By RJ Ciancio
The Massachusetts Pirates played host to the 0-14 Lehigh Valley Steelhawks who were playing to avoid having the worst single season record in National Arena League (NAL) history. Darron Thomas started for the Pirates as Sean Brackett was out due to injury. However that made little difference to the Pirates as on the first drive of the game Massachusetts marched down the field as Von Pearson caught a long bomb and was tackled inside the Steelhawks one. On first and goal Thomas handed the ball off to Dashawn Johnson who plunged in from a yard out for the touchdown. With Ali Mourtada’s extra point the score read 7-0 Pirates.
Mourtada’s kickoff was taken out to the Steelhawks 14. With an injured Caleb Walton, Patrick Ryan got the start. However, Ryan struggled as the offensive line was pushed around and the offense went three and out. Spencer Hotaling’s field goal attempt was no good.
After the teams traded unsuccessful field goals, Thomas found Mardy Gillyard for a touchdown reception. With Mortada missing the the extra point the score read 13-0 Pirates. On the ensuing kickoff Mortada’s kickoff split the uprights for the deuce making it 15-0 Massachusetts
Patrick Ryan struggled to lead the Steelhawks offense as the offense slowed down. Luckily for the Steelhawks were given a first down after the Pirates committed Illegal hands to the face penalty. Lehigh Valley wasn’t able to capitalize on the drive as they turned the ball over on downs.
Throughout the rest of the half the Pirates were able to continue the slaughter as they were able score fourteen unanswered points making it 29-0 Pirates by the time the first half ended.
The Steelhawks stumbled out of the gate as their first drive on second half ended as RJ Roberts strip-sacked Ryan and Roberts ran the ball into the endzone for the Massachusetts touchdown. With Mortada missing the extra point the score read 35-0.
Massachusetts continued to find the endzone and hold the Steelhawks scoreless until the 8:55 mark in the fourth quarter on a fluke play where the snap was botched and fumbled by many players before it was recovered in the endzone for the Steelhawks touchdown. With the Spencer Hotaling nailed the extra point giving the Steelhawks their only points of the game. By the time the final whistle sounded the scoreboard read: Pirates 67, Steelhawks 7.
The Pirates enter the playoffs on a high note. Massachusetts can also rest easy knowing that Darron Thomas is ready to step in for Sean Brackett if he gets hurt. If the Sharks lose their final regular season game the Pirates will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs and will get to host the NAL Championship Game. If the Sharks win the Pirates would still get to host at least one playoff game. Massachusetts is riding high going into to postseason.
Lehigh Valley’s season is over. After setting a NAL record for the worst record in league and team history. The Steelhawks will have to rebuild for next year, but if they do well in the offseason they could have a rebound year in 2019.