Despite a hard-fought effort by the Predators, the team came up short to the Carolina Cobras 36-34 on Sunday.

The Predators (1-3) came into the game looking for their first win at home and to seek revenge for their 48-26 loss against the Cobras (4-0) in week two. However, in what seemed to be an evenly matched game in the 60 minutes that were played on Sunday, several factors went into the Predators failure to take down the undefeated team in the NAL.

The Predators have slowly tried to find their rhythm going into the rest of the season, and despite the losses, veteran lineman De’Quan Murray said he can see the Predators getting better each week they play.

“Gradually every week we are getting better,” Murray said. “It is one week at a time. We are going to make some changes over the bye week; rest, get some gym time in and we will be ready to roll.”

The first half was hard fought between both teams, with the Cobras getting on the board first with a touchdown pass from quarterback Johnathan Bane to leading receiver DJ Meyers on the first drive of the game to go up 7-0. The Predators followed this up with a 52-yard field goal by kicker Daniel Justino for the Predators first successful field goal attempt of the season to go down 7-3 early in the quarter. To cap off the first quarter, the Cobras got on the board again to go up 16-3 after a pass from Bane to receiver Lance Evans, followed by a deuce by kicker T.C. Stevens. 

To open the second quarter, the Predators found their way into the endzone after a pass from quarterback Rakeem Cato to receiver Clarence Williams to go down 16-9. After an interception by defensive back Dalvon Randall, the Predators found the endzone once again with a pass from Cato to receiver Brandon Fuentes to go down 16-15. As time was running out in the quarter, the Cobras were able to extend their lead after a pass from Bane to receiver James Summers as time winded down in the first half. The Cobras capitalized off of their touchdown with another deuce by Stevens to take a 24-15 lead going into half time.

The Predators opened the first drive of the second half with a pass from Cato to receiver Brian Foy Jr. to decrease Carolina’s lead to three in the early parts of the third quarter. The Cobras found a way to answer back with a second connection from Bane to Summers to go up 31-21, which was followed up by another deuce by Stevens to increase the lead to 33-21 to end the third quarter.

In its first drive of the fourth quarter, Orlando fought down the field to score early in the quarter after a pass from Cato to receiver Larry Beavers to go down 33-27. The Cobras followed this up with a 41-yard field goal by Stevens to go up 36-27. However, the Predators swung back on the next drive after a touchdown pass from Cato to fullback and lineman Sha-Ki Holines to go down by two in the final 4 minutes of the game. The Cobras found a way to run down the clock and squeak by with a 36-34 win at the Amway Center.

The Predators stood out on defense and were able to get pressure on Cobras quarterback Johnathan Bane, including two sacks from lineman Freddie Booth-Lloyd.

“I feel like I did play a great game, but it’s a team effort,” Booth-Lloyd said. “We came short so I feel kind of bad. We just need to go back to the drawing board.”

Another standout performance came from Holines, who played well on both sides of the ball with a sack and the touchdown in the fourth quarter. Holines, who has three sacks in the season, said he is here to help the team in any way he can and his goal is to make plays in all areas of the game.

“I just try to do whatever the team asks me to do,” Holines said. “I haven’t played offense since high school but I just try to make the best out of it to help the team and put points on the board. On the defensive side of the ball, my goal is to get a sack throughout the season and try to come up with big plays.”

With the Predators heading into the bye-week, head coach Jeff Higgins said he praises the way the Cobras and his team fought and improved. But now, it’s about going into the bye to clear their minds and come out of it as a better team.

“We’re looking forward to getting back to the basics to become a more disciplined and focused football team in crunchtime,” Higgins said. “We definitely put together our best game, our best second half, but we have to do a little bit better.”