Winning has become a habit for the Massachusetts Pirates. The National Arena League expansion franchise proved it could play with a lead in its home opener, a 51-24 victory over Maine and last week showed it could come from behind in winning on the road in Jacksonville 63-51. After defeating the defending champion Sharks, the Pirates look to remain undefeated as they face the Carolina Cobras (1-1) this Saturday night in the Greensboro Coliseum at 7pm.
The Pirates have been impressive on both sides of the ball in the first two weeks of the season. On offense quarterback Sean Brackett has thrown five touchdown passes in each game. After catching three TD’s vs. Maine, wide receiver Devonn Brown did one better last week with six receptions for 166 yards and four scores including a 45 yard catch and run.
The Pirates held a 34-26 halftime lead in Jacksonville, but the Sharks started the third quarter with an 11 point run and looked to pull away before Brown’s big play. Head coach Ameer Ismail said the veteran leadership on this team helped the club right their ship in the second half.
“I like the poise we showed in the third quarter. Nobody panicked, nobody pointed fingers. We have a great group of guys who know this game and know about those swings.” Ismail said.
The Sharks had a chance to win the game in the final six seconds when Nicholas Belcher attempted a 50 yard field goal which was blocked by Bill Vavau and returned five yards for the final points by Toby Jackson. Ismail looked like a genius, putting his offensive lineman on the defensive line, but he admitted it was not entirely his decision.
“I’d like to take full credit for that move, but Vavau said to me, put me in there; let me get this thing.
He’s always trying to get on the defensive side. I know what he can do. He’s a tremendous athlete.
When you have a stud like that who comes up to you and say’s “put me in and I’ll block it,” it’s hard to say no.” said the coach.
This week the Pirates will have to slow down Carolina quarterback Charles McCullum who like Brackett, has thrown five TD passes in each of his first two games and last week ran for three scores in a 56-42 victory over Maine. His exploits are well known by Ismail.
“I played against McCullum in the IFL and I’ve coached against him too. He’s a talented veteran quarterback. He’s super athletic and use to play the game like Michael Vick. Now he’s more of a passer who can escape when he needs to.”
His top targets are Philip Barnett who has five TD receptions and Tyron Laughinghouse, who had nine receptions and a score in a week one loss to Jacksonville. He also had a touchdown reception last week.
Ismail said, “Our defensive backs are doing a great job, still we need to put more pressure on the quarterback so our DB’s aren’t covering for too long. We have to make McCullum uncomfortable.” he added.
The biggest improvement for the Pirates last week was on special teams. After connecting on just 3 of 8 PAT’s in week one, Ali Mourtada made 6 of 7 last week and made his first field goal of the season from 26 yards in the victory.