Week 2 of the 2018 Season for the National Arena League has came and gone. All 6 teams from the NAL were in action this weekend, April 13-14th. We will give you the run down on what took place in all three match-ups on this article.
2018 Week 2 Game of the Week
Massachusetts Pirates @ Jacksonville Sharks
Starting off with the game of the week, the Massachusetts Pirates traveled to Jacksonville, Florida in the 2017 Defending NAL Champs Home Opener. The Sharks raised their banner and celebrated their success in 2017, with the Pirates in town. It was the clash of two of the undefeated teams in the league with Jacksonville beating Carolina in Week 1, and the Pirates beating the Mammoths. Both the Sharks and Pirates showcased their talents in the game vs each other, but in the end Sharks fans went home heartbroken. The Pirates won last night's game 63-56 in a very back and forth game. The result was a shocker to many, but for some people, they were not surprised at all. The Pirates QB Sean Brackett showed off his power and strength and WR Devon Brown had an outstanding game. The Pirates are for sure not a team to mess with. Lets take a look at how the game went down!
On the first possession for the Sharks, Patrick McCain threw a 25 yard touchdown pass to Antonio Vaughn, and the TD was followed up with a completed FG from Nick Belcher, and the Sharks took the 7-0 lead. With 8:36 left in the 1st, QB Sean Brackett ran the ball 1 yard into the end-zone for a quarterback sneak touchdown to put the Pirates on the board. Ali Mourtada made the extra point following Brackett's pass and the Pirates tied the game 7-7. Later on, Sharks QB Patrick McCain was intercepted by the John Hardy-Tuliau and the Pirates took over the ball at the 22 yard line, but they ended up having a turnover on downs on the drive after Charlie Hunt sacked Brackett on 4th Down. Patrick McCain went on to throw another touchdown pass in the first quarter to the same player as he threw to earlier, Antonio Vaughn with 2:44 remaining on the clock. Blecher made the extra point and the Sharks took the lead again 14-7. On the kickoff, Orlandus Harris returned the ball all the way to the 26 yard line, which put the Pirates at great field position. Following the huge kick return, Brackett had a 24 yard pass to Devon Brown. Mourtada made the extra point after the touchdown, and the game was tied 14-14 to end the first quarter.
To start of the scoring in the second quarter, Derrick Ross ran a four yard touchdown with 11:37 on the clock and put his team ahead. On the point after, Belcher missed the FG and the score was 20-14 after the touchdown. After the Sharks turned over the ball on downs with 1:40 left in the quarter, the Pirates now had a first and goal opportunity at their fingertips. Easy enough, Orlandus Harris walked into the endzone for a 1 yard touchdown to tie the game 20-20. Ali Mourtada put his team ahead following his extra point 21-20. Immediately on the next drive, the Sharks answered back, as Patrick McCain threw a 12 yard pass into the end-zone to Sam Charles to put the team ahead 26-21 and after the touchdown, Belcher once again missed the field goal and the score remained 26-21. Following the touchdown and missed field goal, the Sharks decided to onside kick the ball and the Pirates FB Harris recovered it on the 9 yard line. On the drive, Brackett connected to Lamont Bryant for a 9 yard catch and run touchdown, followed up by a completed field goal to put the Pirates ahead 28-26. In the final seconds of a crazy second quarter, McCain threw an interception to Pirates' John Hardy-Tuliau for the second time this game. John Hardy-Tuliau ended up with a pick-six before halftime. Mourtada ended up missing the point after, but going into halftime the Pirates were still ahead 34-26.
Nick Belcher started off the 3rd Quarter with a bang, and made up for his two missed field goals, as he nailed a deuce right after halftime making it 34-28! With 13:02 on the clock, Brackett threw his first interception of the night to Damion Jacobs, who ended up with a pick-six, followed by Belcher's extra point to help the Sharks lead by 1 point, 35-34. Once again, Belcher made another deuce and the Sharks took the lead 37-34. A huge touchdown pass was thrown by Brackett later on in the quarter, a total of 45 yards on a touchdown pass to Devon Brown, and the extra point was good, which made it 41-37 in the favor of Massachusetts. Almost 6 minutes later in the quarter, McCain passed the ball 25 yards on a corner route touchdown to Antonio Vaughn for Vaughn's 3rd touchdown of the game. Once again, Belcher nailed a field goal and the Sharks had the 44-41 lead going into the fourth quarter.
To start the scoring in the final quarter of play, Derrick Ross had 1 yard touchdown, and once again Belcher missed the field goal, but the Sharks extended their lead to 50-41. With 8:30 left in the game, Brackett found Devon Brown once again for another touchdown, this time it came on fourth down! Mourtada followed up the pass and made another field goal which narrowed the Sharks lead to 50-48. Jacksonville had to make a quarterback change with 7 minutes remaining in game, as McCain left the field limping after being sacked hard. The new quarterback Walker took over McCain's spot for the rest of the game. The final minute of the game was very hectic, and the Pirates kicker made a field goal with 56 seconds remaining to put the Pirates ahead 51-50. With 19 seconds left, Walker threw a touchdown pass to Antonio Vaughn, but after the touchdown the Sharks failed to convert the 2 point conversion, making the score 56-51. With their backs against the wall and only 8 seconds to work their magic, Brackett threw a touchdown pass to Devon Brown. The Pirates were stopped on a two point conversion even though they still had a 57-56 lead now. Then, with 2 seconds left, the Sharks sent out Belcher, with an attempt to win the game. Belcher's kick was blocked by Bill Vavau and it was recovered by Pirates' DL Kenny Jackson for a touchdown to end the game at the buzzer. The Pirates beat the Sharks 63-56.
Next week, the Pirates will travel to Carolina to face the Cobras, and the Jacksonville Sharks will play at the Columbus Lions in a 2017 NAL Championship rematch.
Lehigh Valley Steelhawks @ Columbus Lions
The Steelhawks traveled down to Columbus, GA, as it was the 2018 Season Openers for both teams. The Columbus Lions are coming off of a great 2017 season, as runners up of the National Arena League.
Entering the week, the Steelhawks had the backs against the wall, facing adversity. Quarterback Caleb Walton was the new starter for LHV coming weeks after the departure of Warren Smith Jr. No one expected anything special from Walton, and really no one knew a thing about who he was and where he has played. Walton and the Steelhawks struggled miserably in the match-up. Caleb Walton ended up only 1 touchdown pass that came in the third quarter when he passed it to Renford for a 25 yard touchdown. Otherwise, Walton ended up with one interception on the night, and lots of turnovers happened in the game. Coach Kohler made a switch at the QB position with 11:15 left in the fourth quarter as he put in Seth Higgins, former QB at Morgan State. Higgins ended up with 1 score on a QB sneak in the fourth quarter after fumbling the ball earlier in the quarter. On the kicking side of things, Spencer Hoatling had 2 field goals, 1 duece, and 1 missed field goal.
On the other side of things, Mason Espinosa got the start at QB for the Lions. Espinosa passed for 5 touchdowns, with 3 of them being thrown to Jarmon Fortson. Espinosa ended up with a close to 100 passing yards on the night. Former SEC QB from Auburn Jeremy Johnson made his much wanted Lions debut in the 4th Quarter and ended up having a 4 yard touchdown pass on his first touchdown pass as a Lion whit 5:32 left until the end of the game. Jarmon Fortson stood out for the Lions, with 4 touchdowns (one from a trick play from a pass by Purifoy) and 51 receiving yards. Former Georgia Bulldogs FB, Quayvon made his debut with the Lions with 16 receiving yards, 2 fumbles, and around 50 yards rushing. On the kicking side of things, veteran kicker Lindsey Wolfe ended up with 6 made field goals on 7 attempts.
In the end, the Columbus Lions demolished the Steelhawks 50-18. There are evident issues that the Steelhawks will need to get to work on at practice. Bob Kohler's debut as the new Lehigh Valley head coach was a rough one, as it will be hard for him to follow up on the success of former coach Chris Thompson. The Lions will stay at home next week to face Jacksonville in a 2017 NAL Championship rematch and the Steelhawks will host the Maine Mammoths.
Carolina Cobras @ Maine Mammoths
The Carolina Cobras traveled up to Maine to face the Maine Mammoths, with both teams entering the game 0-1 on the season. The Cobras lost a hard fought game in Week 1 at home vs Jacksonville, but showed that they still are a very good team. On the other side of things, the Mammoths were demolished in Week 1 by the Pirates and many people noticed their many issues.
The Carolina Cobras and their dominant offense rolled over the Mammoths, but it was back in forth for a little while. Quarterback Charles McCullum ended up with 14 passing completions on 27 attempts. Also, McCullum had a total of 5 touchdowns, 0 Interceptions, and was sacked 1 time. To start the game off, McCullum ran the ball in to put his team ahead. The WR's for Carolina once again stood out on the night, and even Jordan Jolly returned from the IR to make his 2018 NAL debut. Defensively, the Cobras had some issues stopping the Mammoths quarterback, but DB Cedric Poole had an interception in the 2nd Quarter of play.
Things looked more promising for the Mammoths on offense early on. Mammoths Quarterback Johnathan Bane ended the game with 15 passing completions on 29 attempts, 2 interceptions, 5 touchdowns, and 1 sack. But in the end, it came down the defense. The Maine defense couldn't stop the powerful Cobras offensive squad. The Cobras beat the Mammoths 56-42. Mammoths fans are probably angry about the loss, but on the positive side of things, the team competed and fought unlike their loss to the Pirates were they let up and stopped competing. Could've Coach Fuller implemented a new mindset for the Mammoths? The team fought hard and looked better than week 1. Improvement is evident for the team, as they'll look to beat Lehigh Valley next week for their first win on the season.