X Marks The Spot
In 2021 the Massachusetts Pirates wrote the ultimate success story. They took the field in a new league (the Indoor Football League) with a first-time head coach in Patrick Pass, a first-year offensive coordinator; Bones Bagaunte and with a new defensive coordinator in Rayshaun Kizer. Backup quarterback Alejandro Bennifield became the starter in week two and after six games the team was 3-3. From that point forward the Pirates never lost another game. Their 11-3 regular season record was the best in franchise history as they secured the second seed in the IFL playoffs. After winning their first-ever playoff game over Bismarck, the Pirates defeated Frisco to advance to the United Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona where they were victorious over the top seeded Rattlers 37-34 in overtime with Bennifield being named the games’ Most Valuable Player. It was the first championship in the history of the organization. Massachusetts had nine players earn All-IFL honors with two being All-Rookie selections. Fittingly, Pirates Founder, Co-Owner, President and General Manager Jawad Yatim was given the key to the City of Worcester by Mayor Joseph Petty in a City Hall Celebration. The Pirates ended the 2021 season on an 11-game winning streak which they will carry into the 2022 campaign.
Charting a Championship Course
Having made the playoffs in their first two years of existence, the Pirates goal in 2020 was to win a championship. The team hired a three-time Super Bowl Champion to lead them. Former New England Patriot fullback Patrick Pass was elevated to Head Coach after serving as Director of Player Development in 2019. His staff included Offensive Coordinator Reggie Gray, a two-time Arena Football League champion and Defensive Coordinator Rayshaun Kizer, who ranks third all-time with 67 interceptions in the AFL. It was full-speed ahead as the season approached, but a world-wide pandemic loomed on the horizon. With the start of the season delayed due to Covid-19, the Pirates used the extra time to launch their official online pro shop which now serves fans from sea to shinning sea. The Pirates also rolled out a new website design and boosted their social media presence. Original media content featured the team’s 20 all-time greatest plays, a series on the top comeback wins in Pirates history and a full-length documentary entitled “Now or Never,” on Amazon Prime Video, which recapped the 2019 season. In June, the National Arena League cancelled its season and the Pirates three-year with the league expired. As team President and Owner Jawad Yatim explored options for 2021, the franchise continued to be a force in the community with players appearing at youth football camps and outreach events. Most importantly, the Pirates partnered with BodyArmor, a team sponsor, to provide refreshments to hospital workers as they performed free coronavirus testing at UMass Memorial Hospital in Marlborough, MA. Behind the scenes, the front office continued to evolve with the hiring of Christie McPherson, the new Head Coach of the Pirates Cheer Squad. In a normal year, the month of August would see the Pirates in the playoffs. This time it saw the Pirates charting a new course to glory. In an August 19th press conference at the DCU Center, President and General Manager Jawad Yatim announced a historic move as the Pirates joined the Indoor Football League. The franchise became the first east coast organization to play in the league based in the central and western United States. At the same time, Yatim announced a new three-year agreement with the DCU Center, ensuring that Pirates fans and the rest of New England would continue to see championship caliber football in the years ahead.
Pirates Persistence
In year two, the Pirates named Anthony Payton, Head Coach. After a slow start the Pirates went on a six-game winning streak to secure their second consecutive playoff berth. Only a controversial call in the final seconds against Carolina kept the Pirates from advancing to the league’s championship game. The season was highlighted by the in-season signing of Dexter McCluster, former All-Pro kick returner for the Kansas City Chiefs. At season’s end, wide receiver Mardy Gilyard had set single-season National Arena League scoring records with 33 touchdowns (29 receiving and four rushing) and 198 points. Gilyard was named as a First Team All-NAL performer along with defensive end JD Griggs and defensive back Lawrence Austin.
On April 7, 2018 the Pirates took the field at the DCU Center in Worcester, and arena football had returned to the city. After winning its opener against the Maine Mammoths the Pirates would compile a league-best 11-5 record to earn the top seed in the playoffs. A late-season injury forced quarterback Sean Brackett to miss the postseason and the Pirates playoff run lasted only one game. Despite missing almost three regular-season games, Brackett was named the league Most Valuable Player.
Raise the Jolly Roger
At a press conference in November, Jawad Yatim, Founder, Co-Owner, General Manager, and President of the Massachusetts Pirates announced his team would begin its initial season, in the spring of 2018.