Franchise of the Year goes to Maine Mammoths
GREENSBORO, NC – Last night the NAL announced their 2018 National Arena League Award, it was their second award ceremony since the league was founded in 2016 and launched its inaugural season in 2017. This year the Jacksonville Sharks led the pack with the most league awards and a list of each league award has been listed below. Today the 2018 National Arena League Championship between the returning Columbus Lions and the hosting Carolina Cobras, kickoff will be at will be at 7pm at the Greensboro Coliseum. Be sure to tune in on Youtube Live to see the full game, a link to the game with be posted on the league’s social media pages along with the team’s social media pages.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Quarterback Sean Brackett, Massachusetts Pirates - Sean Brackett entered the 2018 season as a multi-year veteran in the AFL, previously playing with the Washington Valor. This year, Brackett played with one of the expansion teams, the Massachusetts Pirates. Brackett is from North Providence, Rhode Island, which makes Massachusetts close to his home state. This year, Brackett was 259-of-419 (61.81%) for 3,170 yards, 74 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions. He also lead the Pirates in rushing with 25 rushes for 111 yards and four touchdowns. Brackett missed the final regular season game due to an ankle injury that he suffered in Week 17. He also was called to the CFL, where he missed a game earlier in the season. Brackett was named Offensive Player of the Week in Week 12. Brackett made Second Team All-NAL Offense.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Quarterback Mason Espinosa, Columbus Lions - Mason Espinosa had a major improvement from the 2017 season to the 2018 season, becoming the starter in all of his active games. Espinosa got injured in Week 17, just like Brackett, and missed the final regular season game against the Carolina Cobras. This season, Espinosa was 279-of-434 (64.29%) for 3,132 yards, 66 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Espinosa rushed 34 times for 71 yards and 12 touchdowns. Espinosa was Offensive Player of the Week in Week Seven. Espinosa earned First Team All-NAL Offense.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Defensive Lineman Jermiah Price, Jacksonville Sharks - Jermiah Price had an incredible 2018 season, playing in his eighth season of his career and second with the Sharks. Price played in 16 all 16 games of the season, racked up 29 total tackles (18 solo) (22 assists) (18.5 for a loss), 16.5 sacks, one interception, three pass breakups, three quarterback hurries, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery for four yards, and five blocked kicks. Price also earned First Team All-NAL Defense.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Kicker Craig Peterson, Carolina Cobras - Craig Peterson picked things up in 2018, when he made two deuces in Week One. This season, he was 88-of-110 on PAT’s, 4-of-14 on FG’s, and successfully made 27 deuces in the regular season. His number of made PAT’s and Deuces breaks an All-Time NAL Record. Peterson made Special Teams Player of the Week in Weeks Three, Four, Seven, 15, and 17.
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Fullback Quayvon Hicks, Columbus Lions - Quayvon Hicks entered his rookie year out of the University of Georgia. This season with the Lions, Hicks played in 12 out of the 15 games due to an NFL tryout with the Detroit Lions. After that didn’t work out, Hicks returned to the Columbus Lions. He rushed 81 times for 305 yards and 12 touchdowns. Hicks is second in the league for total rushing yards, but has everyone beat for the number of rushing yards per game with 25.4. Hicks made the First Team All-NAL Offensive list.
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Defensive Lineman Dante Holmes, Lehigh Valley Steelhawks - Dante Holmes turned the Steelhawks defensive line into a scary line, as he made a huge impact in his rookie season. He totaled 33.5 tackles (27 solo) (13 total) (19 for a loss), 11 sacks, four pass breakups, four quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and one blocked kick. Holmes also made First Team All-NAL Defense.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: Defensive Lineman Damien Jacobs, Jacksonville Sharks - Damien Jacobs played in the NAL last season, starting out with the Jacksonville Sharks, then the Georgia Firebirds, back to the Sharks. Last year, he totaled 14 total tackles (six solo) (16 assists) (five for a loss), four sacks, one interception, two fumbles recovered, and two forced safeties. This season, however, Jacobs stayed with the Sharks all season and made some great plays and put up some big numbers. With Jacksonville this year, Jacobs totaled 15.5 total tackles (9 solo) (13 assists) (four for a loss), five sacks, two interceptions, one interception being a Pick-Six, one pass breakup, one forced fumble, four fumble recoveries, one blocked kick, and one forced safety. Jacobs Made Second Team All-NAL.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Ameer Ismail, Massachusetts Pirates - Ameer Ismail enters his rookie coaching season with a first-year team in the NAL and in team history. Ismail is a former player and knows the game very well. His passion for the game, both on and off the field earned him this award, as he is seen multiple times disciplining his players on mistakes on the field. His 11-5 record in the regular season record allowed the Pirates in their inaugural season to earn the #1 rank at the end of the 2018 season and the ability to host a playoff game.
ASSISTANT COACH OF THE YEAR: Dave Ewart, Jacksonville Sharks - Dave Ewart has built a great coaching resumé in the past, being an assistant coach, defensive coordinator, and head coach of multiple college football and arena football teams. Ewart helped lead the Sharks to a 10-6 record after a rough 1-3 start to the 2018 season and helped two Defensive Lineman win major league awards Jermiah Price took home the NAL’s Defensive Player of the Year and Damien Jacobs took home the NAL’s Most Improved Player. To add to his resumé, he is now the 2018 NAL Assistant Coach of the Year.
FRANCHISE OF THE YEAR: Maine Mammoths - The Maine Mammoths are an expansion team in the 2018 season and finished with a 7-8 season, winning six of their last seven games of the season in a thrilling five-home game win streak. In their first year as a franchise they have already ingrained themselves into the Portland, Maine identity, the Mammoths popularity went unmatched for expansions teams in the NAL and the attendance from their games grew throughout the season. The Mammoths first season as a team will serve as a positive example for 2019 and 2020 expansion teams to prove how fast teams can grow in a community in less than one calendar year.
EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR: Rob Storm, Carolina Cobras - Rob Storm began his NAL career with the Jacksonville Sharks as a partner in the Jacksonville Sharks ownership group. In 2018 Rob Storm was instrumental in bringing a arena football team to Greensboro, North Carolina and with his determination was a key factor in the launch of the Carolina Cobras arena football team. In his first year, Storm helped build a franchise in a renewed arena football market and help put together an expansion franchise that made league history by hosting its first championship during its inaugural season.
BEST FANS: Jacksonville Sharks - Arguably the toughest place to play in the NAL, Shark Nation and the Jacksonville Sharks take home the Best Fans in the NAL Award for the second season in a row. To accept the award was Team Vice President Steve Curran, Curran has been with the team since it’s inaugural season and plays perhaps the most critical role in gaining and renewing the strongest fan base in the National Arena League which boast the highest attendance and most electrifying environment. The Jacksonville Sharks fans have creative one of the most unique atmospheres in all of arena football and their commitment to the team is well deserving of this league award. Honored to accept the award for the fans, Curran is committed to bringing the best the Sharks can offer from the first-ever fan to the veteran season ticket holder. This year, they averaged 7,192 people in attendance during the regular season (highest attendance in the league). Curran also plays a equal role with the expansion teams, the Maine Mammoths and Carolina Cobras, despite taking on the extra roles Curran’s commitment to the Sharks Fan base has not diminished, in fact it has grown and has helped him create new and innovative ways to benefit the Jacksonville fan base, that gives their all on game day.
BEST GAME OPERATIONS: Jacksonville Sharks - The Jacksonville Sharks won the award for the best game operations. Consistently, putting on high quality entertainment during the NAL season is exhausting work and for the second year in a row the Jacksonville Sharks have put on the best show in the National Arena League. There to accept the award was Director of Operations Kayla Sharp under her leadership, the Sharks have fundamentally establish an extremely high entertainment value for their fans on game day and have captured football quality cheers and screams before the teams even take the field during their home game. Sharp ability to bring a championship level atmosphere to every Sharks home game has gone unmatched. For two seasons straight Sharp has put together a game day staff on her own that rivals all the sports team in the Jacksonville area and has contributed to the success of the Sharks since she stepped foot into position.
BEST MEDIA RELATIONS: Jacksonville Sharks - For the second year in a row, the Sharks have taken home the best media award. As the flagship of the National Arena League when it comes to news, social media, graphic design and video production, the Sharks continue to set the bar high and in their second year in the National Arena League continue to serve as a example of where the league wants to be in the future. “We want to continue to grow and be recognized on a national level not just for our home markets but for our value as a league in the media realm. We built this league in one year and have expanded in it’s second, but have the true presence of a league that has been around for over a decade, high quality media plays as big of a role as the performance of our players, competition, and entertainment.” Said Steven Shotola, who accepted the award as the Director of Multimedia for the Jacksonville Sharks.
BEST MASCOT: Massachusetts Pirates - Arnold, the Massachusetts Pirates mascot “Arrrrnold” won the first league award during the 2018 National Arena League awards. Taking the title from rival Jacksonville Sharks mascot Chum, Arnold in his first year as a mascot captured the hearts of the Pirates Fans as well as the league’s. Arrrnold was not there to accept the awards as he was pillaging and raiding nearby ships off the coast of Massachusetts; typical offseason work for the young mascot. However, Hassan Yatim Owner and CEO of the Massachusetts Pirates was their to accept the award on his behalf.
BEST DANCE TEAM: Jacksonville Sharks - The Jacksonville Sharks Attack Dance Team win their second consecutive “Best Dance Team” award in the NAL. There to accept the award was several members of the 2018 Attack Dance Team. This season, the dance team continue to prove to be the league’s best, adapting to more off a hip hop influenced style the dance team stole the show at Sharks games thrilling thousands of fans at halftime and throughout the games. Led by Director Laura Bouchy, her husband and Managing Partner Jeff Bouchy spoke on her behalf explaining how much the dance team played a role in the Sharks organization and impact they have not only on the field but also off the field in the community. Bouchy told the story of “Lily” a young girl and aspiring young dancer from Scotland who was being treated in Jacksonville for cancer, the Attack Dance team took her under their wing and made her the youngest dance team member in team history the Attack’s impact on that girl’s life made a tremendous impression on both the local community but made international news. Within her time with the team, Lily herself made an impact on the lives of all the dancers, staff and fans. Proud to announce Lily is well into recovery and has returned to Scotland to continue to live a long and fulfilling live.
BEST COMMUNITY RELATIONS: Lehigh Valley Steelhawks - Well deserving of the award in 2018, the Steelhawks proved to have the most consistent community presence throughout the season from their popular youth football camp to their relentless commitment to attending community events in Allentown, PA and their surrounding area.
BEST MEDICAL STAFF: Lehigh Valley Steelhawks - The Steelhawks suffered what seemed to be an infinite amount of injuries this season. Their trainers and medical staff was always there to make sure that their players were in the best shape possible and got the attention and rehab/recovery that the players needed. This is the second year in a row that Lehigh Valley has taken home this award.
ABOUT NATIONAL ARENA LEAGUE
The National Arena League was founded in 2016 and hosted its inaugural season in 2017 as the premier league in arena football. The National Arena League kicked off it’s second season in April 2018 with an expansion of three teams - the Maine Mammoths, Massachusetts Pirates, and the Carolina Cobras. For more information regarding expansion opportunities or partnerships, contact Commissioner Chris Siegfried at firstname.lastname@example.org or Expansion Chairman Jeff Bouchy at email@example.com. For more information about the NAL visit www.nationalarenaleague.com, facebook.com/nationalarenaleauge, twitter.com/NALfootball, Instagram.com/nationalarenaleague.