Playoff Primer – Albany Firebirds

Albany Football History

The Albany Firebirds team name was first used in 1990 during the first run of the original Arena Football League. The team functioned as an expansion team in only the league’s fourth season.

Over 11 seasons in Albany, the team made the playoffs in nine of them—finishing with an 88-60 record overall. Their most successful season was in 1999 when they won the ArenaBowl championship over the Tampa Bay Storm in front of a hostile, packed house in the Ice Palace in Tampa, Florida.

After the Firebirds left for Indiana in 2001, Albany went without indoor football for just a year. The following season, an expansion team in the AF2 was granted and promptly named the Albany Conquest.

After about half a decade, they rebranded for marketing purposes using the prior team name. The team would not survive long, though, and Albany was without football again for nearly a decade.

Finally, following a short stint as the Albany Empire, the Albany Firebirds, in their current iteration, were born into the new Arena Football League.

Don’t forget to check out new merch in the AFL Shop!

2024 Season Recap

The Firebirds started off this season hot – opening up at home against the playoff-bound Orlando Predators. Going into the half down by 16, they rallied to force overtime on the heels of 4 rushing touchdowns from Jake Medlock. An overtime field goal would seal their first victory and would set the tone for the early portion of the season.

They followed that performance with a more dominant showing at home against the Nashville Kats. This time, the aerial attack made the difference. 6 passing touchdowns led the squad to a 51-41 victory. Medlock and the squad were ready to continue the assault on the league.

The next five games would be a relative cakewalk for the Albany squad. They jumped their record up to 7-0 on the heels of some comfortable victories – most notably a 51-point trouncing of the SW Kansas Storm.

The only close games were a pair against the West Texas Desert Hawks, who they outscored by three and one, respectively. With the number one seed in sight, the squad looked poised to cement their place at the top.

Things didn’t shake out as planned for Albany, though. They dropped a close one to their former foe, the Orlando Predators, 57-49 in Week 8. They’d still have a chance to clinch the number one spot as they faced off with the Billings Outlaws, who were close on their tail. Leading by 11 points with nine seconds left, everything seemed mostly wrapped up.

Then, the impossible happened. The Outlaws nabbed a touchdown and a four-point conversion. That set up a deuce on the kickoff for the comeback upset, dropping the Firebirds into the #2 spot heading into the postseason.

Why They Can Win It All

The Firebirds’ obvious advantage is the first round bye. As a result, they have an advantage over the majority of the options and a seemingly easy path to the ArenaBowl. Having nearly beaten the odds-on favorite in the last game of the season should buoy confidence as well.

The Firebirds’ on-field advantage is maturity. QB standout Jake Medlock has been around the game for longer than most players in the league.

A 2014 college graduate, he played three superlative seasons at FIU. Since then, he’s been kicking around the game as a coach and semi-professionally, deciding to give it “one last ride” this season.

He’s been around long enough to see two of his former players now on the Firebirds with him. That maturity lends itself well to the high pressure situations, but he’s not the only one on the field who fits that bill.

Darien Townsend has been out of college for nearly a decade as well. The Youngstown State wideout has nabbed double-digit touchdowns for the squad this year and has served as the cool head (literally) when the Firebirds need a big play—Ditto for top target Darius Prince.

The 34-year-old has seen football in a lot of different places – from the XFL to the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad. There aren’t many wide receiver cores that can boast that kind of resume.

You can say similar things about some of the big men up front. Shawn Lockett anchors a strong offensive line. He entered into the indoor football sphere in 2015 and hasn’t looked back. He won a championship with a 2021 Albany Empire of the NAL – so he has that championship pedigree as well.

While the last two weeks of the regular season didn’t bode well for the team, the experience around them with multiple members having been in coaching roles, they have the maturity to right the ship. The two weeks off will only benefit them further as they get healthy.

Obstacles to the Title

You never want to be playing worse as the season comes to a close. The fact that the two games they lost in the final two weeks is cause for concern.

On the field, while the team has done mostly well protecting the ball this season, they seem to struggle late in the game. The Outlaws shocker was just a microcosm of a much larger issue of being outscored late in games.

In Week 7 against the West Texas Desert Hawks, they led 42-13 just before the half, only to be outscored 57 to 28 down the stretch, ultimately forcing overtime. Although they ultimately won that one thanks to a key takeaway in the extra period, the team’s on-and-off play is something they can’t afford in a big game.

Leave a comment

Contact Us

[email protected]

Feedback | Insight | Info | Inquiry | Partnership

Sign up to be an AFL Insider. Get the latest updates, game day recaps and news directly to you!