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Empire wants to avoid 'trap game' at Columbus

Empire wants to avoid 'trap game' at Columbus

Undefeated Albany is alone in first place
Empire wants to avoid 'trap game' at Columbus
Empire head coach Rob Keefe, left, is shown at media day earlier this year.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

COLONIE — His team is 3-0.

His team’s opponent is 0-3.

So?

“It’s a total trap game,” Albany Empire head coach Rob Keefe said of Saturday’s 7 p.m. road game against the Columbus Destroyers, a squad the Empire defeated 35-19 in Week 1.

The Empire is coming off an impressive 57-48 win on the road against the Philadelphia Soul, a victory that left Albany alone in first place in the Arena Football League. In that win, Empire quarterback Tommy Grady completed 14 of 17 passes for 256 yards, and half of his completions went for touchdowns.

Meanwhile, the Destroyers are the only AFL team to lose a game this season by double-digits — and the Destroyers have done that twice in three games.

“So these are all the makings where if we don’t take this seriously, we could take a loss,” Keefe said after his team’s practice Thursday at Afrim's Sports. “We can’t give up anything that can really get their crowd going. We’re very aware that desperate teams are dangerous teams.”

A desperate team, Keefe said, is what he expects Albany to face at Columbus.

“Last thing they want to do is go to 0-4,” Keefe said.

And the last thing the Empire wants is to move to 3-1.

JONES BACK

It raised some eyebrows when star wide receiver Malachi Jones was placed Wednesday on league suspension.

“But a league suspension can be for anything,” Keefe said. “It’s not necessarily a negative thing. It could be that a guy had to go home for a particular amount of time, or a guy had another league contact him and he went on a workout, or it could be a situation where a player has to take care of something personally.”

What Jones took care of was a workout with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans. Jones had to be placed on league suspension to take part in that, and then Jones was reactivated Thursday afternoon.

Jones missed the Empire’s Wednesday and Thursday practices, but is expected to play this weekend for Albany.

This season, Jones has 23 receptions for 350 yards and five touchdowns through three games.

EXTRA SPACE

Depending on the week, the Empire either practices at its home Times Union Center in Albany or at the more spacious Afrim's Sports. Keefe said there are advantages to both settings for the team.

“More guys can fit on the field at one time [at Afrim’s]. Sometimes, when we’re at the TU Center and you have a big team like we do, there’s only so much space you can use and utilize. Here, at Afrim’s, it allows us to spread out a little bit more,” Keefe said. “They’re equally great. It’s good to practice at the TU Center because that’s our home base, but that turf can be hard on your body, too.”

As the weather warms up, Keefe said he will bring his team outside for occasional practices, too.

“Summer’s coming,” Keefe said. “The minute it starts getting nice, we’ll go outside every now and then. I think that’s good for the spirit.”

RARE FLIGHT

Added into this week’s itinerary for the Empire?

A plane ride, which is the first time this season the Empire will travel that way.

“We’ll bus to all of them except for Columbus,” Keefe said.

The Empire also play at Columbus in Week 12.

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