Turnovers, defensive lapses and a few bad breaks added up to a rough Saturday night for the Alabama Hammers, who fell 64-51 to the Albany Panthers before 3,941 fans at the Albany Civic Center.
The Hammers were in the game until the end and trailed just 57-51 after Darian Payne's fumble recovery in the end zone with five minutes remaining in regulation. Alabama, however, couldn't come up with a crucial defensive stop down the stretch and the Panthers (3-0) sealed the victory on Cecil Lester's 30-yard scoring strike to wide receiver John Harris.
The Hammers dropped to 2-1 on the Professional Indoor Football League season and will have a bye week before hosting the Columbus Lions April 6 at the Von Braun Center.
"We made some early mistakes that cost us, but the guys continued to fight and we were right in it until the very end," Hammers coach Dean Cokinos said. "Now we just have to reload and go back at it."
Lester's 11-yard pass to Antwontis Cutts late in the first half had given the Panthers a 20-point lead, but the Hammers answered on Russell Hill's 24-yard scoring strike to Mico McSwain to make it a 36-23 game at intermission.
The Albany lead fluttered at 20 through the third quarter and into the fourth before McClain's 40-yard pass from Hill pulled the Hammers within 57-44 with 7:45 remaining. That was followed by Payne's recovery and Brian Jackson's extra point that trimmed the lead to six, but the Panthers sealed the victory down the stretch.
Hill finished the night completing 16 of 33 attempts for 198 yards and five touchdowns with a pair of interceptions. McSwain had seven receptions and a pair of scores, while McClain had five for two touchdowns and Jeremy Grier four with one touchdown. Defensive back Vince Hill paced the Alabama defense with seven tackles.
Lester had an impressive game completing 23 of 34 passes for 291 yards and eight touchdowns. Cutts had 11 receptions for 138 and three scores for a Panther squad that took advantage of four Hammer turnovers.