Conquest back on track, face Wolves tonight

Feel the breeze? That’s the Albany Conquest’s collective sigh of relief after snapping their seven-g

Feel the breeze? That’s the Albany Conquest’s collective sigh of relief after snapping their seven-game losing streak last week with a 59-49 win over the Daytona Beach Thunderbirds.

Despite that long losing skein, the Conquest (4-8) still have a shot at the arenafootball2 playoffs, but they must continue to win, starting with tonight’s game against the Manchester Wolves (5-7). The Wolves are a game ahead of the Conquest in the American Conference East Division standings. Game time at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H., is 7:05.

“Winning last week was a huge monkey off our backs,” said Conquest head coach Jeff Hoffman. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, but for a while there, I was really wondering when was the next time we were going to win. In fact, you start wondering if you are ever

going to win again.”

The good news is that all facets of the game — offense, defense and special teams — were clicking against the 2-10 Thunderbirds. That hadn’t happened in a very long time.

“Our defense has been playing well for the last couple of weeks, and that continued, but last week was the first time that we played well in all aspects of the game. We even kicked two field goals on spec­ial teams. It seems like we’re hitting on all cylinders for a change, as opposed to making a few good defensive plays or a few good offensive plays here and there.”

Hoffman said the Conquest didn’t give up during the losing streak.

“We didn’t tank the season. We stuck together. In fact, we got that swagger back when we played Daytona Beach. How did we change things around? That’s a tough thing to figure out,” Hoffman said. “If I knew the answer, I would have done something about this seven weeks ago. All the bad things that happened to us began in the second half against Tennessee Valley [in game No. 5]. After that, we got into a funk. I don’t know what the formula is for getting out of it, but it looks like we are finally going in the right direction.

“The funny thing is that our practice sessions have been great all along. They’ve been the same whether we’ve been winning or losing. We just kept pushing forward until we got through it. We’ve

always had good practices, but they didn’t translate into what we did on the field.”

Hoffman isn’t sure if the Conquest can still make the playoffs, but he knows his team won’t lack in the effort department.

“I’ve been asked if we can still make the playoffs, and I don’t think it’s completely out of the question,” Hoffman said. “But we’ve got to win this week. If we go 8-8 and don’t get into the playoffs, it’s our own fault, because we put ourselves in that position. But to say it’s impossible, I don’t know. We certainly can’t afford to lose to Manchester.”

Hoffman said one of the problems with playing a divisional team is that everyone knows so much about each other’s roster.

“With teams like Manchester, Mahoning Valley and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, we play them so darn much that everyone knows everything about each other,” he said. “We’re not going to worry that much about what Manchester does. We’ll try to do what we do well. If we can do our stuff right, including blocking and catching the ball, the other teams will have trouble with us. We’ll just concentrate on what we do well the rest of the season.”

Albany quarterback Dan Cole, who ran for two touchdowns last week, has completed 253 of 468 passes for 2,842 yards and 56 touchdown passes. Cole needs 91 rushing yards to break Ryan Vena’s single-season record for rushing (241 yards).

Wide receiver Antun Williams, who has 75 receptions for 953 yards and 27 touchdowns, needs 12 scores to tie Tony Locke’s single-season team record of 39 TD receptions during the 2004 season.

Manchester, which has won four of its last five games, is led by quarterback James Pinkney (146-for-237, 2,025 yards, 40 TD passes) and receivers Bradley Chavez (71 catches, 907 yards, 21 TDs) and Emery Sammons (66 catches, 948 yards, 19 TDs).

The Conquest have a bye next week, and then play at the Louisville Fire on July 12. They don’t return home until July 18 against the Manchester Wolves.

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