Massachusetts Pirates team president Jawad Yatim has announced promotions on the coaching staff as offensive coordinator Anthony Payton will now become associate head coach and defensive backs coach Sergio Gilliam takes on the role of special teams coordinator.
Payton has been able to deliver the up tempo philosophy set forth by head coach Ameer Ismail. The offense has seen the Pirates score on 62 percent of its possessions this season. The Pirates lead the National Arena League in passing yards per game averaging, 217.9; average yards per attempt, 7.2; average yards per completion at 12.0 and total offensive yards with an average of 6.4 per play.
“I’m still going to coach the way I coached before,” Payton said. I’m still going to treat my players the same way I did before, which is putting them first. My role really doesn’t change. It’s an honor. It’s the first time I’ve been named an associate head coach in arena football,” he added.
After coaching at the high school and college levels, Payton landed his first job as an offensive coordinator in arena football in 2006 with the AF2’s Louisville Fire. Later stops in Portland and Spokane helped paved his winning ways with the Pirates this season.
Head Coach Ameer Ismail agrees that it will continue to be business as usual regarding the offense.
“Nothing really changes in terms of Anthony's role,” the coach said. “He does a great job as our offensive coordinator and his work ethic is one of the main reasons I hired him and wanted him on my staff. The players we brought in offensively have amazing tools which enable him to run his offense efficiently. Arena Football League quarter back Sean Brackett is a veteran, Bones Bagaunte was an All-American at Cincinnati, Mardy Gilyard was a former All-American and a fourth round NFL Draft Pick. Wide out Devonn Brown has Canadian Football League experience, Lavon Pearson, led the Tennessee Volunteers in receptions as a senior, and Lamont Bryant played tight end for the Carolina Panthers. They, accompanied by an offensive line that has allowed the fewest sacks in the league allows coach Payton to do what he does. I couldn't be happier about his promotion, even though he's always been assistant head coach to me throughout the season,” Ismail added.
Team President Jawad Yatim said, "Coach AP has worked his tail off since he's been here. He's put in a lot of hours in the office and has proven to the Pirates that he deserves to be promoted to associate head coach. He's put the offense in the right position all season long, which has translated to the highest scoring offense in the league in terms of cumulative points scored. He's gained the respect of our players and deserves this, so I'm happy to give it to him."
Payton sees the promotion as a result of working toward continued improvement.
“I love working for Jawad, I love working for the Yatim’s and I love working for the players. Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do. For me it’s not about titles, it’s about the information I get to my players. I just want to do the best for my bosses and my players. It’s a blessing. I’ve been doing this a long time and to finally get that on my resume is huge. To have that in my back pocket tells me I must be doing something right. It feels good. It’s validation for me,” Payton said.
Gilliam will now lead a special teams unit that has not given up a touchdown on a kickoff return all year. The Pirates have attempted the most extra points in the NAL this season. They are also second in the league in field goal percentage at .438 and average yards per kickoff return at 17.3.
“It’s a great thing.” Gilliam said. “It’s more responsibility and when you can showcase what you do it’s a great thing. I’m glad the organization wanted me to take part in it. There are three phases in this game and to be able to help out with one and now be part of another is great. I continue to just try to strive to put guys in the right situation,” he said.
Massachusetts has blocked four field goals, two extra points and returned four missed field goals for touchdowns. Ismail will continue to oversee field goal block and return, but now he will have more time to devise the defensive schemes that has made the Pirates second in the league in interceptions. Ismail is happy to see Gilliam expand his role with the squad.
“Coach Gilliam has assisted in some special teams duties throughout the season. It is a pleasure to promote him to special teams coordinator as he's worked hard and earned my trust to take on a bigger role. Sergio has done a great job coaching the defensive backs all season long and I couldn't be happier to have him as a part of my staff,” Ismail said.
Gilliam’s first taste of coaching was as a co-defensive coordinator with the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles in the Indoor Football League. Then Gilliam moved on to high school coaching in Pennsylvania. His next stop was Worcester.
"Coach Serg came into this season with a lot of experience and knowledge on the arena game. He's been working hard with the DB's and Jacks all season long, and that's lead to our secondary finishing with the most interception returns for touchdowns on the year, as well as finishing second in the league in overall picks. We feel with his knowledge and experience he can guide our special teams unit in the right direction and take us where we need to go," said Yatim.
Gilliam added, “I had input when I was coaching in Utah but this is the first time I’ll be an actual coordinator, but I played special teams. I understand the key things that will help players move on to the next level. I want them to learn more and continue to just be there for them.” He said.
The top seeded Pirates open their playoff run this Saturday at 7 pm at the DCU Center against the fourth seeded Columbus Lions.
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