Following a strong 50-35 win over the New York Streets to conclude the regular season, the Massachusetts Pirates (8-6) will travel to Carolina to take on the Cobras (9-5) in the opening round of the NAL playoffs. Massachusetts enters the contest as the #3 seed and the Cobras have the #2 seed which granted Carolina a home playoff game. Carolina will be defending their crown after winning it all in 2018. The Pirates were defeated by the Cobras twice after playing them in the first two games of the season, losing 54-22 and 50-22 respectively. However, the Pirates are a new-and-improved team from that point and provide a much more potent offensive attack.
After finishing as the top overall team in the 2018 regular season many had high expectations for the Pirates entering 2019. With last year’s league MVP quarterback Sean Brackett coming back to make another run at the title the Pirates looked to be heavy favorites to be atop of the NAL once again. Nonetheless, the Pirates had quite an uphill journey over the year to get to where they are now.
After dropping their first two games of the season to the Cobras, the Pirates went on to defeat the Orlando Predators 45-12. Unfortunately, they couldn’t carry that momentum any further as they dropped their next two games against the Jacksonville Sharks and Columbus Lions. Five weeks into the season the team was sitting at 1-4, and their hopes of the playoffs were becoming slim.
That’s when the team switched into a new gear.
The Pirates went on a miraculous six-game win streak to turn their season completely around. In the stretch, they defeated the Streets, Predators, and Lions while averaging 60 points per game. The elite play by Brackett, wide receivers Mardy Gilyard, Thomas Owens, and Devonn Brown brought a new intensity to the offense which turned the squad into one of the most dangerous groups in the NAL. The team started to click at the perfect time.
Massachusetts dropped its next two games against the Sharks but in close fashion, losing 59-42 and 54-47 in overtime. With Jacksonville being a league-high 13-1 the Pirates showed they can go toe-to-toe with the best competition in the league.
In their final game of the regular season, the Pirates defeated the Streets 50-35, to go a perfect 4-0 vs. New York. With the playoff seeding already locked, this contest allowed the backups to get needed playing time in the chance that their names get called during the playoffs.
The Pirates will hope that the third time's the charm when it comes to battling the Cobras.
Pirates QB Sean Brackett had been the focal point of the Massachusetts offense and the main reason why they have transformed into a top group in the league. On the season he’s thrown for 2,533 yards, 57 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions while completing 62% of his passes. His passing yards, touchdowns, and completion rank second overall in the league. Carolina’s offense is led by quarterback Charles McCullum. He has completed 59% of his passes to go along with 2,883 yards, 66 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. He holds the top spot in the NAL in passing yards and touchdowns.
Fullback Quayvon Hicks is the top option in the Pirates backfield. He is second in rushing the NAL with 171 yards and six touchdowns while averaging a league-best four yards-per-carry. Brackett leads the NAL in rushing scores with 12 as well as 153 yards with his feet. Cobra’s back Deshawn Johnson has gathered 51 yards and six touchdowns in 13 games this season.
Massachusetts wide receivers Mardy Gilyard and Devonn Brown provide Brackett with exceptional speed and play-making ability. Gilyard set the NAL record this season with 33 total touchdowns and 198 points. Gilyard has caught 84 balls for 950 yards. His 29 receiving touchdowns are tied for second in the NAL. Brown adds a significant 50 catches for 580 yards and 14 touchdowns. Carolina’s Jordan Jolly and LaVon Pearson are the top receiving options for the Cobras. Jolly leads the NAL in all major receiving categories. His 104 catches for 1,210 yards and 31 touchdowns provides McCullum with an elite number one option. Pearson, a former Pirate, has caught 45 balls for 586 yards and 17 touchdowns.
The Pirates defense is led by defensive back Lawrence Austin and defensive lineman JD Griggs. Austin is second in interceptions in the NAL with 10. He also adds 63 total tackles and 23 pass breakups. Griggs leads Massachusetts in both tackles for loss and sacks and holds the second overall spot in total sacks in the NAL. On the season he has 26.5 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, five pass breakups, seven quarterback hits, and a forced fumble. Griggs has a unique skill set that allows him to haunt opposing offenses in many different ways.
For the Cobras, Mike Green’s ball skills and Steve Miller’s pass-rushing puts them atop of their defense. Green leads the Cobras with 62 total tackles and 10 interceptions. He adds another 34 pass breakups which leads the NAL and has forced two fumbles. Miller has a team-high 13 tackles for loss and nine sacks to go along with 36 total tackles, four pass breakups, and three fumble recoveries.
The Pirates will play against the Cobras in Carolina this Saturday at 7:00 at the Greensboro Coliseum. The winner of the matchup will earn a spot in the NAL Championship.
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. 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.