 Cornelius Lewis with the catch to give Albany a 47-7 lead with 20.5 seconds left in the third quarter. At the end of 3 quarters the score is 47-7 Albany.
Start of the fourth and final quarter Albany has a 47 point advantage against Carolina. Cobras are looking to do whatever it takes to get back into the game as this is their final go around. Carolina’s #9 Zack Brown recovered the fumble to give Carolina the touchdown, point after is good. The score was Albany 47, Carolina 14, with 12:43 left in the fourth quarter. Sam makes his first bad pass by throwing an interception to Carolina’s defense man with 9:56 to go in the fourth. Cobras Bane throws an ill-advised pass for an interception caught by defense man #22 Dwyane Hollis with 8:30 to go. With under 2 min to go Albany is going to win their second back-to-back championship one back in 2021, & now 2022. Fun fact no road team has beat a home team in the NAL championship.