Pirates Face Frisco in IFL Semifinal

By: Mick Moninghoff
Pirates Writer
September 1, 2021

WORCESTER, MA – The Massachusetts Pirates look to continue their magical run toward a trip to the United Bowl and an Indoor Football League championship when they face the Frisco Fighters this Saturday night at Phoenix Field at the DCU Center at 8:00.

Both teams are playing in their first season in the IFL but are playing nothing like expansion teams. The Pirates (11-3/1-0) are the second seed and Frisco (10-3/1-0) is the third seed. The winner will move on to face the winner of the other semifinal matchup between the top seeded Arizona Rattlers and the fifth seeded Duke City Gladiators which will be played on Sunday. The winners will meet for the IFL championship in the United Bowl on Sunday, September 12 on the home field of the highest remaining seed.

The Pirates and the Fighters have faced each other twice this season and have produced some very interesting story lines. In the first meeting Frisco defeated the Pirates. It was the last time the Pirates have lost this season. In Frisco, the Pirates’ road victory knocked the Fighters from the ranks of the undefeated. Since that time the Pirates have set franchise records with nine consecutive victories and have notched 12 wins overall, the most in a single season.

This game looks to be the classic run vs. the pass as Demarcus Felton of Frisco is fourth in the league in rushing with 507 yards and has scored five touchdowns against the Pirates, while the Massachusetts passing combination of quarterback Alejandro Bennifield to wideout Thomas Owens is one of the most prolific in the IFL producing three scores against Frisco this year. For the record, in the two meetings Frisco has eight rushing touchdowns and three passing while the Pirates have seven passing touchdowns and two rushing against the Fighters.

Last Week:

The Pirates won their first ever playoff game with a 44-19 victory over the seventh seeded Bismarck Bucks at Phoenix Field at the DCU Center. Massachusetts carried a 17-7 at halftime and then outscored the Bucks 27 to 12 the rest of the way to secure the win. It marked the fifth time this season and third consecutive game that the Massachusetts defense held an opponent under 20 points. Quarterback Alejandro Bennifield was the teams’ top rusher with 26 yards on seven carries with one touchdown. He was also 11 of 15 passing for 113 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Backup quarterback Sean Brackett finished three for three for 45 yards and a score. Wide receiver Thomas Owens was the leading receiver for Massachusetts with five receptions for 47 yards and two touchdowns. The Pirate’s defense was led by Chucky Williams and Santos Ramirez as each had five tackles. Linebacker Martrell Spaight had 4.5 stops including the games’ only sack. He also posted 1.5 tackles for a loss. Aarion Maxey-Penton broke up two passes and had the game’s only interception, a 30-yard pick-six that broke the game open in the fourth quarter.

The Fighters also won their first ever IFL playoff game with a 44-33 victory over the sixth seeded Spokane Shock at home. The game was tied at 13 early in the third quarter, but the Fighters offense came to life scoring on its final five possessions to hold off Spokane. Frisco scored all five of its touchdowns on the ground, running the ball 26 times for a total of 88 yards while controlling the clock. Spokane had more yards of total offense (251 to 187) but converted just three of seven times on third down and one of two fourth down chances. Demarcus Felton led the Fighters with 64 yards on 18 carries with two touchdowns. Quarterback Malik Henry was 10 of 22 for 99 yards with one interception. Marques Rodgers had three receptions for 21 yards while Manny Arceneaux had three catches for 31 yards. Defensive back Sir’Vell Ford had five tackles and a pass broken up while defensive lineman Charles Williams had five stops and the Fighters only sack.

The First Meeting – June 12, Worcester, MA

Pirates quarterback Alejandro Bennifield threw three touchdown passes and ran for another, but it was not enough as the Frisco Fighters remained the only undefeated team in the Indoor Football League with a 40-33 victory. Thomas Owens led the Pirates with four receptions for 77 yards and a score. Frisco QB Jonathan Bane was eight of 15 passing for 80 yards and two scores while Jerrod Heard was four of eight for 52 yards. Heard was the leading rushing in the game with 58 yards on 13 carries with two touchdowns. Lance Evans led the Fighters with five receptions for 66 yards.

The Second Meeting – July 3, Frisco, TX

For the second time in back-to-back games in front of a national TV audience, Pirates kicker Josh Gable made a game winning field goal as time expired giving the Pirates a 38-37 victory over the Fighters. The upset at the Comerica Center was the first loss of the season for Frisco. Gable had given the Pirates a 37-34 win over Tucson two weeks earlier with a 46-yard field goal. This time a 27-yarder did the trick in Frisco. Offensively Massachusetts won the battle with 105 yards passing while holding Frisco to its lowest passing total on the season with just 34 yards. The Pirates were outgained on the ground 96 to 64, but Massachusetts amassed 169 total yards to the Fighters 130.

Alejandro Bennifield was 9 of 19 for 105 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. Thomas Owens had six receptions for 72 yards and two scores. Running back Martez Carter carried the ball 11 times for 49 yards and a score. For Frisco, Demarcus Felton ran 11 times for 66 yards and three scores for Frisco. Quarterback Jonathan Bane was 6 of 13 for 34 yards with a TD and an interception. Marques Rodgers had three receptions for 18 yards and a score. The defensive star of the night was Ahmad Dixon of the Pirates as he had ten tackles, three tackles for a loss and a sack.

All statistical totals are from the regular season:

Team Stats:

The Pirates scored 44.4 points per game which was third in the IFL. The Massachusetts defense gave up a league low 33.1 points per game. The Fighters ranked seventh scoring 40.8 points per game while their defense was third allowing 37.0 points per contest. Should the game come down to a critical fourth down play the Pirates may have an edge with the leagues’ third best success rate at 62.5 percent while Frisco ranked seventh at 51.4.

This contest features two of the IFL’s elite defenses. The Frisco defense was impressive allowing a league low of 175.5 yards per game which was tops in the IFL. The Pirates were right behind giving up 178.0 yards per night. The Pirates gave up the fewest touchdowns (60) and yielded a league best 4.1 yards per play. Frisco was second allowing 4.9 yards per play. Both teams held running backs to just 3.2 yards per carry.

The Pirates were the best team against the pass while Frisco set the standard for stopping the run. Massachusetts defense dominated opposing quarterbacks, leading the league holding passers 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. On fourth down the Massachusetts defense ranked third with a 39.9 success rate while Frisco was last with a percentage of 64.7.

The Fighters were the best in the league at stopping the run, giving up an IFL low 556 yards on the ground and 42.9 rushing yards per game.

Special Teams:

The Pirates were the best at returns averaging 18.3 per run back with four touchdowns, which also led the IFL. Frisco was last in the league averaging just 13.7 yards per kick return.

Players to Watch: (league rankings included)

Running Backs:

Demarcus Felton of Frisco had 128 carries (2nd) for 507 yards (4th) with 20 Touchdowns (3rd) and averaged 39.0 yards per game (5th) The Pirates’ Justin Stockton had 84 carries for 359 yards (10th) averaging 4.3 yards per carry (8th) and 35.9 yards per game (7th). Jerrod Heard of the Fighters averaged 4.6 yards per carry (7th) and had 12 rushing touchdowns (8th).

QB’s:

Pirates quarterback Alejandro Bennifield had 144 completions (4th) in 260 attempts (4th) with 8 interceptions (3rd) for 1,750 yards (3rd) with 37 touchdowns (2nd), averaged 125.0 passing yards per game (7th) with an efficiency rating of 152.7 (4th). Bennifield also had 16 rushing touchdowns which was sixth in the IFL. Malik Henry of Frisco played in five games and was 56 of 101 with three interceptions. His completion percentage was .55 while attaining 575 yards with eight touchdowns. His average was 115.0 yards per game with an efficiency rating of 123.5.

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). Frisco’s Mark Munson had ten touchdown receptions (10th) and 13.4 yards per catch (6th). Munson had 31 receptions for 416 yards, averaging 32 receiving yards per game while Manny Arceneaux pulled in 36 passes for 320 yards and six scores, averaging 8.9 yards per catch and 29.1 yards per contest.

Scoring:

Owens of the Pirates was sixth in the IFL averaging 10.4 points per game. Felton of Frisco averaged 10.2 points per game (7th).

Kick Scoring:

Josh Gable of the Pirates was 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). He also has a long field goal of 52 yards (2nd). Kristov Martinez of Frisco was 38 (5th) of 45 (5th) on PAT’s and 7 (5th) of 15 (7th) on field goals; 57.7 percent (7th). His longest field goal was 50 yards (3rd). Martinez had 59 points which ranked fifth.

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). Marques Rodgers of Frisco has 40 returns (5th) for 655 yards (6th), one touchdown (5th) and an average of 16.4 yards per return (8th).

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 Gonzalez 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. Thomas Owens ranked ninth with 929 all-purpose yards and was tenth with 66.4 per game. Marques Rodgers of Frisco had 1,036 all-purpose yards (5th) and averaged 115.1 yards per game (3rd).

Defense:

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

Frisco’s Donald Lewis was eighth in the IFL with 9.0 tackles for a loss. Two Fighters ranked in the top ten in sacks with Charles Williams first with 11 and Malcolm Goines fifth with 4.5.

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.

Defensive back Chucky Williams of the Pirates led the IFL with three fumbles recovered while teammate Harlan Miller was seventh with two. Santos Ramirez also had two, playing in 14 games. Toby Johnson of the Pirates was second in the IFL with three forced fumbles and Santos Ramirez ranked fourth with three, while playing in more games. Charles Williams (7th) and Donald Louis (8th) of Frisco each had two forced fumbles this season.

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