Pirates Face Iowa in Season Finale

By: Mick Moninghoff
Pirates Writer
August 18, 2021

WORCESTER, MA – The Massachusetts Pirates look to re-write their record book in the last game of the regular season when they face the Iowa Barnstormers on Saturday night at Phoenix Field at the DCU Center at 7:30. The third place Pirates (10-3) can equal the team record for most victories in a season (11) with a win over the 6-5 Barnstormers who are currently in fourth place in the Indoor Football League. The 2018 Pirates were 11-5, thus a victory would give the 2021 edition the best regular season winning percentage in team history at .758.

The Pirates are also riding a seven-game win streak which is the best in franchise history and the longest by any team in the IFL this season. They have assured themselves of at least a top three finish and secured a first round home playoff game the weekend of August 27-29.

The Last Time Out:

On Sunday, the Pirates defense caused six turnovers, quarterback Sean Brackett threw four touchdown passes and wideout Laquvionte Gonzalez scored three times as they took down the Northern Arizona Wranglers 51-16 in Prescott Valley. The highlight of the game was a 55-yard interception return for a touchdown by Aarion Maxey-Penton. Brackett, making just his second start of the season, was 12 of 20 for 127 yards with four scores and one interception. His top receivers were Thomas Owens who had seven catches for 72 yards and a score and Gonzalez who had three receptions for 41 yards and two touchdowns. Gonzales also had a TD run of five-yards. Marquis Young was the leading rusher for Massachusetts with six carries for 15 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, three Massachusetts defensive backs led the way. Chucky Williams was the top tackler in the game with seven, including one for a loss and an interception. Santos Ramirez had six stops, 1.5 tackles for a loss and a pick, and Harlan Miller had an interception and recovered a fumble. Defensive lineman T.J. Barnes had two tackles for a loss.

It was the third time this season that the Pirates held an opponent under 20 points. Conversely, it was the fourth straight game in which the Pirates have scored 50 or more points.

Last week the Barnstormers clinched a playoff spot with a 55-49 overtime win over Sioux Falls. It was the third time this season that Iowa defeated the Storm. Trailing 49-42 with 5:52 to play, Storm quarterback Lorenzo Brown was sacked by Iowa’s Kenton Bartlett who forced a fumble. The ball was recovered by Christopher Biggurs at the Sioux Falls 11-yard line. Barnstormers QB Daquan Neal ran for eight yards to the three and capped off the short drive with a three-yard TD run to tie the game. Both teams missed field goals in the final 2:26.

The Storm had the ball first to start the extra session and the drive ended at the one as Brown was stood up by Bartlett and Jay Washington. The Barnstormers took over and kept the ball on the ground with Evan Owens and Neal getting all of the touches. It was Evans who got the call on first and goal from the three and he took it into the end zone for the victory.

Neal finished the game 19 of 31 passing for 173 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. He also ran the ball 15 times for 84 yard and three scores. Elad Covaliu had seven carries for 45 yards and a score and Owens had five rushes for 15 yards and the game winning touchdown. Carrington Thompson Sr. was Iowa’s leading receiver with eight receptions for 82 yards and a TD. Linebacker Tony Jones and defensive back Jaylen Moore led Iowa with eight tackles each.

Team Stats:

The Pirates are now scoring 43.7 points per game; third best in the IFL. Their defense allows a league low of 34.2 points per game. Iowa is averaging 43.5 points per contest; fourth in the league and 42.5 points per game which ranks seventh.

More Defense:

The Massachusetts defense is giving up just 4.2 yards per play which is best in the IFL. They are first against the pass, holding opposing quarterbacks to 122.6 yards a game; number one regarding opponents third down conversion rate at 31.6 and have the best defense efficiency rating at 112.3. The Pirates are second vs. the pass allowing 178.5 yards per game and second vs. the run yielding 55.8 yards per contest.

Iowa will be a strong test for the Pirates as they are number one in the IFL with 251.2 yards of offense per game. They are the third best rushing team averaging 90.3 yards per game and second in passing with 160.9 yards per night.

Players to Watch:

Iowa has two of the top rushers in the IFL with Daquan Neal and Elad Covaliu. Neal is second in the league with 536 yards and with 48.7 yards per game. He is also fifth with 16 rushing touchdowns (tied with QB Alejandro Bennifield of the Pirates) and ninth with 99 carries. Covaliu is tenth with 85 carries and averages 34.9 yards per game which is seventh in the league. Despite sitting out the last game, the Pirates’ Justin Stockton ranks ninth with 339 yards, seventh averaging 4.5 yards per carry and is sixth with 37.7 yards per game.

The QB’s: (league ranking included)

Bennifield has 134 completions (5th) in 242 attempts (3rd) with eight interceptions (3rd) for a percentage of 55.4 (6th) for 1,609 yards (3rd) with 34 passing touchdowns (2nd), averages 134.1 yards per game (4th) with an efficiency rating of 151.0 (4th). Neal’s numbers are 140 (4th) of 258 (2nd) with seven interceptions (5th) for a percentage of 54.3 (8th) for 1.748 yards (2nd) with 29 touchdowns (3rd), averaging 158.9 yards per game (2nd) with an efficiency rating of 142.8 (5th).

The Receivers:

Thomas Owens of the Pirates has been at the top of the charts all season. He has 61 receptions (2nd) for 826 yards (2nd) with 19 touchdowns (3rd). He averages 13.5 yards per catch (5th), 4.7 receptions per game (3rd) and 63.5 yards per game (2nd). Iowa’s Carrington Thompson Sr. has 39 receptions (9th) for 568 yards (6th) with eight touchdowns. Thompson Sr. averages 14.6 yards per reception (3rd) on 3.9 catches per game (7th) with 56.8 receiving yards per game (4th).

Scoring:

Owens is eight in the IFL in scoring with 122 points, 9.4 points per game with 19 touchdowns. Neal of Iowa is tenth in scoring with 78 points, 8.9 points per game and has 16 touchdowns. Bennifield of Massachusetts also has 16 rushing touchdowns on the season.

Special Teams:

Massachusetts will have the edge in special teams as kicker Ali Mourtada is 18 (7th) of 20 (7th) on PAT’s and is 6 (4th) of 10 (7th) on field goals. Mourtada has 36 kicking points in two games and has the longest field goal in the IFL this season with a 54 yarder. Returner Laquvionte Gonzalez has 41 returns (3rd) for 846 yards (3rd) with two touchdowns (2nd) and an average of 20.6 yards per game (2nd).

Total Offense:

Bennifield is fifth in the IFL with 1,786 yards and seventh averaging 148.8 yards per game. Neal is third with 228.4 yards and second with an average of 207.6 yards per game.

All Purpose Yards:

Gonzalez is fourth with 1,247 all-purpose yards with an average of 103.9 yards per game. Covaliu of Iowa is seventh with 953 yards for 95.3 yards per game.

Defense:

Santos Ramirez of the Pirates is eighth in the IFL with 77 tackles and averages 5.9 per game (9th). Tony Jones of Iowa is ninth with 74 tackles.

Tackles for Loss:

Jones of Iowa has 8.5 which ranks him eighth. He is also tenth in the IFL with three sacks. Toby Johnson of the Pirates is tenth with 8.0 tackles for a loss on the season.

Passes Defended:

The Pirates have three defensive backs in the top ten in the IFL. Harlan Miller is fourth with 14 passes defended. He also has five interceptions ranking him fifth. Aarion Maxey-Penton is sixth with 12 passes defended and fourth with four interceptions. Khalid Wooten is tenth with ten passes defended. John McClure of Iowa ranks eighth with 11.

Fumbles Recovered & Forced Fumbles:

Chucky Williams of the Pirates leads the IFL with three fumbles recovered. Tony Jones of Iowa and Harlan Miller of the Pirates rank in the top ten with two each. Kenton Bartlett of Iowa and Toby Johnson of Massachusetts lead the IFL with three forced fumbles. Santos Ramirez ranks in the top ten along with several others with two.

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 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