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50 yards of 'war on the floor,' Arena Football kicks off again in Albany

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) - The acrobatic and hard-hitting game of Arena Football is back in the Capital Region Saturday night, as the Albany Empire suit up for the first time.

Arena Football (AFL) is back in the Capital Region officially at 7 p.m. Saturday night when the Albany Empire strap on their gear for the first time against the back-to-back Arena Bowl champions, Philadelphia Soul.

The Philadelphia Soul are associated with the current ownership group that has a stake in the Empire. They may be financially joined, but on Saturday will be rivals on the turf. The 2018 AFL season features four teams all on the East Coast: Albany Empire, Baltimore Brigade, Philadelphia Soul and Washington Valor. Other popular franchises such as the Los Angeles Kiss, Orlando Predators, Portland Steel, Tampa Bay Storm and Cleveland Gladiators have either shut down operations or moved to other leagues.

The Empire will be playing in what developed from the original Arena Football League, which the first version of the Albany Firebirds competed in. The Conquest/Firebirds were part of AF2, a developmental league that the Arena Football League ran from 2000 to 2009.

Arena Football comes back to Albany for the first time since 2009. The Albany Firebirds (AFL) left after the 2000 season and following the Albany Conquest/Firebirds (AF2), who ended operations in 2009.

Arena football is significantly different from conventional, outdoor football:

  • The field is half-sized (50 yards instead of 100)
  • Field goal posts are closer together, with netting on either side to keep the ball in play and allow all kicks to be considered “live”
  • You’re running on turf, in shoes (not cleats), and so you run a lot faster
  • Receivers and running backs are also allowed to go in motion before the quarterback snaps the ball; which is not allowed in the National Football League (NFL)

But, the athletes are just as big, fast, strong, and skilled as players in other leagues. Kurt Warner, remembered most for his career as quarterback with the St. Louis Rams (now Los Angeles Rams) and the Arizona Cardinals, got his start in the Arena Football League. The Pro Football Hall of Famer was a legend on the turf for the Iowa Barnstormers (1995-1997).

It’s extremely fast-paced, lots of big hits and touchdowns; it’s a fan’s dream to watch in person.
Despite the hiatus from Albany and the cut back of teams in the AFL, fans are still at a fever pitch for football at the Times Union Center.

The team has officially announced that tickets are sold out for Saturday night, but the pre-game block party the team was planning will now turn into the official watch party for the game, so fans can still feel the energy.

If the block party isn’t for you, the game will be on TV! The Arena Football League has a television contract with CBS Sports Network.

Additionally, fan favorite “Touchdown” Eddie Brown (father of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver, Antonio Brown) will be in attendance. He and his son will be the honorary captains. Eddie’s number 17 will also be retired to the rafters during halftime. Members of the 1999 Albany Firebirds Arena Bowl champions will be honored, as their banner will return to the rafters.

The team is pumped and so is the fan-base, make your plans to watch as the Albany Empire collide with the Philadelphia Soul Saturday night.

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