Grady, Jones lead Empire over Destroyers
COLUMBUS — The Columbus Destroyers had their best crowd of the season on Sunday with 9,275 fans.
Unfortunately, the Destroyers were playing host to the best team, quarterback and receiver in the Arena Football League as well.
The league-leading Albany Empire rolled past the Destroyers 49-18 behind the passing of quarterback Tommy Grady who torched the Destroyers’ secondary that left receivers running loose the entire game.
“That’s’ the first time all year we’ve made mistakes like that on defense.,” said Destroyers coach Matt Sauk. “On those deep plays, the guys just weren’t where they were supposed to be.
“That’s a top-flight offense we’re going against and you can’t make mistakes like that or they’ll take you apart.”
The 6-foot-7, 240-pound Grady was 13-of-20 for 256 yards and five touchdowns before leaving early in the fourth quarter with the game well in hand.
Malachi Jones — who previously in the Alliance of American Football — and Quentin Sims each caught three touchdown passes. Jones had six catches for 121 yards.
On the season, Jones has 91 receptions for 1,367 yards to lead the league in both categories. Grady — the league’s reigning MVP — leads the league with 2,901 yards and 64 touchdowns.
Fabian Guerra fumbled a completed pass and Joe Sykes recovered for Albany.
Grady hit Jones with a 33-yard touchdown passed. Adrian Trevino kicked the first of seven conversions.
The Destroyers came right back and scored on a sweep by Fabian Guerra from 9 yards out and it was a one-point game. Faking the conversion kick, Guerra scored to give Columbus a lead.
However, illegal procedure was called on the play and Albany still led 7-6.
“It’s so frustrating. We talked all week about how we wanted to come out and get momentum and get our crowd into it,” said Sauk. “That penalty, well, that’s been our year in a nutshell.”
The Empire went up 14-6 when Grady hit Jones on a 40-yard touchdown strike after a 10-yard penalty moved the ball back to the 10-yard line.
Then came the momentum swing.
Trevino then pooched the kickoff and Albany recovered at the 18-yard line setting up a 32-yard scoring pass from Grady to Quentin Sims.
Columbus starter and former Ohio Dominican quarterback Russell Grant hit Kenny Cook with a 15-yard pass to the Albany 16 only to have the drive stalled at the 10.
Grady promptly hit a streaking Jones running free down the middle of the field with a 37-yard scoring pass and it was 28-6.
Grant suffered an ankle injury and was replaced by Liam Nadler who scrambled and found Guerra for a pass completion to the 5-yard line.
Rob Wheelwright scored on a 2-yard run and it was 28-12.
Columbus (1-10) suffered a big loss in the second quarter when Guerra and Albany defensive back Terrance Smith were both ejects. Replays on the scoreboard showed Smith punching Guerra in the head three times with basically a shove from Guerra in retaliation.
The Empire drove to the Columbus 5-yard line and two plays later 6-foot, 280-pound Mykel Benson went the final 2 yards for the score and it was 25-12 with just 26 seconds left in the half.
Columbus drove to the 5-yard line but a sack by Sykes helped throttled the scoring attempt.
With the ball at the 1-yard line, Grady hit Jones for a gain of 4 yards. Two plays later, Grady teamed up with Sims on a one-handed grab for the 41-yard touchdown reception and a 42-12 lead.
Nadler hit Cook for a short touchdown toss early in the fourth quarter and it was 42-18.
But the Empire backup quarterback Mason Espinosa threw a short touchdown pass to Collin Taylor for a 49-12 lead.
Columbus closes out the season at Washington on Saturday.
Albany 21 14 7 7 = 49
Columbus 6 6 0 6 = 18
AE – Malachi Jones 33 pass from Tommy Grady (Adrian Trevino kick)
CD – Fabian Guerra 9 run (run failed)
AE – Malachi Jones 40 pass from Tommy Grady (Adrian Trevino kick)
AE – Quentin Sims 32 pass from Tommy Grady (Adrian Trevino kick)
AE – Malachi Jones 37 pass from Tommy Grady (Adrian Trevino kick)
CD – Rob Wheelwright 3 run (pass failed)
AE – Mykel Benson 2 run (Adrian Trevino kick)
AE – Quentin Sims 45 pass from Tommy Grady (Adrian Trevino kick)
CD – Kenny Cook 8 pass from Liam Nadler (run failed)
AE – Quentin Sims 4 pass from Mason Espinosa (Adrian Trevino kick)