Devonn Brown’s touchdown catch at the final horn was just enough as the Pirates came from behind to defeat the Carolina Cobras 56-53 to give the Pirates their tenth win of the season as they remain securely in first place in the National Arena League.
Massachusetts (10-4) won its third game at home this season in walk-off fashion after trailing 36-34 at halftime and twice in the fourth quarter. This was also the first Massachusetts win over Carolina (8-5) in three attempts this season.
The Pirates jumped out to a 2-0 lead as Ali Mourtada stated the game with a “Duece.” A Kiante Northington fumble recovery on the Cobras first possession led to a Sean Brackett to Bones Bagaunte four yard touchdown pass and a drop kick PAT by Mourtada but the Pirates up 10-0 with 8:56 to play in the first quarter. The Cobras answered with a Charles McCullum two yard strike to Philip Barnett, but one play later Mardy Gilyard pulled in a 30 TD pass from Brackett. Massachusetts forced a defensive stop and the Pirates scored again on a one-play drive as Lavon Pearson’s 26 yard reception gave the Pirates a 22-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Carolina came back in the second quarter as McCullum devised a six play, 30 yard drive culminating in a Fabian Guerra TD catch. Craig Peterson’s “Duce” cut the deficit to 22-15 and then the defense did its part as Michael Green intercepted Brackett and he returned it 32 yards for “Pick-Six” The game was tied at 22. The teams traded touchdowns on the next four possessions. Gilyard put the Pirates up 28-22 with his second touchdown of the night, Jordan Jolly responded with a 20 yard TD catch to give Carolina a 29-28 lead, Devonn Brown put Massachusetts back out front with a score from 21 yards out and the Cobras Tyrell Goodman pulled in a six yard reception with 42 seconds left in the half for a 36-34 advantage. The half ended with Green intercepting Brackett for the second time in the half. He returned the ball 41 yards but was stopped at the five yard line as the half came to a close.
The showdown went off script in the third quarter as after the teams combined for 70 points in the first half, no one found the end zone in the third set. The Cobras stopped the Pirates in the red zone as Mourtada missed a 23 yard field goal and Carolina fumbled a snap going in for a score at the goal line which was recovered by B.J. McBryde. That set the stage for a final quarter that would see the lead change hands five times.
The Pirates scored first as Pearson pulled in his 18th TD reception of the season and the Pirates led 40-36. Pearson finished with five receptions for 66 yards and two scores. Jolly’s second score of the night and another “Duece” by Peterson put the Cobras up by five, 50-45. Jolly led all receivers in the game with 11 receptions for 122 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Pirates came right back as on the first play from the five yard line Brackett went deep, 45 yards to Brown who out raced Cedric Poole, making a fingertip catch in full stride before hitting the wall and Massachusetts led 46-45. Brackett found Gilyard with a two-point conversion pass, Mourtada added a “Duece” and the Pirates were up by five, 50-45 with 10:38 to play.
McCullum then led the Cobras down the field on a 10 play, 45 yard drive ending with a two yard pass to Goodman. A two-point conversion pass to Jolly put Carolina ahead 53-50 with 1:58 to play. That was more than enough time for the Pirates to mount their final drive.
After two incomplete passes from their own 20 yard line Brackett connected with Brown on a 14 pass to the Cobras 16 and a first down. Bagaunte pulled in back to back passes to advance the ball to the nine yard line. On third down Pearson’s two yard reception left the Pirates with a fourth and one on the seven yard line with 1.7 seconds on the clock. With the ball on the left hash, Brackett went under center, took a three step drop and threw a perfect pass to Brown who was wide open in the right corner of the end zone. Brown finished the game with six receptions for 105 yards and three touchdowns.
The quarterbacks put on a show as expected as Brackett was 22 of 32 for 273 yards, two interceptions and eight touchdowns. He now has thrown 72 touchdown passes this season. The Pirates offensive line did not allow a sack while McCullum was sacked once by Sam Montgomery. McCullum ended 31 of 44 for 273 yards, no interceptions and six TD passes. The Cobras quarterback leads the NAL with 74 scoring strikes this year.
The Pirates now are 6-1 in the DCU center this season and have a five and four record in games that have been decided in the final possession. Massachusetts will now take to the road to face the second place Jacksonville Sharks at Veterans Memorial Arena, Saturday at 7 pm.
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