As the first place team in the National Arena League, the Massachusetts Pirates can ensure the road to the 2018 NAL Championship runs through Worcester. The Pirates will take the first step toward that goal on Saturday at the DCU Center when they host the Carolina Cobras at 7 pm.
The Pirates (9-4) should be rested coming off a bye week. Massachusetts is 1-0 this season in games after a bye as they defeated Columbus 62-55 back on June 16th. Carolina is currently tied for second with Columbus with identical 8-4 records and is coming off a lopsided 78-9 victory over Lehigh Valley last week. Massachusetts will be hard pressed to attain their scoring average of 53.9 points per game (third in the NAL) as they will line up against the number one scoring defense in the league with the Cobras allowing 38.8 per contest. Carolina has the highest scoring average in the NAL at 57.2 per night while the Pirates rank fourth on defense allowing 44.8 per game.
In addition to showcasing two of the top teams in the league, this game features several league leaders who will go head to head. One of the best match ups may be the play of the Pirates offensive line vs. the defensive front of the Cobras. The Pirates o-line, currently led by Fred Ruff, Thomas Claiborne and Cornelius Lewis, have allowed only nine sacks all season. The Cobras have posted a league best 35 sacks with Dwayne Beckford and Omari Manhertz with six each and Jamal Palmer with 5.5 on the year.
For those who like quarterback battles this game boasts two of the best in the NAL. The Pirates Sean Brackett (230 of 369 for 2772 yards, 68 TD, 16 Int.) and Carolina’s Charles McCullum (221 of 382 for 2531 yards, 68 TD, 18 Int.) will meet for just the second time this season. Brackett did not play in the Pirates April 21 55-47 setback in Greensboro as he was attending the training camp of the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders. The Cobras also won the second meeting at home on May 19, 72-65. Massachusetts is hoping to use its home field advantage (5-1) to avoid a series sweep and remain atop the standings while Carolina is hopeful that McCullum returns with no ill effects from a bruised back which forced him out of the Lehigh Valley game last week.
Brackett currently leads the NAL in yards per completion (12.2) yards per attempt (7.5) and yards per play (7.3) McCullum tops the league with 68 touchdown passes with Brackett right behind with 64. McCullum has accounted for a league best 74 touchdowns with an additional six rushing scores.
When it comes to playmakers on defense the Pirates might have the edge as Massachusetts has the best turnover margin in the league with a plus 10, one better than the Cobras. Kiante Northington is number one in the league with ten interceptions with the Cobras Cedric Poole close behind with eight. The Pirates will hope to lure McCullum into mistakes as he has been intercepted 18 times this season, the most of any quarterback.
Other players to watch on Saturday will be the Pirates Devonn Brown (47 receptions, 915 yards, 20 TD) as he sports a league best 19.6 yards per reception. Even more electricity could be provided by the Pirates Bones Bagaunte and the Cobras Tyron Laughinghouse. Bagaunte leads the league in all-purpose yards per game averaging 114.6 a night while Laughinghouse is third in the NAL with 100.6 per contest. Laughinghouse has the best kickoff return average at 26.4 yards with Bagaunte next on the list with 20.3.
Should it come down to the kicking game two of the most productive kickers will square off in Ali Mourtada of the Pirates and Craig Peterson of the Cobras who rank first and second in points, made PAT’s, points per game and “Dueces.” Peterson, who is the most accurate on PAT’s in the league at 80%, leads Mourtada by 11 extra points, seven total points, five “Dueces” and an average of 1.2 more points per contest. Should the game come down to a field goal Mourtada would have the advantage as he is 7 of 15 this season for 46.7% while Peterson is just 4 of 14, 28.6%.
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 $60.00. To become a Pirate Nation Season Ticket member or for more information on the Massachusetts Pirates please call (508) 452-MASS (6277), email email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the Pirates on facebook at facebook.com/MAPirates on Instagram @mass.pirates, as well as Twitter @mass_pirates.