By: John-Paul York
The Cobras gave their fans a roller coaster of emotions last night, down 59-39 at the start of the 4th quarter, the offense, defense and special teams came together as a collective unit to pull out a thrilling win against a strong Massachusetts Pirates team. After taking a 72-65 lead with 10 seconds left in the game, the Pirates and Sean Brackett would have one more opportunity but would be sacked by a host of Cobras as time expired.
On their opening drive, the Cobras would go three and out and Craig Peterson's missed field goal would set up Brackett and the Pirates offense deep in Carolina territory. Brackett would take advantage of the good field position, finding Devonn Brown for a four yard touchdown. Then after both teams going three and out, it would be Charles McCullum's turn as he found Jordan Jolly all alone for a Cobras touchdown. What started as a low scoring affair, saw a 7-7 tie starting the 2nd quarter.
The 2nd quarter the fans got to see Cedric Poole make a termendous interception and run the ball to the Pirates 6-yard line. McCullum would once again take advantage of the field position that the defense gave him by finding Tyron Laughinghouse for a score. The Pirates would keep pace, by scoring a touchdown on their first play on the next drive. The Cobras next series would be cut short when McCullum would be picked off by linebacker Pasquale Vacchio, as he returned the ball to Carolina's 7-yard line. The Pirates would score on the ensuing drive with wide receiver Mardy Gilyard finding the endzone. McCullum would be picked off again on the Cobras next drive, this time by John Hardy-Tuliau. The last minute before halftime both offenses would get hot with both scoring two touchdowns. With the missed PAT's and Peterson hitting the deuce, the Pirates led 32-30 at the half.
The Pirates would extend their lead after receiving the ball at the start of the 3rd quarter when Brackett would find Gilyard again. Hardy-Tuliau would once again intercept the McCullum pass and after a 42 pass to Brown, the Pirates woauld punch it in with a 2-yard run by offensive lineman, Dashawn Johnson. Needing points to keep pace with the Pirates, it would take three plays to do so, with Laughinghouse grabbing the touchdown as he dove over the wall for one of the greatest catches we've witnessed this season and Peterson tacking on the PAT and the deuce on the kickoff would cut into the Pirates lead. The Pirates next drive would be deja vu to their previous one, with Brackett throwing a deep pass to Pearson this time and Johnson rushing it into the endzone. On their next drive, McCullum would throw a pick-6 to Eddie Norrils as the 3rd quarter expired, giving the Pirates a commanding 59-39 lead and a feeling of redemption for the only loss on their record.
The pep talk that Coach Back and Coach Schmidt gave the team before the start of the 4th quarter breathe new life into the Cobras as McCullum shook off the pick-6 and went back to work. First connecting with Phillip Barnett on a 15-yard pass and then finding Laughinghouse for a 15-yard touchdown strike, which Peterson followed with another deuce. A penalty backed the Pirates up on their own 1-yard line, and Brackett who had been flawless made a costly error when he fumbled the snap, giving way for Jermaine Jones to pick it up and take it into the endzone. The defense would not let up, with Poole picking off Brackett again, giving the Cobras the ball on their own 2-yard line. After not picking up the first down, Coach Back left his offense out their to go for it on fourth down and a detrimental pass interference call against the Pirates kept the Cobras drive alive. With 5:00 minutes left in the game, McCullum and Brackett would exchange interceptions, giving Carolina the ball back. McCullum this time would find Barnett in the endzone and Peterson coming through with the deuce on the kickoff would give the Cobras their first lead since the 2nd quarter. Brackett and the Pirates weren't ready to give up yet, as he connected with Brown on a 45-yard touchdown as the clock hit one minute. Not wanting the Cobras to be able to regain the lead with just a field goal, the Pirates opted to go for the two-point conversion which the Cobras defense snuffed out. Down by just a point, with 10 second left, McCullum would find Laughinghouse for what would be the game winning touchdown and a successful two-point conversion would give the Cobras a seven point lead with just a few seconds left in the game. Brackett was not ready to throw in the towel yet, connecting with Gilyard, down to the Cobras 11-yard line. The last play of the game would see a host of Cobras swarmming Brackett and sacking him as the clock hit :00.
This win sends the Cobras into their bye week sitting at 5-2. With the Pirates also at 5-2 and the Columbus Lions only having one loss, it's shaping up to an exciting second half of the season. The possiblity of two of these teams playing for the NAL championship is not a reach. We will have to stay tuned as the season rolls on.