The Pirates six game winning streak came to an end as the Jacksonville Sharks rolled to a 59-42 victory over Massachusetts. With the victory the Sharks claimed the top seed in the upcoming NAL playoffs. The Pirates are assured of the third seed and will face Carolina on the road in the first round that takes place the weekend of August third.
The Pirates were able to score on the first play of the contest after kicker Mike Weaver booted
the opening kickoff off of the upright. It was then recovered in the end zone by the Sharks Tony Goodman. Pirate’s defensive back Khalid Wooten tackled the Goodman in the end zone which resulted in an “Uno,” and a rare 1-0 lead for the Pirates.
Wooten made his presence known again after he intercepted Sharks quarterback Jonathan Bane on an under thrown ball into the end zone to give the Pirates possession. However, Massachusetts was unsuccessful on their next drive after Brackett had the ball knocked out of his hands while throwing a screen pass, resulting in a fumble recovery for Jacksonville. Bane turned the momentum into the first touchdown of the game when he hit receiver Durron Neal for a seven-yard score. The Pirates struck back instantly after a magnificent drive led by Brackett resulted in a 16-yard touchdown to wide out Mardy Gilyard, who got an ovation from the home crowd as the score was his 50th career TD as a Pirate. Sharks fullback Alstevis Squirewell followed with a 30-yard touchdown run after he split the Pirates defense. Sharks kicker Brandon Behr added a deuce on the ensuing kickoff. On the final play of the first quarter, Brackett was picked off on his own five-yard line to set up the Sharks with a perfect scoring opportunity.
The second quarter started with Squirewell punching it in for a touchdown from one-yard out, for his second score of the game. The Pirates then drove the ball all the way down to the six-yard line but turned the ball over on downs. Bane took the momentum created by the stingy Sharks defense to find Jarmon Fortson streaking down the sidelines for a 44-yard score. On the next Pirate possession, Brackett and company were stopped short on 4th and goal from the goal line, but a defensive holding call gave the team another shot at six. Brackett then snuck it in from one yard out, extending his league-leading rushing touchdowns to 11. The final drive of the half ended with Bane finding Neal for the second time of the half from 18-yards out to send Jacksonville into the locker rooms with a 36-15 lead.
The Pirates started with the ball to begin the third quarter, but not before Behr added another deuce on the kickoff. On the drive, Brackett was able to find Gilyard again from four-yards out for the score. Gilyard was able to hold onto the ball while he was getting hit and powered his way into the end zone. The Sharks drove down the field but were ultimately stopped short of the goal line on 4th and goal, but a pass interference penalty on defensive back Lawrence Austin gave Jacksonville a new set of downs from the one. Bane was able to hit Fortson for six for the second time on the night. Behr surprised the Pirates on the following kickoff when he attempted an onside kick, which was recovered by the Sharks. However, they failed to advance, turning the ball over on downs. A Brackett-to-Gilyard eight-yard touchdown marked the third time the dynamic duo hooked up in the game. The Sharks headed into the final quarter of play with a 45-28 lead.
The fourth quarter was more of the same, with the explosive Jacksonville offense a bit too much for the Pirates defense to handle. Bane opened up the quarter by finding Kamrin Solomon for an 11-yard touchdown. Brackett responded by driving down the field quickly and finding Thomas Owens for a 12-yard score. Massachusetts then attempted an onside kick, but was unsuccessful and gave the Sharks possession at the nine-yard line. Bane capitalized on the short field when he found Devin Wilson in the end zone, who made an acrobatic catch as he flipped over the wall for a five-yard touchdown. After the comeback was out of reach, Brackett snuck it in once again for the score to increase his rushing touchdown total on the season to 12. In the final minute of the contest, defensive lineman Toby Johnson intercepted Bane on a tipped pass. The Sharks extended their win streak to 11 games and their overall record to 11-1, while the loss ended the Pirates six-game win streak leaving them at 7-5.
Brackett was 21 of 34 passing for 198 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. Gilyard led the Pirates with nine catches for 95 yard and three scores. Defensively Wooten had three tackles, an interception and an “Uno.”
For the Sharks, Bane was 14 of 32 for 174 yards and five touchdowns while being intercepted twice. Neal led his receivers with six catches for 61 yards and a pair of scores. Squirewell was the top rusher in the game with six carries for 40 yards and two touchdowns. Nick Woodman had seven stops and two sacks and a fumble recovery.
The Pirates will be looking for revenge as they travel to Jacksonville next week to take on the Sharks at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum at 7:00 pm on July 20.
The Massachusetts Pirates are members of the National Arena League (NAL). The Pirates play all home games at the DCU Center located at 50 Franklin St. Worcester, MA. 01608. For more information on the Massachusetts Pirates please call (508) 452-MASS (6277), email [email protected] or visit www.masspiratesfootball.com. Single game tickets are available online at ticketmaster.com or the DCU Center Box Office. For group outings please call 508-452-MASS (6277). Follow the Pirates on Facebook at Facebook.com/MAPirates on Instagram @mass.pirates, as well as Twitter @mass_pirates.