Conquest strategy in overtime produces win

The Albany Conquest chose to let the Peoria Pirates have the ball first in overtime, then rallied to

There really wasn’t any choice to make.

Albany Conquest head coach Jeff Hoffman had already made up his mind that if his team went into overtime and won the coin flip, he would kick off first, so he could try to match whatever the Peoria Pir­ates did and have a chance to win the home opener Sunday at Times Union Center.

In arenafootball2, each team gets one possession in the overtime per­iod. If no team scores, the game goes into sudden death.

When the Peoria Pirates rallied to send the game into OT and then took control of the game on Kentavious Jones’ one-yard plunge and Nathan Palkovic’s PAT, Hofman never hesitated.

Albany quarterback Dan Cole not only kept the winning drive going with a 39-yard scramble, but he also hit Clarence Curry with a two-yard TD pass and then found Vernard Abrams with a slant pass over the middle for a two-point conversion to lift the Conquest to a 55-54 victory.

It was Hoffman’s first victory as an af2 head coach, and evened the Conquest’s record at 1-1.

“We knew the decisions we would make and the play we would use as soon as we found out we were going into overtime,” said Hoffman. “In this league, all the coaches do the same thing, because of the one-possession rule. If you win the coin flip, you’ve got to let the other team get the ball first so that you can have the last chance to win the game.

“We knew we were going to use that slant pass, because there is no real illegal pick rule in this league, and we could rub our receiver off Antun Williams.

“This is an unbelievable feeling,” Hoffman said. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. After we lost our first game, we had to wait two weeks to play this game because of the bye, It felt like forever.

“I’d like to say hats off to Peoria,

because they had a 16-hour bus ride to get here. But this is what arena football is all about. We had 1,000 reasons to fold camp, but we didn’t.”

Hoffman disagreed with many of his players on the importance of the game.

“This was not a must-win, in my opinion,” he said. “If my players are saying that, it’s because they are the players and I’m the coach. But was it a crucial win? Absolutely.”

Cole, the former Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute star quarterback, played a major role in the game-winning drive. After throwing an incomplete pass on the first play of the drive, he scampered 39 yards on a keeper to set up his pass to Curry.

“I didn’t think I could run that far any more,” he said with a laugh.

After he hooked up with Curry for the touchdown pass, he also had to make a pin-point toss for the game-winning conversion strike to Abrams.

“This just goes to show much we worked as a team in this game. We made the plays when we had to,” said Cole, who completed 26 of 45 passes for 281 yards and five touchdowns.

“We had that final play picked out. On the conversion pass, I threw the ball as hard as I could to a place where he could get it.

“I think that was a must-win for us. To win like this proved a lot to ourselves and to our fans.”

Going for the win instead of the tie didn’t surprise Williams, who caught several key passes in the second half.

“I was thinking, let’s go for it. We all knew the play was already called as soon as we scored that touchdown,” he said.

The Conquest, who lost to Mah­oning Valley, 55-36, in their season opener, matched the Pirates score for score in the opening half. Cole tossed three scoring strikes, two to Williams and one to Jared Jones, and he also rushed for another TD to help his team go into the intermission tied at 27-27.

When the Pirates’ two-point conversion run failed late in the third quarter, the Conquest opened up a 47-39 cushion on Cole’s TD pass to Jones, but Jason Fralicker’s PAT attempt caromed off the left post.

With the help of several Conquest penalties, the Pirates knotted the score at 47-47 on Justin Rascati’s three-yard TD pass to

Davin Dennis and Maurice Rumley’s two-point conversion run.

The Conquest seemed to have the advantage with the clock winding down, but Cole’s pass deep in Peoria territory was tipped and intercepted by Scott Genord with 30.4 seconds remaining in regul­ation.

Albany’s defense stiffened, however, and the Pirates couldn’t drive deeper than the Conquest’s 16-yard line before time expired.

Albany travels to Manchester Friday.

Peoria 14 13 12 8 7 — 54

Albany 7 20 20 0 8 — 55

P – Thornton 11 pass from Rascati (Palkovic kick).

A – Williams 3 pass from Cole (Fralicker kick).

P – Dennis 35 pass from Rascati (Palkovic kick).

A – Cole 2 run (Fralicker kick).

A – Williams 4 pass from Cole (kick failed).

P — Brock 45 pass from Rascati (Palkovic kick).

A – Jones 10 pas from Cole (Fralicker kick).

P – Brock 11 pass from Rascati (kick failed).

A – Jones 50 kickoff return (Fralicker kick).

P – Rascati 2 run (kick failed).

A – DeLuise 1 run (Fralicker kick).

P – Dennis 50 kickoff return (run failed).

A – Jones 10 pass from Cole (kick failed).

P – Dennis 3 pass from Rascati (Rumley pass from Rascati).

P – Jones 1 run (Palkovic kick).

A – Curry 2 pass from Cole (Curry pass from Cole.).

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