Cobras Conquer Empire 58-50 in Albany

by Steven Shotola

06/04/2022 8:58 PM -

ALBANY, NY– The Cobras returned to action this week after a tough loss at home in week 6. This week the Cobras traveled north to Albany, NY to face the Albany Empire (4-2). Jonathan Bane threw 6 touchdowns to 5 different receivers while T.C. Stevens kicked 3 deuces to lead the Cobras over second-place Albany 58-50 and return to their winning ways. The win strengthened Carolina's hold on first place but not without providing a truckload of drama throughout. The game wasn't secured until Empire quarterback Sam Castronova was called for intentional grounding in the end zone with 41 seconds to play and Albany trailing by 6. After a review, the Cobras were granted a safety and easily recovered the onside kick to take the win.

The Cobras (6-1) held a 56-44 lead with 4:50 to play but Castronova capped off a quick, three-play drive with his second rushing touchdown of the game. Albany (4-2) went for two, presuming that a conversion along with a deuce from kicker Marc Orozco would put them in position for a win. The two-point play fell short of the goal line, however, and the deuce attempt failed with 2:33 left on the clock.

Conventional wisdom in such a situation might call for a grind-it-out drive to gain first down after first down. Coach Res and his charges are anything but conventional, as we all know by know. Bane's pass to Adam Smith fell incomplete in the end zone on the drive's first play, causing the crowd at MVP Arena to collectively exhale. On the very next snap, Bane connected with the returning D.J. Myers, who was finally corralled at the Albany 9-yard line. The Cobras failed to convert on second and third down, though, and out came T.C. Stevens to extend the lead to nine. The kick pushed right by the thinnest of margins, however, and suddenly the Empire was in position to potentially win the game. Albany's faint glimmer of hope was extinguished quickly, however, by the vaunted pressure provided by the Cobras' defense.

Bane did his best to show skeptics why he's the clubhouse leader for offensive Player of the Year, completing 17 of 42 passes for 249 yards and one interception. While 5 Cobras caught touchdowns, Bane managed to complete passes to 8 different receivers including big man Dashawn Johnson, who gained 4 yards on a crucial play in the second half. The Cobras' lone rushing touchdown was scored by (guess who) Zack Brown, who rushed 6 times for 16 yards and a first half score.

Carolina looked like a different offense with Myers back off the injured list and active once again. Myers snagged 8 passes for 74 yards and 2 scores to lead the laundry list of receivers who saw the ball thrown their way. Albany for its part was led by the tandem of Castronova and receiver Darius Prince. Prince was the target for each of Castronova's 4 touchdown throws, gaining 125 yards on 8 receptions.

Stevens' play was more than critical to the Cobras win up north on Saturday. His three deuces, combined with the two safeties provided by the Cobras' defense, gave Carolina the extra points needed to subdue a tough Albany team.  The game was billed by the Albany broadcast crew "The Game of the Year", as the Cobras and Empire are easily the two best teams (although Jacksonville might have an opinion). These two teams will meet again in short order, as Albany will travel to the Gate City in two weeks. Carolina will be on the road next week at Columbus, which fell to 2-3 after losing Saturday in Orlando. It will be a short week for Coach Res and his squad, with a Friday game on the road. The Cobras have to be brimming with confidence, though, as the second big road test in Albany was passed with flying colors and a resounding win. The Cobras will continue their road series as they will head to Columbus, GA next week to take on the Columbus Lions (2-3) this Friday, June 10 at the Columbus Civic Center.