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Empire looks to bounce back after 1st loss

Empire looks to bounce back after 1st loss

First-place Albany heads to Washington
Empire looks to bounce back after 1st loss
Quentin Sims tries to make a play at the barrier during an early-season Empire game.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

ALBANY — One loss doesn't spoil its season.

The Albany Empire knows that. So after starting with six straight wins, the team is ready to move on after suffering its first loss last weekend with a 42-41 setback to the Baltimore Brigade.

“Obviously, it sucks to lose, but at the end of the day, we bounce back even harder,” Empire head coach Rob Keefe said after a practice earlier this week at Times Union Center. “I think it just makes us tighten everything up. Hit the reset button. I'm excited to see us bounce back, get after it, and what better way to do that than on the road when we can come together even more? We've had . . . a great week of practice.

“Now,” Keefe continued, “it's time to put it on the field and see where we go.”

That chance for the first-place Empire (6-1) comes 7 p.m. Saturday at the Washington Valor (4-3), a familiar opponent Albany has already beaten twice this year.

“We've played Washington a lot the past couple of years. They're a fun team to play, well-coached and they have a lot of good players,” Empire quarterback Tommy Grady said. “We're looking forward to the challenge again.”

How can the team be so eager to get right back out on the field after a tough loss, ending the quest for a perfect season?

Simple.

The Empire have just continued with its desire to go “1-0 every single week,” a motto the team has followed all season.

“It's just a 1-0 mentality, " Keefe said. "It's not putting too much weight and heaviness on your shoulders, not getting too far ahead. We have five regular-season games to go — we are not going to talk about four others. We're just going to talk about what's in front of us right now, which doesn't put a lot of pressure on our team, but I think that makes us focus even more.”

That mentality will be tested in the Empire’s final game of the regular season against Washington.

“We just have to keep building on last week. . . . Every week, we need to execute the game plan, limit the turnovers," Empire wide receiver Quentin Sims said. "We need to execute our game plan and make plays whenever we have the ability to do so.  It's a chess match for sure when you play a team as much as we've played Washington.”

The Empire have not lost back-to-back games since last June. Albany plans to avoid allowing that streak without back-to-back losses end.

“It’s about how you respond. As a coach, you wonder how the team is going to respond. Are they going to dust themselves off? Are they going to pout? These guys have responded greatly,” Keefe said. “But we know the fans haven’t seen that yet. I get to see it Monday through Friday. Saturday night, we’re going to put on a show because these guys are ready and they’re hungry because they feel bad they lost a game they know we should’ve won."

Heading into its matchup with Washington, Albany is two games clear of the rest of the AFL in the standings. Washington and Baltimore are tied for second place at 4-3 heading into Week 8.

“We’ve seen a lot of each other. Both times this year have been at home, and now we get to go there and they’re a really good team,” Keefe said. “They are the second team in the standings behind us. They’ll want to close the gap. We know that we are going to get their best.”

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