Sean Brackett hit Lavon Pearson with a ten yard touchdown pass with five seconds remaining to give the Massachusetts Pirates a 44-37 victory over the Columbus Lions Sunday at the DCU Center in Worcester. The win gives the Pirates a record of 4 and 1 and a share of first place in the National Arena League.Massachusetts trailed 30 to 15 in the third quarter before staging a comeback. The home team outscored the Lions 29 to 14 in the second half.
For Columbus it was their first loss of the season dropping them to 2 and 1.The Lions scored on their first possession of the game as quarterback Mason Espinosa led fullback Quayvon Hicks into the end zone from ten yards out for a 7-0 lead.Four plays later Brackett answered with a ten yard toss to Mardy Gilyard, but a missed extra point left the Pirates down by one as the first quarter ended.Espinosa led his team on a seven play, 30 drive to up the lead to 14-6 as Durron Neal scored with 10:04 to play in the second quarter.
Gilyard kept the contest close with his second TD of the game. On third and 11 from their own 24 yard line, Brackett threw a ball to the ten yard line where Gilyard made a sliding catch under the coverage of Kyle Griswould. Griswould did not make contact with Gilyard who popped up and ran to the end zone for a 26 yard score and the Pirates trailed 14-13. The Pirates then took a brief 15-14 lead as Ali Mourtada connected on a “Duce” on the ensuing kickoff.Then the Lions started to pull away. Tristan Purifoy, who led the Lions with 97 receiving yards on the night, completed a six play, 45 yard drive with a 21 TD reception.
On the next series Chris Pickett intercepted Brackett on first and goal at the six and Lindsey Wolfe closed out the half with a 35 yard field goal to give Columbus a comfortable 23-15 advantage at the break.The Lions upped their lead to 30-15 as Espinosa found Hicks for his second TD reception, this one from nine yards, as it took only four plays for Columbus to drive 30 yards. It appeared the Pirates were in trouble as Tyler Stephenson intercepted Brackett and then Columbus drove into the red zone.
However, on third and eight at the ten yard line, Espinosa completed a pass to Jarmon Fortson at the five yard line, but Massachusetts defensive back Kiante Northington forced a fumble that was recovered by Nick Haag and the Pirates were given new life.Six plays later Bracket connected with Lavon Pearson from ten yards out to make the score 30-22. On the ensuing kickoff, Durron Neal was unable to return the ball out of the end zone. Devonn Brown made the tackle giving the Pirates their first “Uno” of the season to make the score 30-23.
The final quarter started with Massachusetts getting a defensive stop and the offense needed just three plays to tie the game as London Crawford carried it in from eight yards with Mourtada adding the point after with 12:02 remaining in the game.The Lions looked like they would tie the game as a catch and run by Purifoy gave Columbus a first and goal at the Pirates eight yard line. On the next play Espinosa was intercepted for the first time this season as Kaelin Burnett picked him off to end the threat. Eight plays later on fourth and six from the Lions nine yard line Brackett was forced to scramble, yet fired a strike to Gilyard who dove over the wall in the right corner of the end zone and held on for the score.
Gilyard was the games’ leading receiver with eight catches for 105 yards and two scores. The Pirates led 37-30 with 3:36 to play.The Lions would answer as in just three plays Espinosa (25 of 33 for 253 yards, 5TD, 1INT) marched his team 30 yards to tie the game at 37 with Fortson pulling in the score with just 1:27 left.The Pirates Demetruce McNeal’s 13 yard kickoff return to mid field gave Massachusetts a short field to work with and Brackett (24 of 31 for 226 yards, 5TD, 2INT) engineered a four play drive that concluded with Pearson pulling in his second TD of the game on a ten yard pass to give the Pirates the victory with just five seconds remaining.
The 44-37 win gives the Pirates a record of 4-1 share of first place in the NAL with Carolina who has an identical record.