GREENSBORO, NC – Tonight was the first time the Carolina Cobras (1-1) and Albany Empire (1-1) faced off in the 2023 season. It was the second Cobras home game this year in front of Cobras nation's largest crowd this season. Coach Fuller and the Cobras did not disappoint neither did the fan base as together the Cobras remain undefeated in the Snake Pit for 2023.
Kicking off the night the Cobras got the ball first. Young quarterback Malik Henry and the Cobras offense did manage to get down the field to the six-yard line but failed to score in the red zone. The Empire took very little time to score as Empire quarterback Sam Castronova launched a deep pass into the endzone to WR/DB Marquel Wade for the first score of the night. Despite the rough start on offense and defense the Cobras struck back with a 40-yard touchdown pass from Malik Henry for a diving catch in the endzone by WR/DB Lance Evans to tie the game at 7-7.
Even with the spark from the offense the Cobras defense continued to struggle in the first quarter allowing 21 points in the first with two passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown by Sam Castronova. Luckily, Carolina’s offense continued to put points on the board as the Cobras added another touchdown with another bomb from Malik Henry to Lance Evans showcasing the arm of the Cobras new starting quarterback. Into the second quarter down 21-15.
Coach Fuller’s offense came out ready as the Carolina quarterback connected with a wide-open former Clemson Tiger Kyrin Priester (WR/LB) to give the Cobras the 22-21 edge. The Cobras defense really came to life on the next drive as Carolina made a much needed stop as the Empire went for it on fourth down and paid dearly as FB/LB Zack Brown and defensive lineman Tavin Fitzpartick smacked Castronova to the turf for the sack and turnover on downs. However the Cobras also suffered a turnover on downs. Near the end of the half both teams exchanged final blows with the game tied 28-28 thanks to a kick return for a touchdown by WR/DB/KR Adam Smith amplifying the Snake Pit as the Cobras entered the locker room tied with the defending National Arena League Champions.
Exiting the locker room the Cobra players entered the turf with a roaring Cobras crowd the Empire received the ball first and scored on their opening drive of the second half with a one handed touchdown grab by NAL MVP Darius Prince (WR) giving the Empire the early lead in the 3rd quarter. Later into the 3rd quarter the Cobras found themselves slithering ahead with another receiving touchdown by WR/DB Lance Evans and a stunning 49-yard rushing touchdown from DL/FB Kevin Voyles breaking several tackles to make the full-field score for the Cobras followed by a deuce from kicker TC Stevens. Up 47-35 the Cobras defense looked to gain some spotlight on this offensive led show but NAL Champion Sam Castronova and his favorite target receiver Darius Prince wouldn’t allow it as they cut the Cobras lead 47-42 with another touchdown connection. The Cobras offense attempted to extend that lead but with a big sack on Malik Henry from Albany’s Andre Revere DL/OL and a missed field goal attempt from kicker TC Stevens the Cobras entered the fourth quarter 47-42.
This heavy weight bout between two great NAL teams came down to the fourth quarter with the Cobras only up by five the Cobras defense came with a huge stop with the Carolina secondary holding the Empire to a four & out turn over on downs. Both sides of the ball for the Cobras came out fighting as the Cobras quarterback led the team down the field to throw another touchdown pass to WR/DB Lance Evans, his third touchdown of the night complimented by another TC Stevens deuce. The Empire trailing 56 to 42 with a rockin’ Cobras crowd that seemed to be fueling a great defensive Cobras fourth quarter created another stop on defense as defensive back Mike Green stopped wide receiver Darius Prince on a fourth down play but a jack-out-of the box penalty would allow the Empire the first down. Unphased, the Cobras secondary held strong as defensive back Keiron Jones stopped a Darius Prince touchdown attempt with a pass breakup that was followed by a Zack Brown sack on Sam Castronova. The Empire’s offense looked completely defeated going into 3rd down but a bullet pass to wide receiver Darius Prince kept the Empire in the game 56-49. The Cobras gained redzone field position to score but a blocked pass by defensive lineman Miqual Harvey followed by a sack from same player, Miqual Harvey put Carolina in a desperate fourth down. Coach Fuller elected to attempt the field goal but the TC Stevens kick went wide left for a miss. Keeping the game close at 56-49 with 48-seconds left on the clock. The game came down to the Cobras defense with eight seconds left on the clock Albany in scoring range launched a final attempt to score but a blocked pass by FB/LB Zack Brown would allow the Carolina Cobras to defeat the defending NAL Champions 56-49. The Cobras advance to 2-1 and 2-0 in the Snake Pit for the 2023 season.
Credit has to go to the defense despite a tough first quarter the Carolina defense came up big when it mattered the most, limiting the Empire to only seven points in the fourth quarter. A clutch player in the lineup was FB/LB Zack Brown who gained three tackles, one sack, and a one pass breakup while WR/DB Adam Smith led the team in tackles with five and gained an interception on the night. Offensively WR/DB Lance Evans had a season-high night with 10 receptions for 171 yards, and three touchdowns. Quarterback Malik Henry continues to thrive in the Snake Pit as he finished tonight passing 18 for 28 with 255 yards and five touchdown passes and who could forget the play of the game, FB/DL Kevin Voyles full-field rushing touchdown! The Cobras offense kept the Carolina quarterback upright and on point as Henry only got sacked once and didn’t throw an interception tonight. On special teams, Adam Smith stole the show with a game changing kick return for a touchdown. Kicker TC Stevens had a good but not perfect night recording 7 for 8 in extra points, one deuce and went 0 for 2 in field goal attempts.
The victory celebration will be sweet and long as they enter their second bye week of the season as the Cobras are back to business in week 6 for their third straight home game this time against the Orlando Predators (0-2). Looking to keep the undefeated record in the Snake Pit for 2023 we are calling on Cobra Nation to return to the Pit Sunday, May 14 at the Greensboro Coliseum with kickoff set for 3pm. Tickets are on sale now call our ticket office at 336-455-7232.
ABOUT THE CAROLINA COBRAS
The Carolina Cobras are members of the National Arena League (NAL). Founded in 2017, the Carolina Cobras are starting their sixth season in 2023 and were the 2018 National Arena League Champions. The Cobras play their home games at the Greensboro Coliseum. Cobra Season Ticket Memberships are on sale now call (336) 445-7232 or visit carolinacobras.com. Follow the Cobras on Facebook at facebook.com/carcobras, twitter.com/carcobras and instagram.com/carcobras.