Four games into the National Arena League season, the Massachusetts Pirates are the number one scoring team in the league averaging just over 58 points per game.
Last week they set a team record with a 72 point effort on the road in a victory over Lehigh Valley. Thus far six receivers, three running backs and three quarterbacks have been involved in putting up the points for the man who orchestrates the play calling; offensive coordinator Anthony Payton. Payton says the reason for the Pirates offensive success is simple. “I believe its hard work. I know that’s cliché but I’ve got guys who come to practice every day and they trust me, they trust what I ask them to do and we’ve been doing this for so long that we put the pieces together and it works because we believe in one another.
That trust between the coach and his players means that everyone shares in the success. Six of the nine different ball carriers have found the end zone this season. The leading rusher is Dashawn Johnson with eight carries for 23 yards and two touchdowns.
Last week marked the return of quarterback Sean Brackett, who missed the game in Carolina as he was attending a tryout camp with Saskatchewan of the Canadian Football League. All Brackett did upon coming back was to throw for 237 yards and six touchdowns against the Steelhawks. That was not a surprise to Payton. “It’s all about consistency. We do the same things in practice over and over again. We look at a lot of film and we pick out things to exploit on the other team and we expose those things. Sean is an accurate quarterback and I’m so impressed with him. I wasn’t a big fan of Sean when I first got here because I didn’t see enough film on him but after working with him, I feel that he’s one of the best quarterbacks I’ve ever had.” Payton said. The coaches’ offensive scheme has protected Brackett as he has not been sacked this season allowing him to complete 42 of 84 passes for 16 touchdowns with just three interceptions.
Another bright spot last week was the addition of wide receiver Mardy Gilyard. In his first game with the Pirates Gilyard had one rushing touchdown and three receiving. Payton knew Gilyard was ready for a breakout game. “He’s a professional, that’s what it’s all about. I attempt to put these guys in position to win all the time. It’s all about trust. I trust them and they trust me and then we practice hard all the time. Having a great quarterback like Sean and a great receiver like Mardy; it’s easy to put it together when you have professionals working like that.”
Three receivers currently have double digit receptions through four games including Lamont Bryant with 14, Lavon Pearson has 18 receptions which is most on the team and right behind him is Devonn Brown with 17 grabs. Brown leads the team for 407 receiving yards and tops the Pirates in touchdown catches with 10. Brown was a part of Payton’s offense in Spokane last season and when building the offense in Massachusetts, the coach knew Brown would be a part of his plan.
“Devonn Brown is one of those guys I believed in last year when I had him in Spokane. Things didn’t work out for him there, but I’ve seen special things in Devonn. He’s one of those guys who comes to practice every day and if I tell him to do something he does it right away. He’s very talented so it’s almost easy.” The Pirates wide outs are thriving on what the coach has brought to Massachusetts. Payton developed his offensive style as a wide receiver in the Indoor Football League, the Arena Football League, and the AF2 from 1999 to 2006. Working with successful coaches has rubbed off on the man who now pushes the buttons for the Pirates. “I worked with Chris McEwen, who worked with Mike Daly, who worked with Mike Hohensee and all I do is the things that they taught me. There were many who came before me and I just carry the torch.” After coaching at the high school and college levels, Payton landed his first job as an offensive coordinator in arena football in 2006 with the AF2’s Louisville Fire. Later stops in Portland and Spokane helped paved his winning ways with the Pirates this season. Now as he builds his new team into the top offense in the NAL, he instills two key elements for success. “You have to have that killer instinct and yet play on an even keel,” Payton said. “You’ll never see me get too excited or too down on a football field because this game is up and down all the time. The thing I tell my offense is to never get down. If you drop a ball or fumble, don’t let it get to you. Stay on an even keel. There is no reason to panic because we can fix it so if I get my guys to have that mentality to stay the course, then we will be alright.”
The Massachusetts Pirates are members of the National Arena League (NAL).
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