The Massachusetts Pirates return home to the DCU Center this Sunday to face the Columbus Lions in a 4:25 pm start. The Pirates at 3-1 look to grab a share of first place while handing Columbus (2-0) its first loss of the season.With four games in the books the Pirates have been impressive, completing the first quarter of their season.After winning the home opener over Maine, the Pirates won two of their next three games on the road with victories over Jacksonville and Lehigh Valley. Only an eight point loss in Carolina has kept Massachusetts from having a perfect record.
Against the Cobras the team was without quarterback Sean Brackett who was trying out for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League.“It’s tough to get the chemistry right with quarterbacks who were only with the team for half a week,” said head coach Ameer Ismail.
“Sean got an opportunity with the CFL and that’s what it’s all about, getting a shot at a higher level. I want these guys to have opportunities with the CFL and the NFL. Unfortunately he didn’t sign with them but we’re glad to have him back with open arms.”Brackett made a seamless transition back to the team last week throwing six touchdown passes in a win over Lehigh Valley leading the Pirates to a 72 point effort, its best of the season.
The game also marked the first appearance of wide receiver Mardy Gilyard. Gilyard scored a rushing touchdown and pulled in three more passes for scores. He becomes a great complement to Devonn Brown who leads the team with 10 TD grabs and 407 receiving yards. Lavon Pearson leads the Pirates with 18 receptions to go along with 216 yards and four scores. Lamont Bryant also has double digit receptions with 14, 153 yards and a TD.In addition to having the highest scoring offense in the league averaging 58 points per game, the defense continues to shine.
Last week the Pirates defense scored three times as Pasqual Vacchio and John Hardy-Tuliau returned interceptions for touchdowns and Darryl Render recovered fumble for six points. Hardy-Tuliau and Kiante Northington each have four interceptions on the season and Northington leads the team in tackles with 23.5. Regardless, Ismail wants his team to strive for perfection.“We need to come up with more defensive stops in the second half when the game is on the line.” Ismail said. “We can’t have miscommunications on the goal line with our defense. We need to make teams drive the full length of the field, snap the ball more often and not score off one and two play drives. That’s the trademark of any great defense.” he added.Improvement has been seen on special teams as well. Kicker Ali Mourtada connected on eight of nine extra points last week while adding two “duces.” He now has split the uprights on kickoffs five times this season.
The undefeated Columbus Lions are averaging 50.5 points per game while allowing just 29.5 a contest. Impressively they have not allowed first quarter points in their first two games. Quarterback Mason Espinosa is completing 69 percent of his passes (36 of 52) for 425 yards and 10 touchdowns without an interception. Quayvon Hicks is the Lions leading rusher with eight carries for 53 yards. Jarmon Fortson is the leading receiver for Columbus with 18 receptions for 178 yards and 7 TDs while Durron Neal has 12 receptions for 158 yards and 3 scores.
The Massachusetts Pirates are members of the National Arena League (NAL).
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