Pirates Look for First Playoff Win

By: Mick Moninghoff
Pirates Writer
August 27, 2021

WORCESTER, MA – The Massachusetts Pirates have completed their most successful regular season ever. In each of the teams’ three seasons since 2018, the Pirates have made the playoffs. Now the franchise looks to take the next step and secure its first victory in the postseason. The 11-3 Pirates start their march toward an Indoor Football League championship Saturday night at 7:05 at Phoenix Field at the DCU Center when they host the 7-8 Bismarck Bucks. The Pirates ended the regular season with a franchise record eight game winning streak. It was the longest winning streak in the IFL this season.

The Pirates played Bismarck twice during the regular season. In week three the Pirates traveled to North Dakota where quarterback Alejandro Bennifield passed for three touchdowns and ran for two more as the Pirates defeated Bismarck 36 to 18 at the Bismarck Event Center. Bennifield was 16 of 30 passing for 186 yards and three scores and he was also the games top rusher with 31 yards on eight carries with two scores. Wide receiver Thomas Owens had eight catches for 107 yards and a touchdown. For the Bucks, QB Glen Cuiellette was 7 of 15 for 74 yards and two TD’s while receiver Raheem Harvey led Bismarck with four receptions for 90 yards and two scores. The Massachusetts defense held the Bucks to 249 total yards of offense which included a minus 8 rushing yards for the game.

The second meeting took place in week twelve at Phoenix Field at the DCU Center in Worcester. This time Bennifield threw five touchdown passes and ran for another as the Pirates defeated the Bucks 43-38. Bennifield finished the game 12 for 20 for 214 yards with five touchdowns and an interception. He was also the Pirates leading rusher with six carries for 19 yards and a score. The leading receiver in the game was Owens with seven receptions for 126 yards and three touchdowns.

For Bismarck running back Justin Rankin was the “go to” player leading the ground attack with 40 yards on eight carries and two TD’s while adding seven receptions for another 37 yards. Quarterback Caleb Lewis ended the game 14 of 23 passing for 154 yards with an interception and three touchdown passes all going to wideout Andre Williams. Williams ended with four receptions for 66 yards.

Last Week:

The Pirates enter the playoffs on the heels of a 55-19 victory over the Iowa Barnstormers. It was the 30th win in the history of the franchise against 14 losses. Thomas Owens scored four touchdowns and the Pirates defense held an opponent under 20 points for the fourth time this season. Owens had five receptions for 85 yards and three receiving touchdowns plus a seven-yard run for a score. Kick returner Liquvionte Gonzalez ran back a kickoff 50 yards for a touchdown and totaled 139 all-purpose yards with 111 coming on returns. Aarion Maxey-Penton had an interception and Santos Ramirez returned a fumble 12 yards for a touchdown. It was the fifth consecutive game where the offense scored 50 or more points.

The Bucks ended their season with a setback on the road in Rio Rancho, NM, losing to the Duke City Gladiators 57-45. Bismarck defensive back Kendric Harper intercepted Duke City quarterback Nate Davis and returned it 14 yards for a touchdown, giving the Bucks a 38-37 lead with 3:57 remaining in the third quarter. Davis then led the home team comeback with three TD passes for the victory. Davis finished 20 of 28 for 246 yards with six touchdowns and an interception. For Bismarck, QB Caleb Lewis was 9 of 20 for 119 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Kenyatte Allen was 0-4 passing. Lewis was also the Bucks leading rusher with two carries for five yards and a touchdown. Running back Isaiah Strayhorn also added a rushing touchdown. Wide receiver Raheem Harvey had four receptions for 43 yards and two scores. Defensive back Jevaughn Codlin was the leading tackler with seven stops. Kick returner Zuril Hendrick returned six kicks for 147 yards and had a 48 yard return for a score.

Team Stats:

The Pirates are scoring 44.4 points per game which is third in the IFL. The Massachusetts defense is giving up a league low 33.1 points per game. Bismarck has the eighth scoring offense in the league at 40.6 points per game, while the defense yields 41.5 points per contest which is sixth best.

Additionally, the Pirates have allowed the fewest touchdowns (60) and allowed a league best 4.1 yards per play. They are also tied with Frisco allowing just 3.2 yards per carry. The Massachusetts defense was a nightmare for IFL quarterbacks, leading the league holding opposing passes to an average of 120.8 yards per game on 49 percent passing with each completion going for an average of 4.7 yards. The Pirates defense also had the best third down conversion rate at 30.9 percent.

Special Teams:

The Pirates were the best at returns averaging 18.3 per run back with four touchdowns, which also led the IFL.

Players to Watch: (league rankings included)

Running Backs:

Justin Rankin of Bismarck has rushed 117 times (4th) for 543 yards (5th) averaging 4.5 yards per carry and averaging 30.3 yards per game (10th). The Pirates’ Justin Stockton has 84 carries for 359 yards (10th) averaging 4.3 yards per carry (8th) and 35.9 yards per game (7th).

QB’s:

Pirates quarterback Alejandro Bennifield has 144 completions (4th) in 260 attempts (4th) with 8 interceptions (3rd) for 1,750 yards (3rd) with 37 touchdowns (2nd), averages 125.0 passing yards per game (7th) with an efficiency rating of 152.7 (4th). Bennifield also has 16 rushing touchdowns which is sixth in the IFL.

For Bismarck, Caleb Lewis is 30 of 58 (52%) with three interceptions for 351 yards with seven touchdowns, averaging 117.0 yards per game with an efficiency rating of 132.0. Kenyatte Allen has played four games completing 43 of 70 passes (61%) for 446 yards with nine touchdowns and no interceptions. He averages 111.5 yards per game with an efficiency rating of 157.4.

Wide Receivers:

Thomas Owens of the Pirates ended the regular season as one of the best in the IFL. Owens had 66 receptions (2nd) for 911 yards (2nd), 22 touchdowns (2nd), averaged 13.8 yards per catch (4th), 4.7 receptions per game (3rd), and 65.1 receiving yards per game (2nd). Raheem Harvey of Bismarck had 44 receptions (7th) for 574 yards (7th), 14 touchdowns (5th), 13.0 yards per catch (8th), 3.1 receptions per game, and 41.0 receiving yards per game (10th).

Scoring:

Owens of the Pirates was sixth in the IFL averaging 10.4 points per game while Rankin of the Bucks was tenth with an average of 9.6 per contest.

Kick Scoring:

Cody Barber of Bismarck is 44 (3rd) of 62 (3rd) on extra points and 10 (4th) of 30 (1st) on field goals for 33.3 percent (5th), scoring a total of 74 points (3rd). Josh Gable of the Pirates is 17 (7th) of 24 (7th) on PATs and 10 (3rd) of 19 (5th) on field goals for a percentage of 47.3 (5th), with 47 kicking points (6th).

Kick Returns:

The Pirates Laquvionte Gonzalez had 45 returns (4th) for 957 yards (2nd) with three touchdowns (1st) with a long of 57 yards (2nd) and averaged 21.3 yards per return (1st). Mike Carrigan of Bismarck had 37 returns (6th) for 738 yards (5th) and averaged 19.9 yards per return (5th).

Total Offense:

Alejandro Bennifield of the Pirates was fourth in Total Offense with 1,927 yards and eighth with 137.6 yards of total offense per game.

All-Purpose Yards:

Laquvionte Gonzales of the Pirates was fourth in the IFL with 1,386 all-purpose yards and was fourth with an average of 106.6 all-purpose yards per game.

Defense:

Santos Ramirez of the Pirates was fourth in the league with 84 tackles and fifth averaging six tackles per game.

The Bucks Darreon Jackson was third in the league with 11.5 tackles for a loss. Bismarcks’ Da’von Keith was sixth with 9.5. Keith was also ninth in the IFL with 3.5 sacks.

Bismarck’s Zuril Hendrick was second in the IFL with 22 passes defended, second with 19 passes broken up and seventh with three interceptions. Khalid Wooten of the Pirates was fourth with 14 passes defended. Harlan Miller of Massachusetts finished fifth with 14 passes defended, seventh with nine passes broken up and second with five interceptions. Aarion Maxey-Penton of the Pirates ranked sixth with 13 passes defended and tied with Miller with five interceptions. Deion Carter of the Bucks was ninth with nine passes broken up.

Defensive back Chucky Williams of the Pirates led the IFL with three fumbles recovered while teammate Harlan Miller was fourth with two. Toby Johnson of the Pirates was first in the IFL with three forced fumbles and Santos Ramirez ranked tenth 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