The Massachusetts Pirates have plenty to accomplish when they face the Jacksonville Sharks this Saturday when the teams meet in Jacksonville’s Veterans Memorial Arena at 7 pm.
A win would keep the Pirates (10-4) in first place in the National Arena League ahead of the second place Sharks (9-5), it would clinch the season series between the two clubs and give the Pirates their third straight victory, equaling their longest winning streak of the season.
Both teams had thrilling wins last week. The Pirates saw Devonn Brown catch the winning touchdown from Sean Brackett as time ran out in a 56-53 come from behind victory over Carolina. Brackett was 22 of 32 for 273 yards and eight touchdowns. Brown caught six passes for 105 yards and three scores in the win.
Jacksonville had its biggest comeback win ever in the National Arena League as they erased a 20 point deficit, defeating Columbus 53-48. Quarterback Patrick McCain was 22 of 34 for 312 yards and seven touchdowns. For the Sharks it was just the fourth game for wide receiver Trever Kennedy who had five receptions for 91 yards and two touchdowns and the debut of Larry Brackins who pulled in six balls for 73 yards and a score. Tom Gilson, who leads Jacksonville with 13 TD receptions and 698 yards, had five catches for 86 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The Pirates have several players who continue to be among the league leaders in several categories. This season Brackett is 252 of 401 for 2,045 yards and 72 touchdowns. His leading receivers are Brown who leads the team with 1,020 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns. Lavon Pearson tops the Pirates with 68 receptions to go with 783 yards and 18 scores. Mardy Gilyard has contributed 61 receptions for 620 yards and 16 touchdowns and Bones Bagaunte has 550 yards on 53 receptions and 14 scores.
Defensively Kiante Northington and John Hardy Tuliau each have 56.5 tackles. Northington has 10 interceptions and 20 passes broken up in the secondary. Linebacker Nick Haag has ten tackles for a loss while defensive lineman JD Griggs has seven sacks. The Massachusetts defense cannot to overlook Sharks fullback Derrick Ross who has 267 yards on 97 carries and 17 rushing touchdowns. He also has two receptions for scores.
The Jacksonville defense is led by Marvin Ross, six interceptions and 17 passes broken up, Seth Ellis with 45 tackles and Jermiah Price who has 15.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for a loss.
The Pirates are scoring 55.3 points per game, good enough for second in the NAL while the Sharks 44.6 ppg ranks fourth. The Jacksonville defense allows 43.4 points per game, second in the league, while Massachusetts is right behind yielding 45.3 points per contest.
If past performance is an indication the game should go down to the wire. In the first meeting on April 14, Brackett threw five TD passes with four of them going to Brown. Still it took a blocked field goal by Bill Vavau on the game’s final play and a five yard TD return by Toby Jackson to secure a 63-56 victory on the road. The May 26 contest at the DCU Center saw the Pirates suffer their only home loss of the season, 47-42. Brackett threw five touchdown passes in that game but he was upstaged by Adrian McPherson who had seven scores with four going to Antonio Vaughn.
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