Worcester, MA. The Massachusetts Pirates wrapped up their three game road trip as they defeated the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks at the PPL Center in Allentown to run their record to 3 and 1 on the season.
Lehigh Valley (0-3) took the opening kick and drove to the Pirates 14 yard line, but on third and six, John Griggs and Nick Haag sacked QB Caleb Walton. That forced Spence Hotaling to attempt at 29 yard field goal which was no good. The Pirates took over at their own five yard line but four plays later Cornelius Lewis was called for holding with quarterback Sean Brackett passing from the end zone. The result was a safety and the Steelhawks led 2-0 with 6:30 to play in the first quarter.
When Lehigh Valley’s next drive stalled at their own 19, Hotaling was called on and his 46 yard field goal attempt was good to give the Steelhawks at 5-0 lead with 3:47 remaining.
The Pirates got on the board with their next possession as Brackett hit Devonn Brown from 12 yards out for his ninth touchdown of the season. Ali Mourtada’s point after was good as Massachusetts had its first lead of the game. Mourtada added a duce to push the score to 9 -5 with 2:18 on the clock.
Lehigh Valley was looking at second and eight at their own seven yard line when J.D. Griggs tipped Caleb Walton’s pass into the arms of Pasqual Vacchio who returned it for a touchdown. A failed two-point conversion ensued and the score remained 15-5 as the quarter came to a close.
The Pirates defense scored again to start the second quarter as John Hardy-Tuliau intercepted Walton and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown. For Tuliau it was his fourth interception of the season and his second pick six. Massachusetts led 22-5.
Mardy Gilyard scored on the next two Pirate possessions. The first was a one yard run and after Hotaling missed a 60 yard field goal, Gilyard pulled in a ten yard pass and the Pirates led 38-5 with 1:26 to play in the half. The Steelhawks scored their first touchdown of the night with 38 seconds left in the half as Walton completed a six yard bullet to Brandon Renford.
The Pirates then gave the football back to Lehigh Valley as Lamont Bryant caught a Brackett pass but Dom Joseph forced a fumbled and recovered it at the Steelhawks 23. Three plays later Walton found Leroy McClain from 16 yards out and the half ended with the Pirates leading 38-18.
In the third quarter Massachusetts took the ball and drove 47 yards in three plays. Gilyard scored his third touchdown of the night on a three yard pass from Brackett. Mourtada’s point after made the score 45 to 18.
On the very next play on first and ten from the 21, Nick Haag’s strip sack of Caleb Walton saw the ball roll all the way into the end zone where Darryl Render recovered it for the third defensive score of the night. The lead ballooned to 52 to 18.
After Hotaling missed a 45 yard field goal attempt, Brackett went deep, this time hooking up with Lavon Pearson from 30 yards to extend the lead to 58-18 with 3:13 remaining in the third. After a failed onside kick, the Pirate defense picked off its third interception of the game. This time it was Hardy-Tuliau tipping a pass near the goal line and Kiante Northington pulled it in at the 2.
The Pirates drove into the fourth quarter and on third and goal from the nine Brackett threw another TD pass to Gilyard for his four score of the evening to run the score to 65-18 with 11:39 to play.
With 6:08 to play Steelhawks quarterback Kip Patton threw an 18 yard TD pass to Brandon Renford for his second score on the night, but the conversion failed as Lehigh Valley trailed 65-24.
With 1:59 to play Northington intercepted Patton for his second pick of the content and on the next play Brackett fired his seasons’ best sixth TD pass of the night. This one going 29 yards to Brown for the final score of the night and a 72-24 Pirates victory.
Gilyard, who led all Pirate receivers with six receptions, saw his first game action of the season. Brackett however was not surprised with Gilyard’s effort.
“We played together in Jacksonville and we throw together every day. Mardy is a great receiver and he makes it easy for me. I just have to put the ball in our playmakers hands and let them do their thing “ said the quarterback.
Coach Ameer Ismail said, “Mardy Gilyard was the man. He comes with a lot of drive and passion and he had a great week of practice. I’m very proud of him, he deserves it and we look for him to continue his success throughout the year.”
The coach also credited his defense for providing big momentum swings with three scores. “The defensive line did a great job tonight getting pressure and the secondary capitalized on the balls that were thrown their way,“ he said.
- Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Total
- Pirates 15 23 20 14 72
- Steelhawks 5 13 0 6 24
The Massachusetts Pirates are members of the National Arena League (NAL).
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