The new look Massachusetts Pirates open their 2019 season at the DCU Center on Saturday night against the defending National Arena League Champions, the Carolina Cobras at 7:00 pm. The Pirates have an entirely new coaching staff led by former offensive coordinator Anthony Payton. The first time head coach leads a team where over half of the roster will feature newcomers. For 15 of those players, this will be their first time in arena football.
Those players already know that Carolina took the title last season by virtue of a 66 to 8 thrashing of the Columbus Lions in the NAL Championship game, while the Pirates had the best regular season record in the league at 11-5. The constant between the two teams should be the play at quarterback as League MVP Sean Brackett is back for the Pirates and veteran Charles McCullum returns for the Cobras.
Brackett, 6-1, 205 lb. from Brooklyn, CT led the league in four offensive categories. He completed 259 of 419 passes (61.8 %) for 3,170 yards, 74 touchdowns against 18 interceptions. He also ran 25 times for 111 yards and scored four touchdowns. He had a pair of two point conversions, including one that sealed an overtime win over the Maine Mammoths.
Despite missing almost three games due to a Canadian Football League tryout and a season ending leg injury, Brackett, a second team All-NAL offensive selection, led the league in total offense with 234.4 yards per game, 7.4 yards per play, 226.4 passing yards per game and 7.6 yards per passing attempt.
His counterpart, McCullum led the league in five categories. The Cobras QB had an NAL best with 3,313 passing yards, was first in total offensive touchdowns with 94 (seven rushing and 87 passing) completions with 296, touchdown passes and interceptions with 19.
The Pirates top offensive weapons are wide outs Mardy Gilyard and Lavon Pearson. In 13 games last season, Gilyard was second on the team with 69 receptions and ranked third among Pirates receivers with 747 receiving yards, 19 TD catches, averaged 10.8 yards per catch and 57.5 yards per game. The former fourth round pick of the St. Louis Rams in 2010 (99th overall) ranked eighth in the National Arena League in receptions and TD receptions; ninth in overall scoring with 136 points and catches per game with 5.31. He was also tenth in receiving yards.
Pearson appeared in all 16 games last year and led the team with 83 receptions. He was also second on squad with 1,011 receiving yards, 22 touchdown catches and an average of 63.2 receiving yards per game.
Pearson’s numbers made him one of the top receivers in the National Arena League. His 83 receptions placed him second in the NAL. Pearson was also fifth in the league in TD grabs and receiving yards, seventh in yards per catch with 12.2 and 10th in receiving yards per game.
Devonn Brown, an All-NAL first team performer who led the Pirates with 24 touchdown receptions and was tops in the NAL averaging 19 yards per catch, will miss the game as he has a workout with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League.
The Massachusetts defense is led by JD Griggs who was an All-League first team player last season. Griggs led the Pirates with eight and a half sacks and five quarterback hurries. The Piscataway, New Jersey native had 12 solo stops and assisted on 17 others for a total of 20.5 tackles last season. He also had nine tackles for a loss, forced a fumble and broke up eight passes.
The Cobras boast two All-League performers with one on each side of the ball.
Wide receiver Jordan Jolly was an NAL second team offensive selection. He had 68 receptions for 797 yards, 19 touchdowns; eight rushes for 59 yards, three touchdowns; one successful two-point conversion and 140 total points.
Cobras DB Michael Green was a first team defensive selection. Green had 40 solo tackles, 33 assisted tackles, 56.5 total tackles, two tackles for a loss; seven interceptions for 130 yards, one touchdown; 27 pass breakups; one fumble recovery for 15 yards; six total points.
The Massachusetts Pirates are members of the National Arena League (NAL). The Pirates play all home games at the DCU Center located at 50 Foster St. Worcester, MA. 01608. Pirate Nation Season Ticket Memberships for the 2019 season will be on sale in September. Pirate Nation Memberships start as low as $200.00. To become a Pirate Nation Season Ticket member or for more information on the Massachusetts Pirates please call (508) 452-MASS (6277), email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.masspiratesfootball.com. Single game tickets are available online at ticketmaster.com or the DCU Center Box Office. For group outings please call 508-452-MASS (6277). Follow the Pirates on Facebook at Facebook.com/MAPirates on Instagram @mass.pirates, as well as Twitter @mass_pirates.