Pirates Ready for Records & Revenge vs. Green Bay
By: Mick Moninghoff
August 6, 2021
WORCESTER, MA – There will be much on the line this Saturday night at Phoenix Field at the DCU Center when the 8-3 Massachusetts Pirates host the 5-6 Green Bay Blizzard at 7:05. The Pirates are in third place in the Indoor Football League standings and have already clinched a playoff berth. The Blizzard are currently seventh and need to remain in the top eight to make the postseason.
A Pirates’ victory on Saturday would take the team one step closer to hosting a home playoff game in the opening round, the weekend of August 28. It would also be their sixth straight victory which would tie a franchise record that was set in 2019. A win would also complete the “revenge hat-trick.”
This season the Pirates three losses occurred in their first meetings with Green Bay, Spokane and Frisco. The second meetings with Spokane and Frisco resulted in wins for Massachusetts. A win over the Blizzard would be the final chapter in the “revenge is sweet” saga for the 2021 season.
The Pirates are coming off their first ever overtime experience in the IFL with a 63-57 victory over the Spokane Shock on the road last Saturday night. Quarterback Alejandro Bennifield had a hand in five scores with four passing touchdowns and the ten-yard game winning run in the second overtime session. On the night he was nine of 16 passing for 113 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Marquis Young was the leading rusher for Massachusetts with 33 yards on ten carries and a touchdown and Dontez Byrd led the Pirates with five receptions for 61 yards. Thomas Owens caught two TD passes while Darren Carrington II and Laquvionte Gonzalez had one score each.
Defensive back Santos Ramirez had seven tackles, one tackle for a loss, an interception, forced a fumble that resulted in a defensive touchdown and recovered a Spokane fumble in the second overtime to set up the game winning TD run by Bennifield. For his efforts Ramirez was named the IFL’s Defensive Player of the Week. Fellow DB Harlan Miller had two interceptions. Linebacker Martrell Spaight led the team with nine tackles, had two tackles for a loss, broke up a pass and recovered a fumble for a touchdown. Ahmad Dixon had six tackles and broke up one pass play.
With the victory the Pirates are now 2-0 all-time in overtime games. The only other OT victory occurred on May 12, 2018 as Massachusetts defeated the Maine Mammoths 44-43.
The Blizzard are coming off a 41-30 loss on the road in Bismarck, North Dakota last weekend. The game was tied at 24 after three quarters, but touchdown runs by Bucks quarterback Kenyatte Allen Jr. broke the game open as Bismarck outscored Green Bay 17-6 in the final quarter. Blizzard quarterback Brook Bolles was 14 of 28 passing for 237 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He was also the team leading rusher with seven yards on 15 carries. His top receivers were Keshawn Taylor who had eight receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown and Keyondre Craig who had 99 yards and two scores on just three receptions. Defensive back Michael Johnson led the Blizzard with seven tackles while Momodou Mbye and Malik Reaves had six each. Defensive lineman Tyron Roberts had three tackles for a loss and a sack.
In the first meeting between the two clubs back on May 2, the Pirates defense held Green Bay to just 109 yards of total offense. Tavarus Dantzler was the league’s Defensive Player of the Week as he had four tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks and forced a fumble. Bennifield was the IFL Offensive Player of the Week as he ran five times for 28 yards and scored four touchdowns. He was also 16 of 27 passing for 139 yards with a TD and no interceptions. The Pirates held a 36-27 lead with 9:20 to play in the game but it was Blizzard quarterback Damion May who threw two touchdown passes to lead the Green Bay comeback. His first strike was a three-yard pass to Eric Thomas Jr. Then after the Blizzard recovered an onside kick, they turned pending doom into Pirates gloom. With 32 seconds to play, May picked up an errant shotgun snap, scrambled and threw a Hail Mary to Kezslow Smith. The prayer traveled 24 yards and was answered as Smith made the eventual game winning catch. That game was the Pirates only road loss of the season.
The Pirates offense is now scoring 42.5 points per game (4th in the IFL) and they still have the league’s best defense allowing 35.9 points per contest. Green Bay ranks tenth in scoring (34.5 points per game) and is fourth in the league giving up 38.1 points per night. Massachusetts is seventh in total offense averaging 211.2 yards per game and second defensively yielding 180.5. The Blizzard is 12th in the IFL averaging 164.9 yards per game while opponents gain 212.8 yards per game which ranks sixth.
Additionally, the Pirates defense is second against the run (56.6 yards per game), second vs. the pass (123.8 ypg.), second with 15 total sacks and has the lowest opponent third down conversion rate in the league at 27.4%.
Players to Watch:
Running backs Justin Stockton of the Pirates and Kerrion Moore of the Blizzard are two of the best in the IFL. Moore is seventh in the league with 343 rushing yards, fourth in attempts with 107 and tenth with 28.6 yards per game. Stockton is ninth in rushing with 293 yards, sixth averaging 36.6 yards per game and ninth with 4.5 yards per carry. The Pirates Alejandro Bennifield is fifth with 14 rushing touchdowns this season.
In his first full season as a starter, Bennifield had emerged as one of the best quarterbacks in the IFL. He is 123 (4th) of 225 (2nd) with seven interceptions (2nd) completing 54.7 percent of his passes (6th) for 1,515 yards (2nd) with 34 touchdowns (2nd) averaging 137.7 yards per game (5th)
with an efficiency of 154.9 (3rd). Brook Bolles has made four starts this season for Green Bay. Bolles is 70 of 140 (50%) for 869 yards with 17 touchdowns and one interception. He averages 124.1 yards per game.
The top receiver in the IFL is Thomas Owens of the Pirates. Owens has 53 receptions (1st) for 741 yards (1st) with 18 touchdowns (3rd) averages 14.0 yards per catch (6th) records 4.8 receptions per game (3rd) and averages 67 yards per game (1st). Owens is also seventh in the IFL in scoring averaging 10.5 points per game. Keshaun Taylor is the Blizzards’ top receiver with 32 catches for 424 yards with eight touchdowns. He averages 13.3 yards per catch, four receptions per game and 53 yards per contest.
Green Bay’s Trevon Saunders currently ranks second in kickoff return average with 21.7 yards per return. Saunders is also seventh in all-purpose yards with 84.8 per game. The Pirates Laquvionte Gonzalez is third in the IFL with 20.6 yards per return. Gonzalez ranks fifth with 101.9 all-purpose yards per contest.
The Defensive Side:
Five of the top ten tacklers in the IFL are expected to be on the field on Saturday. Four of them play for the Blizzard. Defensive back Momodu Mbye ranks second with 85 tackles, linebacker Diondre Wallace has 76 (4th) DB Bakari Triggs; 75 (5th) DB Malik Reaves; 73 (7th) and Pirates defensive back Santos Ramirez is tenth with 62.
Pirates’ defensive lineman Tavarus Dantzler has 8.5 tackles for a loss which places him sixth in the league. Green Bays’ Dajon Emory has 8.5 playing in one more game (7th) and Wallace of the Blizzard has 7.5 on the season ranking him ninth in the IFL.
Emory has three sacks on the season which places him third in the league while J.D. Griggs of the Pirates is 6th with 2.5.
Massachusetts defensive back Harlan Miller, coming off his two-interception game last weekend is fourth in the IFL with 12 passes defended. Reaves of Green Bay ranks sixth (also with 12) and the Pirates Aarion Maxey-Penton is ninth with 10 passes defended.
When it comes to interceptions, Reaves of the Blizzard tops the IFL with five and Mbye is right behind with four. Triggs of Green Bay and Miller of the Pirates are both in the top five with three each.
Pirates’ defensive back Chucky Williams leads the IFL with three fumble recoveries while teammates Toby Johnson and Santos Ramirez have forced two fumbles this year. Emory of the Blizzard has also forced two as that trio rank in the top ten in that department.
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 are available now at ticketmaster.com or the DCU Center Box Office. For 2022 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