Sean Brackett had one of his best games at quarterback this season for the Pirates as he completed 27 of 35 passes with one interception and five touchdowns for 299 yards but it was not enough as the Columbus Lions defeated Massachusetts 63-62 in the Columbus Civic Center Saturday night.
The loss ended the Pirates (8-4) three game winning streak and dropped them into a tie for second in the National Arena League standings with Jacksonville while the Lions (7-3) moved into first place with the victory.
The difference maker in the contest was Lions kicker Tyler Rausa as in his first ever arena league game accounted for 20 points going six for six on extra points, four for nine on “Duce” attempts and two for two on field goals including a 16 yarder as time expired to win the game.
It was the Pirates who jumped out to a first quarter lead as defensive back Kiante Northington intercepted Mason Espinosa on the first series of the game setting up an Ali Mourtada 22 yard field goal for a 3-0 advantage. Rausa answered with a 24 yard field goal to tie the game and added a “Duce” with 5:28 to play in the first quarter for a 5-3 Lions lead.
Columbus expanded the lead to 12-3 as a Brackett pass glanced off the helmet of Lavon Pearson. Defensive back Chris Pickett batted the ball ahead to linebacker Larry Edwards who raced 29 yards into the end zone for a pick-six.
The Pirates started the second quarter with a one yard TD run by quarterback Darron Thomas, but Espinosa came right back with a 16 yard scoring pass to Jarmon Fortson to make the score 19-10. With 5:29 left in the half Brackett engineered a five play, 30 yard drive ending with a 16 yard strike to Mardy Gilyard to close the deficit to 19-16, but a failed on-side kick gave the ball back to the Lions at the one yard line. Two plays later Quayvon Hicks was in the end zone from four yards out and the Lions led 26-16.
The Pirates finished the half with a flurry to grab the lead as Gilyard scored on a two yard run plus an extra point and a “Duce” by Mourtada. Then on first and ten from their own 18, the Lions lateraled to Durron Neal who’s option pass was intercepted by Northington who returned it to 24 yards to the seven with two second remaining. Mourtada nailed a 22 yard field goal to end the half with the Pirates up 28-26.
The Pirates widened their lead in the third quarter as Pearson’s four yard TD grab pushed the margin to 35-26. The lions closed to within two points as Tristan Purifoy hooked up with Espinosa on a 14 yard scoring play. The Pirates then went to work as Brackett connected with Devonn Brown from 30 yards out for six, Nick Haag recovered a fumbled snap by Espinosa and four plays later Pearson caught his second TD pass of the night and Massachusetts led 49-33. The Lions ended the quarter with Fortson pulling in a 26 scoring pass and another “Duce” by Rausa made the score Pirates 49, Lions 42.
The Pirates turned the ball over deep in their own territory to start the final quarter as Sevon Pittman of the Lions forced Dashawn Johnson to fumble his eight yard reception which was recovered by Darius Rosser. Fortson’s 14 yard TD catch tied the game and third “Duce” of the night by Rausa gave the Lions a 51-49 lead. Thomas scored his second rushing touchdown of the game from three yards out to put the Pirates back on top 56-51, but Fortson’s fourth touchdown reception and a “Duce” gave Columbus a 60-56 lead with 5:55 to play. Fortson led the Lions receivers with eight catches for 91 yards and four scores.
The Pirates would grab their last lead of the night as on fourth and five from their own 10 Brackett went deep to Brown on a 40 yard scoring play for a 62-60 lead with 2:32 to play. Brown finished with three catches for 76 yards and two touchdowns. A missed extra point however opened the door for a dramatic finish for the Lions.
Espinosa led his team from their own 10 yard line down the field to the Pirates five. The Lions QB ended the game 20 of 30 for 212 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. On first and goal Columbus tried an end around run by Fortson who was tackled by Haag at the one yard line with one second to play. Rausa came on and split the uprights from 16 yards to win the game 63-62 as time expired.
Pearson led all Pirate receivers with 11 receptions for 91 yards and two scores.
The Pirates travel to Lehigh Valley this weekend to face the Steelhawks at the PPL Center in Allentown at 7:00 pm.
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 2018 season are now available. Pirate Nation Memberships start as low as $78.00. 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 Kara Mancini at 508-929-0125 or email email@example.com. Follow the Pirates on facebook at facebook.com/MAPirates on Instagram @mass.pirates, as well as Twitter @mass_pirates.