By Rob Disario
When I received my season tickets in December, 2017 the Massachusetts Pirates were a mere concept. They were an idea from local businessmen who loved football and wanted to bring it back to Worcester, Mass. With no players, staff or fans the Yatim family sold their idea to the National Arena League and the local community. On November 15, 2017 the Mass Pirates held a news conference announcing their idea to the arena football world.
Oh, how far we’ve come! As an arena football fan first, and AFT Network contributor second, I can say with much confidence the inaugural season for the Mass Pirates was a complete and utter success!! The Pirates were able to get fans excited and get them to buy tickets before the turf was even cut for the floor of the DCU Center.
So, what did we see during the 2018 season? The first couple of weeks we saw wins against the Maine Mammoths and then the defending champions Jacksonville Sharks. The Pirates first loss came against the Championship bound Carolina Cobras. Pirate Nation attributed this defeat to the last minute loss of their star quarterback Sean Brackett and phenomenal wide receiver Orlandus Harris who were invited to the CFL mini-camp in Saskatchewan. This gave the opportunity for two fill-in QB’s Danny Southwick and Robert Kent. During that game, Pirate Head Coach Ameer Ismail was ejected from the game. Coach Ismail and I would share a laugh about this later when I interviewed him regarding the upcoming rematch with the Cobras.
The following week Brackett was back to distribute his magic to the masses. Also, the addition of Mardy Gilyard to the roster proved they were about to raise the bar in the National Arena League. For example, in week five, with the score tied at 30, Brackett felt the pressure from Lions defensive line and scrambled. The Pirate QB retreated 11 yards and throws an OMG from his back foot to Mardy Gilyard who falls over the boards. Gilyard maintains possession in the Lions bench and its ruled a touchdown. Wow.
However, the season was not without its surprises. In week 12 London Crawford was suspiciously absent from the Pirates roster for their win over the Steelhawks. The news broke three days before gameday when Crawford posted on National Arena League News Facebook page that he was moving on from the team.
The following week Sean Brackett and the Pirates pulled off an amazing, last minute win against the Cobras. With Devonn Brown in motion around Brackett and up the middle, Brackett took two steps back and unloads a high-ball deep into the far corner of the DCU Center to a wide open Brown for an “OMG, DID HE JUST CATCH THAT?!” touchdown. A greater sight in football I can't recall.
But then, the unthinkable. In week fifteen against the Jacksonville Sharks, Pirate quarterback Sean Brackett suffers an awkward tackle in the second quarter. He would be helped off the field and not return the remainder of the game. Darron Thomas would come in to finish the game and the season for the swashbucklers. Ironically, Thomas would suffer his own ankle injury in the playoff game against the Lions. Apparently quitting is not in Darron Thomas’ vocabulary because he kept limping back to the huddle. He showed grit and strength the likes of which I’ve never seen from any other professional football league. The Pirates would ultimately lose to Columbus, but not because of lack of effort or lack of talent.
To say the inaugural season of the Massachusetts Pirates was a success would be an understatement. The owners, staff and players should be proud of what they created and what will surely be a dominating team for years to come.