Cobras Collapse in Championship 47-20

ALBANY, NEW YORK - The Carolina Cobras’ outstanding 2022 season ended short of its desired destination as they fell 47-20 to the Albany Empire in the NAL championship game Saturday. The Empire reeled off 41 unanswered points after Carolina took a 7-6 lead midway through the first quarter. Albany quarterback Sam Castronova tossed 6 touchdowns in the win, while the Empire defense did an excellent job of keeping the Cobras’ exceptional receiving corps at bay.

Albany (10-4) set the tone early, returning the opening kickoff deep into Carolina territory. Castronova cashed on the good field position with a 3-yard touchdown run to open the scoring less than two minutes into the game. The Cobras answered with a Kendrick Ings 3-yard touchdown pass, and the game was shaping up to be another barn burner. The Cobras elected to surprise the Empire with an onside kick, which was recovered by Carolina. A subsequent review of the kick overturned the play and gave the Empire the ball once again deep in Cobra territory.

This time, Castronova took to the air and found Aaron Wascha for the first of his 2 touchdown receptions, giving Albany a 13-7 lead with 6:07 left in the first quarter. Carolina was unable to answer and Albany struck with 2 more touchdown passes before trying an onside kick of its own. The Empire recovered and the Empire punctuated the half with a 10-yard Darius Prince exclamation point touchdown to lead 34-7.

There was no quit in the Cobras, as Carolina took the second half kick and marched all the way to the Albany 1-yard line before a fumble gave the ball back to the Empire. Touchdown passes to Marquel Wade and big linemen Cornelius Lewis gave Albany a 47-7 lead at the end of 3 quarters. The fourth quarter was highlighted by a Zack Brown fumble recovery in the end zone and a 38-yard Adam Smith touchdown catch.

The Cobras (10-6) were recognized for their successful season prior to Saturday’s game in the form of the NAL end-of-season awards. Receiver/Linebacker D.J. Myers was named “Iron Man of the Year” for his play on offense and defense, while offensive coordinator James Fuller won “Assistant Coach of the Year.” Brown and center Derrick Zegler were honored as members of the first team All-NAL offense while Myers and big defensive tackle Walter Thomas earned first-team defense and kicker T.C. Stevens was the first-team kicker. Myers and lineman Dashawn Johnson made the second-team All-NAL offense, while Zack Brown and Larry Ford made second team defense.  

While Saturday made for a long trip home for the Cobras, it’s important to commend the fight of the 2022 team. Carolina dealt with multiple injuries to multiple players in key spots. D.J. Myers missed games early in the season, as did Joe Powell and others. Of course, there was also the injury to Jonathan Bane, who was having an MVP season before missing four games with a leg injury. Instead of folding, the Cobras had multiple players step up to keep the machine moving forward. Adam Smith and Lance Evans were excellent on offense, with Malik Henry stepping in admirably at quarterback. Chris Page and Herb Waters came in and were marvelous on the defensive end. All the while, players like Kendrick Ings and James Summers led by example with their toughness, competitiveness and emotion.

The ultimate goal may not have been met, but the overall product was excellent—and not to be forgotten any time soon.