Game Preview: Pirates vs. Blizzard

By: Adam Pasquale Jr. & Pirates Insider Oliver Nissi
April 29, 2021

Following an impressive 49-18 victory over the Louisville Xtreme, the Pirates now shift their focus to the Green Bay Blizzard. The Pirates will travel to Green Bay, Wisconsin this weekend to play the Blizzard at 4:05 PM EST at the Resch Center.

The Resch Center hosted the first IFL game of the 2021 season last Friday night.

The Blizzard began their season in a closely fought game against the Bismarck Bucks in which they were defeated 41-35. Green Bay was leading the contest with one minute left in the game before the Bucks drove down the field for a game-winning touchdown.

On offense, the Blizzard are led by quarterback Aaron Aiken. The Georgetown University alum is a dual-threat athlete that can make you pay through the air and on the ground. In his Week 1 matchup with Bismarck, he was the game’s leading passer with 109 yards through the air. He also led the Blizzard in rushing yards with 37. His unique skill set and athleticism allow him to shift defenders in the open field while also keeping a balanced offensive attack.

Another offensive threat that the Pirates will need to prepare for is wide receiver Keshaun Taylor. The Florida native attended Mars Hill University where he was one of the top Division II wide receivers in the nation. In his senior season, Taylor averaged 128 receiving yards per game and scored 12 touchdowns. His high-level play awarded him with a First-Team, All-South Atlantic Conference nomination.

In the game against Bismarck, Taylor led Green Bay in receiving with five receptions for 44 yards and a score. He also added a rushing touchdown early in the fourth quarter that gave the Blizzard the lead at that point. Taylor is a lengthy, quick receiver that can torch a defense down the sideline on any given play.

Against Bismarck, the Blizzard defense came to play. The unit scored two touchdowns in the third quarter in a 47-second span, part of a 21-0 run. Defensive back Mason Gray was responsible for one of those scores, a 10-yard interception return touchdown, and had 2 total picks on the night. He was named IFL Defensive Player of the Week for Week 1. Blizzard defensive back Corey Turner led the team in tackles against the Bucks with 9. Green Bay also rosters DB Bakari Triggs, who took home the 2019 IFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

Bennifield (#15), Stockton (#23), and Owens (#81) at the Louisville 1-yard line.

Massachusetts rolls into this matchup coming off a blowout win against the Louisville Xtreme, 49-18. Running back Justin Stockton was named IFL Offensive Player of the Week in the game against Louisville. He rushed for 89 yards on 11 attempts and scored 2 total touchdowns, 1 receiving and 1 rushing. Stockton was also awarded a game ball by Pirates president and general manager Jawad Yatim for his outstanding performance.

Quarterback Alejandro Bennifield entered the game in the second quarter after starter Sean Brackett exited the game. Bennifield stepped up in a big way, throwing 3 touchdown passes and rushing for 1 TD on the ground. Perhaps the most underrated individual performance of the night was from wide receiver Thomas Owens, who led the Pirates in catches (5), receiving yards (94), and receiving touchdowns (3).

The Xtreme offense was no match for the Pirate defense. Xtreme quarterback Bryan Hicks had three fumbles in the first half, one of which was returned to the house by defensive lineman JD Griggs for the Pirates first score of the season. Defensive back Santos Ramirez and linebacker Martrell Spaight tied for the team-lead in tackles with 7. The defense also added 2 sacks in last week’s game and was awarded a game ball as a unit by Yatim.

With the Pirates traveling to Green Bay this week and Bismarck for Week 3, the organization is in the middle of a crucial stretch to open their first season in the IFL. With a win this weekend, the Pirates will be in a great position to start 2021 undefeated when they enter their bye week in Week 4. The Blizzard on the other hand will look to bounce back with another game on their home turf. Green Bay is coming off a 2019 season in which they went 9-5 and made the playoffs, making this a challenging early-season matchup for Massachusetts. This has all the makings for a close contest. We’ll see who comes out on top!

The Massachusetts Pirates are members of the Indoor Football League (IFL). The Pirates play all home games at Phoenix Field at the DCU Center located at 50 Foster St. Worcester, MA. 01608. For more information on the Massachusetts Pirates please call (508) 452-MASS (6277), email contact@masspiratesfootball.com or visit http://www.masspiratesfootball.com. Single-game tickets will be available soon at ticketmaster.com or the DCU Center Box Office. For season, half-season, luxury, or group ticket packages please call 508-452-MASS (6277). Follow the Pirates on Facebook via Facebook.com/MAPirates, Instagram @mass.pirates, and Twitter @mass_pirates. #GetHooked #AllAboard