Pirates Look to Rattle Arizona

By: Mick Moninghoff
Pirates Writer
July 15, 2021

WORCESTER, MA – This Sunday afternoon at Phoenix Field at the DCU Center, one of the Indoor Football Leagues’ marquee matchups of the 2021 season will take place when the 7-1 Arizona Rattlers meet the 6-3 Massachusetts Pirates. The Rattlers and Pirates are currently the hottest teams in the IFL as Arizona has a six-game winning streak while the Pirates have reeled off three-straight. Game time is set for 1:05 pm.

The Rattlers are in first place in the IFL with their only loss coming in their second game of the season; a 50-46 setback to the Sioux Falls Storm. Arizona’s latest victory was last Saturday night over Northern Arizona 62-19. In that game the Rattlers scored 21 unanswered points in the first quarter and coasted the rest of the way. Quarterback Drew Powell was 10 of 13 passing for 106 yards and two touchdowns against one interception. Powell was the team’s leading rusher with 42 yards on four carries. Nick LaSane also carried the ball six times for 25 yards and a touchdown. Jarrod Harrington was the leading receiver with four receptions for 51 yards and a score. Two of Jeremiah Harris’ three receptions went for touchdowns as he finished with 44 receiving yards.

The Pirates are looking to extend their winning streak to four games coming off a 43-38 win over the Bismarck Bucks. Much like the two previous victories that were achieved at the horn with kicker Josh Gable making walk-off field goals, the win over Bismarck was also decided on the final play of the game, but this time it was defensive back Santos Ramirez breaking up a pass intended for Mike Carrigan as time expired to secure the “W.”

Massachusetts was led by quarterback Alejandro Bennifield as he threw five touchdown passes and ran for another. Bennifield was 12 of 20 for 214 yards with one interception. He was also the Pirates leading rusher with 19 yards on six carries. Thomas Owens led all receivers with eight receptions for 147 yards and three touchdowns.

The Pirates, who are currently in fourth place in the IFL standings, have not lost since June 12 when the Frisco Fighters defeated Massachusetts at Phoenix Field at the DCU Center 40-33.

This will be the first meeting between the two franchises, as well as head coaches Kevin Guy of Arizona and Patrick Pass of the Pirates. Guy, who is also the Rattlers President and General Manager, is the second winningest indoor football coach of all time with a record of 218-72. This is his 12th season as head coach and he’s led Arizona to seven championship games in the last nine years, winning four titles (three in the Arena Football League and one in the IFL).

This is the first season for Patrick Pass in the IFL with the Pirates. The three-time Super Bowl Champion running back/fullback with the New England Patriots was a seventh-round draft pick by the Pats in 2000 from the University of Georgia. In 79 NFL games, Pass rushed 128 times for 526 yards and three touchdowns. He also had 66 receptions for 570 yards and a score.

The Pirates continue to have the best defense in the IFL allowing just 32.7 points per game. Massachusetts allows a league best 4.1 yards per play, defends the pass better than any other IFL team giving up just 114.9 yards per game and has the best defense on third downs as opponents have a conversion rate of 30%. The Pirates are second against the rush allowing 55.3 yards per game and rank second yielding 170.2 total yards per contest.

Massachusetts will need the effort that has produced those stats thus far as Arizona has the top scoring offense in the IFL averaging 50.6 points per game. The Rattlers are also the top rushing team leading every category with 994 rushing yards, average 5.6 yards per carry, have scored 37 rushing touchdowns and average 124.3 rushing yards per game. They also average a league best 263.3 total yards per contest. The Pirates are ninth in the league in scoring at 37.3 points per game.

Several players who will appear in the showdown Sunday are currently listed among the IFL’s top ten in several categories.

Rushing:

On 69 carries, which is fifth most in the league, Arizona quarterback Drew Powell leads the IFL in yards rushing (505), average per carry (7.3), touchdowns (16), and average per game (63.1). The Pirates’ Justin Stockton ranks tenth in attempts (52), yards (258), ninth in average per carry (4.6) and fourth with 43 yards per game. Massachusetts quarterback Alejandro Bennifield is sixth with 11 rushing touchdowns.

Passing:

The quarterbacks have similar numbers. Bennifield has completed 98 passes (4th) in 183 attempts (4th) with six interceptions (3rd) for a percentage of 53.6 (7th) for 1,199 yards (4th) with 26 touchdowns (2nd) averages 133.2 yards per game (6th) with an efficiency rating of 148.9 (3rd). Powell has completed 101 passes (3rd) on 146 attempts (6th) with six interceptions (4th) for a percentage of 69.2 (1st) for 1.063 yards (5th) with 17 touchdowns (6th) averages 132.9 yards per game (7th) with an efficiency rating of 160.5 (2nd).

Receiving:

Thomas Owens of the Pirates leads the IFL in receptions (46) receiving yards (668) and yards per game (74.2) He is second with 15 touchdowns, third with 5.11 receptions per game, and is tied for fifth with 14.5 yards per catch. Jarrod Harrington of the Rattlers is a top ten receiver in the IFL with 31 receptions (6th), 393 yards (5th), eight touchdowns (7th), averages 12.7 yards per catch (9th), 3.9 receptions per game (8th) and averages 49.1 yards per contest (7th).

Scoring:

Powell is fourth in scoring averaging 12 points per game while Owens ranks ninth with 9.6 points per contest. The Arizona QB is fourth in the IFL with 96 points while the Pirates receiver is sixth with 92.

Returns:

Two of the top kick returners will take the field on Sunday. Laquvionte Gonzalez of the Pirates has 26 returns this season (5th) for 543 yards (4th) with one touchdown (3rd) with a long return of 46 yards (3rd) and an average of 20.9 (3rd). Jarrod Harrington of the Rattlers has 15 returns (10th) for 260 yards (10th) with a long of 41 yards (8th) and an average of 17.3 (7th). Harrington does not have a return for a touchdown this season.

Total Offense:

Powell of the Rattlers is fourth in total yards with 1,568 for an average of 196.0 per game which ranks third. Bennifield of the Pirates has 1,329 total yards placing him fifth in the IFL with 147.7 yards per game which sees him seventh.

All Purpose Yards:

Gonzalez of the Pirates ranks fifth with 785 all-purpose yards and an average of 98.1 yards per game. Harrington of the Rattlers ranks seventh with 745 all-purpose yards with an average of 93.1 yards per contest.

Kicking:

Josh Gable of the Pirates is tied for the league lead with 10 made field goals. He has attempted 19 which tops the IFL. His percentage is 47.3 which ranks third. Gable is sixth with 47 points. Ernesto Lacayo of the Rattlers is third in scoring with 55 points and has made the most extra points this season with 49.

Tackles:

Santos Ramirez of the Pirates is tenth in the IFL with 48 tackles.

Tackles for a Loss:

Nikolaus D’Avanzo of Arizona leads the IFL with 9.5. Tavarus Dantzler of the Pirates ranks third with 8.5.

Sacks:

D’Avanzo leads the League with 6.5 sacks. The Rattlers Dillon Fammatau is tenth with 1.5 in six games. Toby Johnson of the Pirates has two in nine games this season.

Passes Defended:

Tyrell Pearson of the Rattlers leads the IFL with 17 passes defended and teammate Dillon Winfrey is second with 16. The Pirates Aarion Maxey-Penton is eighth with 10 and Harlan Miller is right behind with nine. Maxey-Penton, Miller, Pearson and Winfrey each have two interceptions this season. Only two players in the league have more.

Fumble Recoveries:

Chucky Williams of the Pirates leads the league in fumble recoveries with two in six games played this season.

Forced Fumbles:

The Pirates Toby Johnson is third in the league with two forced fumbles.

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 Facebook.com/MAPirates, Instagram @mass.pirates, and Twitter @mass_pirates. #GetHooked #AllAboard