Firebirds one win away from .500 record

For old-time fans of the original Albany Firebirds, tonight’s game with the Peoria Pirates at the Pe

For old-time fans of the original Albany Firebirds, tonight’s game with the Peoria Pirates at the Peoria Civic Center rekindles memories of former Albany head coach Mike Hohensee, who led the Albany franchise from 1994 through 1996, but is now with the Pirates.

Hohensee’s Firebirds posted a 27-11 record and made the playoffs all three seasons, but that’s ancient history. His current Pirates are struggling with a 2-8 record, and have dropped two of the three games he has coached.

More importantly, the Firebirds, who are in sole possession of second place in the East Division of the American Conference, can reach the .500 mark with a victory over the Pirates, and Albany is one of the hottest teams in the league.

The Firebirds (5-6), who have won five of their last six games, are coming off a 62-28 pounding of the Mahoning Valley Thunder last week at the Times Union Center. In that game, Albany set an arenafootball2 record for most interceptions in a game with 11. Linebacker/wide receiver Alvin Ray Jackson broke the individual record for picks in a game with five. He returned them for a league-record 120 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown.

Jackson also caught a team-high seven catches for 76 yards and a pair of scores. He was named the league’s IronMan of the Week for the second straight week, and leads the club in total tackles (43), interceptions (seven) and fumble recoveries (four).

Jackson also tops the Firebirds in scoring with 19 touchdowns and 114 points. He has 57 receptions for 526 yards (second on the team) and is one of three players on the roster who has started in all 11 games.

Lost in the record-breaking defensive performance last week was the play of defensive back EJ Whitley, who picked off three passes in just his second career game. Two weeks ago, in his af2 debut, he forced a goalline fumble to help the Firebirds beat Manchester. The UNLV product and former Rough Rider in the Canadian Football League has 5 1⁄2 tackles.

Defensive back Jamel Ramsay had two interceptions last week, including one for a touchdown. He has 33 tackles, six pass break-ups and two forced fumbles in six games.

Defensive back Kenneth Will­iams returned from a stint on the injured reserve list to record his first interception of the season. He has 331⁄2 tackles, and seven pass break-ups.

Offensively, the Firebirds have flourished ever since quarterback Stephen Wasil returned from a knee injury, and replaced backup quarterback Adam Bednarik.

Wasil threw for at least 300 yards and six touchdowns for the fifth straight game against Mahoning Valley. In seven starts, he has a 114.1 passer rating with 1,897 yards and 40 touchdown passes.

Peoria, which returns to Albany to complete a home-and-home series next week, is led by quarterback Luke Drone, who has completed 120 of 209 passes for 1,327 yards and 29 touchdowns. Brian Albrooks (45 receptions, 502 yards, 16 touchdowns) and Dante Ridgeway (42 catches, 526 yards, nine touchdowns) are his favorite targets.

Categories: Sports

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