Massachusetts Pirates 2021 “Rookies”
By: Peter Roseman
April 30, 2021
After handling business last week against the Louisville Xtreme, the Pirates aim to execute again tomorrow as they play their second game of the season against the Green Bay Blizzard. This year’s Pirate team will continue to be led offensively by third-year quarterback Sean Brackett. If he can duplicate his ‘18 and ‘19 performances, the team will be in position to win football games. Wide receiver Thomas Owens and quarterback Alejandro Bennifield represent the only other veteran Pirates offensive players on the 2021 roster. On the defensive side of the ball the Pirates are much deeper in experience. The backfield has both Chucky Williams and Khalid Wooten returning, second and third year vets respectively. Linebacker Tavarus Dantzler and lineman JD “Sack King” Griggs are both entering their third season as Pirates, while lineman Toby Johnson is starting his sophomore campaign. That puts the total number of veterans at a mere eight. Interestingly, three players – Chasz Wright (OL), Kendall Baker (OL), and Darren Carrington (WR) – were signed in 2020 but did not play a down due to last season’s cancellation.
The Pirates have been on a signing spree since late 2020. In training camp this year there are nineteen “rookies” on both sides of the ball and special teams. There are speedy wide receivers, powerful linemen, and pesky defensive backs. There’s a hard-hitting linebacker, a sure footed kicker, and one tough center. In spite of all that talent, not one of the nineteen has ever played an arena football game. Can these players adjust to the quicker indoor game? Can they learn how to excel on a fifty-yard field where the walls are in-bounds. If training camp is any indication, the transition should be seamless. This is one talented “rookie” class. Let’s have a look.
Offense: 2021 is the year of the wide receiver. The Pirates have signed four wideouts new to the indoor game. There’s former AFCA-NAIA All-American Laquvionte Gonzalez, who set numerous receiving records while at Southeastern. More recently, the Pirates signed two top caliber, former NFL receivers. High-flying, acrobatic Martavis Bryant, who played four seasons as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders, should strike fear in opposing defenses. As should Terrance Williams, who was one of Tony Romo’s top receivers during his five seasons as a Dallas Cowboy. Just this week the Pirates signed another wideout to this rookie class. Demarcus Ayers, a Pittsburgh Steelers seventh round pick in ‘16, will be active for tomorrow’s game. Northwestern center Jared Thomas and fellow lineman Marquis Lucas are playing like they have something to prove. Rounding out the offensive newbies are running backs Justin Stockton and Nick Gibson. Stockton dazzled at Texas Tech and spent time in both the AAF and XFL, while Gibson put together a productive career at Mississippi State University in the SEC. The pairing should bring some versatility to the Pirates backfield.
Defense: The Pirates welcome six rookie defensive players this season. The latest signing is defensive lineman David Marshall, a former Georgia Bulldog who spent 4 seasons in Athens. Former hard-hitting NFL linebacker Martrell Spaight will increase the defensive intensity as will four newly signed defensive backs. Santos Ramirez, an aggressive d-back out of Arkansas, is expected to contribute. Harlan Miller, who joins the team after a brief NFL career, will also take on an important role in the defensive backfield. The other two additions are Aarion Maxey-Penton, former Mizzou All-SEC standout, and Ahmad Dixon, a prolific tackler out of Baylor. Maxey-Penton has a reputation for becoming a wide receiver when the ball is thrown his way. QB’s in college simply avoided his side of the field rather than risk throwing an interception. Dixon, drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the seventh round, was a versatile safety in college and last played in the XFL.
Special Teams: Sure-footed Gabriel Rui, All-Big 12 out of Kansas, joins the Pirates and is just the kind of kicker the team needs this season.
There they are fans, the class of 2021 Massachusetts Pirates. Are these rookies ready to play? Well, I caught up with a couple of them during practice this week. Here is what Martrell Spaight and Harlan Miller had to say about playing this brand of football:
“The game is quicker, a lot of man-on-man, you have to be technically sound,” Spaight told me. “This league gives you the opportunity to showcase your talent. You also have to be a technician, meaning working on your craft. The guy doing his job the best is the one who’s going to win the battle.”
“The field is smaller,” Miller said. “The thing I like about it is that the other team has nowhere to run and can only go so far.”
Yeah, these guys are ready. It should be a great season. See you in the playoffs!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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