Sean Brackett connected with Lavon Pearson on a two yard pass play with 4.4 seconds remaining as the Massachusetts Pirates defeated the Columbus Lions 62-55 to run their record to 7-3 and move into sole possession of second place in the National Arena League standings.
The Lions (5-3) had an excellent shot to win the game with 24 seconds to play. With the score tied at 55, Columbus was in the red zone, but on first and ten at the 17 yard line, Mason Espinosa’s lateral to Tristan Purifoy was deflected by Kiante Northington and was recovered by Darryl Render to set up the winning drive for the Pirates.
The game was close from the outset. The Lions Kyle Griswould intercepted Brackett on the second play of the game and four plays later Espinosa dove over the goal line from two yards out to give Columbus the lead.
Two plays later Brackett fired a 22 yard TD strike to Pearson and the shootout was on. Another touchdown plunge by Espinosa and a Brackett to Devon Brown 42 yard bomb saw the Pirates leading 14-13 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter began with Purifoy pulling in a five yard pass for a short lived 20-14 advantage. Purifoy finished the game with five receptions for 105 yards and a score. The Pirates answered with a five play drive ending with Bones Bagaunte catching a four yard TD toss and Ali Mourtada’s extra point regained the lead, 21-20 for Massachusetts.
With 5:45 before halftime, Espinosa continued his ground assault with his third rushing touchdown of the night from two yards out for a 27-21 lead for the Lions, but the scoring was far from over.
The Pirates looked as if they might pull away as after a Darron Thomas one yard TD run, Bagaunte fielded a missed 58 yard field goal attempt by Derek Vacha three yards deep in his own end zone and took it the length of the field on an electrifying return for six. The Lions came right back with Durron Neal catching his first of three scores on the night to knot the game at 34 all. With 29 second remaining in the half, Brackett went deep to Brown again, this time with a 30 scoring play and the Pirates held a 41-34 lead at the break.
Columbus began the second half with a botched hand off between Espinosa and Quayvonn Hicks. The fumble was scooped up by Cheatham Norrils who raced 20 yards into the end zone for a score and the Pirates led 48-34. The Lions kept pace as Larry Edwards blocked an Ali Mourtada 23 yard field goal attempt and they turned it into points as Neal hooked with Espinosa from 29 yards to make it a seven point game with a quarter to play.
Columbus back-up quarterback Jeremy Johnson played the entire game at receiver filling in for the injured Jarmon Fortson and pulled in a nine yard TD pass to tie the game at 48. Both teams came up with stops which established the tone for the final four minutes. On second and ten from his own 23 Brackett took a shot at the end zone only to see Chris Pickett come up with an interception at the goal line. Pickett returned the pick 40 yards and on the next play, Neal caught his third TD of the night. The Columbus wide out finished with nine catches for 126 yards and three scores. The Lions led 55-48 with 3:13 to play.
The Pirates would not back down as Brackett found Brown for the third time to even the score at 55 with 51 second remaining. Brown led the Pirates receivers with six receptions for 126 yards and three scores.
The Lions began their final drive from the 20 yard line and after a 13 yard reception by Neal, the failed lateral, forced by Northington and recovered by Render, gave the Pirates the chance they needed to win. Brackett engineered a four play, 23 yard drive which ended with Pearson catching a slant at the goal line for the victory.
Brackett ended his night 16 of 27 for 215 yards and six TD passes against two interceptions. Espinosa finished 21 of 37, 264 yards and five scores.
Up next the Pirates are the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks on Saturday night at the DCU center at 7pm.
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