Quarterback Darron Thomas threw five touchdown passes in his first start as a Pirate and the Massachusetts defense supplied nine stops and three turnovers as the Pirates (11-5) dominated in a 67-7 victory over Lehigh Valley. While the Pirates will host a first round playoff game this week, the Steelhawks closed their season with an 0-15 record.
The Pirates scored on their first possession as Deshawn Johnson notched his sixth rushing touchdown of the season from a yard out. Ali Mourtada added the point after for a 7-0 lead. The Pirates defense would come up with two defensive stops in the first quarter. The first led to a missed 50 yard field goal attempt by Mourtada. The second saw Bill Vavau, who had just returned to the team that afternoon, block a Spencer Hotaling 39 field goal attempt. On the next play Thomas connected with Mardy Gilyard on a 23 yard TD pass. Mourtada added the PAT and a “Duce” and the first quarter ended 15-0 Massachusetts.
The Steelhawks gave the football back to start the second quarter and three plays later Lamont Bryant took a pitch from Thomas and ran it into the end zone from two yards away for a 22-0 lead.
With 4:45 to play in the half Kiante Northington intercepted Steelhawks Quarterback Patrick Ryan at the two yard line and returned it to the 19. For Northington it was his league leading 12th interception on the season. Thomas made quick work of a three play drive which ended with a 12 yard strike to Lavon Pearson to push the score to 29-0 at halftime.
The Massachusetts defense continued its strong play in the third quarter as on Lehigh Valley’s first possession the Pirates defensive end J.D. Griggs knocked down three straight passes. On fourth down R. J. Roberts stripped the ball from Ryan and returned it nine yards into the end zone to make the score 35-0. The Pirates added another score in the quarter as Pearson caught a 31 yard scoring pass and Mourtada’s second “Duce” on the night made the score 44-0 after three.
In the final quarter Gilyard pulled in his 20th touchdown of the year on a nine yard pass to run the Massachusetts lead to 51-0 before the Steelhawks broke up the shutout bid. On second down and eight from the Pirates 13 yard line, a fumbled snap led to success. The Pirates John Hard-Tuliau and R.J. Roberts could not pick up the football as it rolled into the end zone. The Steelhawks Jason Johnson secured the football for a touchdown and Hotaling’s extra point gave Lehigh Valley it’s only points of the night.
The Pirates were not finished as Pearson caught his third TD pass of the game, his 22nd of the season, on a 30 yard toss from Thomas and the final score came on special teams as a Hotaling 57 yard field goal attempt was returned 45 yards for “six” by Hardy-Tuliau. Mourtada put a cap on it with his third “Deuce” of the game for the 67-7 final score.
In his first start of the season Thomas finished 8 of 12 for 190 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. Pearson led all receivers with seven catches for 138 yards and three scores. Gilyard had four receptions for 45 yards and two touchdowns.
The Pirates defense had nine stops on the night with an interception and two fumble recoveries; one of those for a touchdown. Massachusetts special teams blocked one field goal and returned a second for a score. The win saw the Pirates complete a four-game series sweep over the Steelhawks.
For Lehigh Valley, Ryan finished 11 of 35 for 84 yards with one interception. Jason Johnson was his leading receiver with four catches for 25 yards.
The Pirates will host a first round playoff game this Saturday night at the DCU Center at 7 pm against the Columbus Lions.
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