Conquest still in playoff race but have no room for error

If the Albany Conquest and Daytona Beach ThunderbIrds are in the same boat, as Conquest head coach J
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If the Albany Conquest and Daytona Beach ThunderbIrds are in the same boat, as Conquest head coach Jeff Hoffman said, it is sinking fast.

It’s small comfort, but at least the Conquest still have a life preserver within reach. Maybe.

Albany will play its last home game for almost a month at 7 tonight against Daytona at the Times Union Center.

As much as the 3-8 Conquest would like to stick to the old one-day-at-a-time spiel, the reality is that they have to win the rest of their games to have a chance to make the playoffs.

A good place to start is a game against the ThunderBirds, who are 2-9, although one of their victories was over the Conquest, 62-53, on May 8. Daytona lost five to start the season, won two in a row, and has lost its last four.

“We’re not out of the playoffs, but we did create a situation where our backs are against the wall, absolutely,” Hoffman said. “So we need to play our best the next couple of weeks. Eight-and-eight might get you into the playoffs, but if we finish 8-8 and we’re not in it, shame on us, because we’re the ones who created it.”

Hoffman has resisted the urge to make sweeping roster moves, but he has brought in a new center and fullback who will dress this week, and Colonie High School grad­uate R.J. Harvey will also be in uniform to bolster the receiving corps.

Harvey played for Albany in 2006 and for Fort Wayne at the beginning of last season, but suffered a leg injury, and hasn’t played since.

He has kept himself in shape, though, Hoffman said, and should add a burst of speed to a unit that shows just one player, Vernard Abrams, who is fully healthy right now.

“I’ve been keen on him,” Hoffman said. “He brings us speed. I can’t coach someone to run a 4.3 40. He has that ability, and he can catch the ball.”

Albany’s Daytona loss was the second of seven straight defeats. Since then, the Conquest have been close at times, and have been blown out at times.

They’re coming off a 40-31 loss at Lexington, while Daytona was trounced two weeks ago by powerful South Georgia,

84-28, heading into a bye week. The Thunderbirds gave up four defensive touchdowns in the game, and also fumbled a kickoff that was recovered in the end zone by South Georgia.

“They’re a mirror image of us,” Hoffman said. “They’re strong in some aspects, like their defense is tough, but they haven’t taken advantage of opportunities after takeaways.

“When things suddenly go bad, we rebound, but it takes too long for us to rebound. The players are loyal, they’re working hard and I think they’re thankful that I’ve been loyal to them, because in some places, they’d all be gone by now.”

The Conquest play at Manchester next Friday before a bye week, then play at

Louisville on July 12.

“I try to emphasize that the best team we’re going to face all week is Daytona Beach,” Hoffman said. “So to think about Manchester or Wilkes-Barre/Scranton or anybody else is just wasting time and energy.”

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