Pirates Seek Win vs. Sugar Skulls – Presented by Cintron Energy

By: Mick Moninghoff
Pirates Writer
June 14, 2021

WORCESTER, MA – The Massachusetts Pirates embark on a three-game road trip with the first stop in Tucson this week to face the Sugar Skulls. The voyage will take the team to Louisville and Frisco before returning home to face Bismarck at Phoenix Field at the DCU Center on July 10.

The Pirates (3-3) are coming off a 40-33 setback at the hands of the Frisco Fighters. Massachusetts held a 16-13 lead in the second quarter but the running of Fighters quarterback Jerrod Heard (13 carries, 58 yards, two touchdowns) led Frisco to a 40-26 advantage after three quarters. Pirates quarterback Alejandro Bennifield’s two-yard touchdown run with 4:30 to play closed the deficit to 40-33, but that’s as close as the Pirates would come. Bennifield ended the game 9 of 18 passing for 128 yards and three touchdowns. Two of the scores went to LaQuvionte Gonzalez who had three receptions for 27 yards. Thomas Owens led all receivers with 77 yards on four catches and a score.

Tucson (1-3) led in state rival Arizona 34-30 after three quarters last Saturday, but saw the Wranglers score twice in the fourth quarter to earn a 44-34 victory. Sugar Skulls QB Demry Croft finished 12 of 20 for 142 yards and three touchdowns against one interception. Croft also ran the ball 11 times for 61 yards and a touchdown. His top target was Kent Shelby II who had three receptions for 41 yards and a score.

This week the Pirates will enter the game scoring an average of 36.7 points per game while allowing just 30.8 which is second in the Indoor Football League. Massachusetts tops the league allowing just 153.5 yards per contest and also ranks third defensively in third down conversions with opponents having a success rate of 24.6 percent. Tucson is scoring 34.5 points per game while allowing 38.3 which is fourth in the IFL.

Players to Watch:

The Pirates Justin Stockton did not play last week vs. Frisco, still he leads the IFL in carries with 55 and is third with 245 rushing yards. Bennifield is tied for second in the league with eight rushing touchdowns and ninth gaining 4.8 yards per carry. Croft for Tucson ranks third gaining 50.3 yards per game. He is also fourth with 47 carries, sixth with 201 yards and fourth with four rushing TD’s. Running back Mike Jones of Tucson ranks sixth in the league in scoring with eight touchdowns and a two-point conversion for a total of 12.5 points per game.

When it comes to throwing the football, Bennifield is among the top ten in every category as is Croft. Bennifield is 63 (2nd) of 117 (3rd) five interceptions (5th) 53.8 percent (9th) for 728 yards (3rd) with 15 touchdowns (3rd) for 121.3 yards per game (9th) with an efficiency rating of 143.3 (5th). Croft numbers are 58 (5th) of 93 (6th) four interceptions (3rd) 62.4 percent (3rd) for 559 yards (7th) with 10 touchdowns (6th) for 139.8 yards per game (8th) with an efficiency rating of 139.7 (7th). Croft ranks fifth in total offense with 760 yards while Bennifield is third with 824.

The top receiver taking the field Saturday at the Tucson Convention Center will be Thomas Owens of the Pirates. Owens ranks first in the IFL with 27 receptions and 393 yards. His nine touchdown receptions rank him second in the league. He is also third with 65.5 yards per contest, seventh with 14.6 yards per catch and ninth with 4.5 receptions per game. The Sugar Skulls Ryan Balentine has 16 receptions for 136 yards and two scores while Shelby II has 12 catches for 149 yards and four touchdowns. Sheldon Augustine rounds out the trio with 12 grabs for 106 yards and a score.

The edge in the kicking game goes to the Pirates. Josh Gable has emerged as one of the top kickers in the IFL. Gable is six of nine in extra points and five of nine in field goal attempts. Gable’s five made FG’s is fifth in the league and his percentage of 55.5 is third best. His 21 kicking points rank him sixth after just two games.

Two of the top returners will square off on Saturday as well. Gonzalez is number one in the IFL with an average of 24 yards per return for the Pirates. This season he has 312 yards (4th) on 13 returns and a touchdown. For Tucson, Cory Butler-Byrd ranks eighth in returns yards (179) and tenth in average (16.3).

When it comes to all purpose yards the Pirates have three in the top ten as Gonzalez is fifth with 413, Owens sixth with 393 and Stockton tenth with 326.

On defense, the Pirates have a half dozen players who show up among the league leaders. Martrell Spaight is sixth in the league with 35 tackles, first with seven tackles for a loss and fifth with 2.5 sacks. Tavarus Dantzler ranks sixth with five tackles for a loss and JD Griggs is eighth with 4.5. Griggs and Toby Johnson are tied for ninth with 1.5 sacks this season. In the secondary, Aarion Maxey-Penton is second with eight passes defended and tied for second with two interceptions. Harlan Miller is eighth with six passes defended.

The Sugar Skulls Michael Minter also has two picks this season and Butler-Byrd is tied for second in the IFL with two fumble recoveries.

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 are available now 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 Faceboo.com/MAPirates, Instagram @mass.pirates, and Twitter @mass_pirates. #GetHooked #AllAboard