Firebirds vs. Mahoning Valley: Albany picks off Thunder

The Albany Firebirds played like vultures Saturday night at Times Union Center.

The Albany Firebirds played like vultures Saturday night at Times Union Center.

Just about every time Mahoning Valley tried to pass, the Firebirds went on a feeding frenzy, intercepting an arenafootball2-record 11 passes en route to a 62-28 victory over the Thunder before a crowd of 4,662.

Alvin Ray Jackson was the indiv­idual hero of the game. Fresh off being named the af2’s IronMan of the week, Jackson intercepted a league-record five passes, including one for a score, and he added a pair of TD receptions, as well.

The previous af2 record for most interceptions in a game was four, shared by three players. The prev­ious league mark for team interceptions in a game was seven, by Tulsa at Arkansas July 22, 2006.

Albany also set a team mark for most points in a quarter (28 in the first period). Jackson also broke the league record for most return yards in a game (101).

E.J. Whitley intercepted three passes, Jamel Ramsay had two picks, including one for a score, and Kenne Williams also had an interception for the Firebirds.

“Man, I can’t believe it,” said Jackson, who also won the defensive player of the game and gig catch of the game awards after hauling in a juggling, one-handed catch for one of his scores.

“To tell you the truth, we made a lot of coverage mistakes last week, and Coach [Charlie] Davidson made us stay 21⁄2 hours after practice. We had to get our coverages correct, and we’ve got to give a lot of credit to him, because we had [the Thunder’s] game plan down pat.”

Although offenses usually have the advantage in arena football, the Firebirds’ defensive secondary dominated the Thunder.

“I guess you can stop somebody a little in this league,” said Jackson. “All the DBs played well. It was just one of those games. There were a lot of lot of keys and reads that I saw on film that came up in this game. A good example was that fade route. I knew it was coming, and I just stepped in.”

Albany head coach Tony Bowick was thrilled with his defense.

“My hat’s off to Coach Davidson,” Bowick said. “He got them prepared, and gave them the right reads. I’ve been in this league a long time, and I’ve never seen that [11 picks] before. It was time for us not to have a nail-biter for a change.”

About the only thing Bowick wasn’t that happy about was that his offense was a little sloppy. Not that the Firebirds needed that much offense with the defense clamping down so effectively.

“When you get that many turnovers, you’ve got to score some points,” Bowick said. “You’ve got to score on more than half your opportunities. That’s what got me a little concerned.”

Albany quarterback Stephen Wasil had the luxury of not having to play a special game.

“You always want to be perfect, but our defense was one big storm tonight,” Wasil said. “If our defense can build off this, it should help us for the rest of the season. I’m not saying we’re going to get 11 interceptions. That was a little over the wall, but when your defense plays like this, it helps the offense.”

Albany (5-6), which has won five of its last six games, took a quick 21-0 lead over the 1-10 Thunder. Wasil tossed a long scoring pass to Christian Wise, and following Williams’ interception, Wasil and Wise teamed up again for a 27-yard TD.

Jackson came up with his first pick, and returned it for an apparent score. It was nullified by a penalty on the return, but Wasil then threw a 15-yard strike to Jackson to build Albany’s cushion to 21-0.

Davon Vinson snapped the shutout with a 32-yard strike to Jermaine Moye, but Wasil came right back with a 33-yard scoring toss to Jared Jones to stretch Albany’s edge to 28-7 after a quarter.

There were only two scores in the second period, one by each team. Jackson returned an interception 53 yards for one TD, while CJ Brewer snared a five-yard pass from Vinson just before the half to cut the Thunder’s deficit to 34-14.

Jackson caught a six-yard TD pass from Wasil for the only score in the third period, and then the Firebirds outscored the Thunder, 21-14, in the final period.

Former Albany starting quarterback Adam Bednarik caught two of the three TDs, while Ramsay returned an interception 37 yards for the other.

The Thunder scored their final two touchdowns in the last 1:49 of the game. Brad Roach, who started the game but was then relieved by Vinson, hit Brewer with his second score of the game, and Quorey

Payne caught a Roach scoring strike from four yards out with five seconds left.

Wasil completed 22 of 36 passes for 302 yards and seven TD tosses. It was the fifth straight week that he had at least 300 yards passing and six TDs. Jones and Jackson had 85 and 76 yards, respectively, to lead the Albany receivers.

Mahoning Valley 7  7  0 14 — 28

Albany 28  6  7 21 — 62

A — Wise 46 pass from Wasil (Umstead kick).

A — Wise 27 pass from Wasil (Umstead kick).

A — Jackson 15 pass from Wasil (Umstead kick).

MV — Moye 32 pass from Vinson (Schorejs kick).

A — Jones 33 pass from Wasil (Umstead kick).

A — Jackson 53 interception return (kick failed).

MV — Brewer 5 pass from Vinson (Schorejs kick).

A — Jackson 6 pass from Wasil (Umstead kick).

A — Bednark 2 pass from Wasil (Umstead kick).

A — Ramsay 37 interception return (Umstead kick).

MV — Brewer 16 pass from Roach (Schorejs kick).

A — Bednarik 30 pass form Wasil (Umstead kick).

MV — Pane 4 pass from Roach (Schorejs kick).

Categories: Sports

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