Predators handed a loss in home opener

Despite a nine touchdown performance by Rakeem Cato, the Predators were unable to get the win in the home opener on Saturday night.

The Predators (1-2) were handed their second loss of the season by the Albany Empire (2-1) with a score of 78-61. Cato said his nine touchdown performance does not matter when the team is handed a loss.

“When I have one of these performances with an L, it goes out the window,” Cato said. “I could have thrown 20 touchdowns, and if we got the L, I’m going back home to the drawing board to see what we could have done to win the ball game.”

The Predators started the game off strong by going up 13-0 in the first quarter, including a strong defensive stand midway through the quarter where lineman Freddy Booth-Lloyd recorded a sack on third down. This was followed by  a pass breakup by defensive back Dalvon Randall on fourth down. 

The Empire found a way to gain some momentum on offense and fought their way back in the second quarter to go down 25-22 at halftime. 

Orlando and Albany traded blows through most of the third quarter, but Orlando dug themselves in a hole after a miscommunication on a bad snap allowed for the Empire to recover a fumble in the endzone for a touchdown to go up 55-39 late in the third quarter.

It was here the problems began to ring in for the remainder of the game and Albany was able to come out with the win on the road.

Predators head coach Jeff Higgins said he praised the physicality of both teams, but mentioned the Empire is a great football team and he looks forward to seeing them later in the season.

“They’re a good football team,” Higgins said. “They’re world champions and they came here and proved why.”

Lineman De’Quan Murray said from top to bottom, the team has to get better going forward. 

“When we get our hot streak, we gotta keep going,” Murray said. “We got complacent, we got comfortable in the second half and we didn’t come out as hot as we were supposed to and that’s just what happened. We got a championship team and once we put everything together, we are going to get a ring.”

Another player who stepped up on the offensive side of the ball was wide receiver Larry Beavers, who had three catches for 66 yards and three touchdowns. Beavers said the coaching staff came to him and told him to step up and show the team what he is capable of.

“The coaching staff told me to step in and show my leadership and step up,” Beavers said. “I prayed on it, and prayed on it and I came out here and made some plays.”

After taking a loss to the Carolina Cobras (3-0) in week two of the 2022 season, the Cobras will come to the Jungle on Sunday at 3 p.m. Murray said he hopes a win on Sunday at home in front of fans will get the Predators on track where they need to be. 

“We need a win for the fans, they deserve it,” Murray said. “They showed a lot of love tonight and we didn't hold up our end of the bargain.”