Saturday night at Greensboro Coliseum, the Cobras defeated the Massachusetts Pirates 30-26. The victory completes a three-game sweep of the Pirates and clinches a spot in the NAL Championship game on August 17 or 18.
The game proved to be a defensive battle as the 56 total points were the lowest points scored for either team this year, excluding the controversial forfeit two weeks ago. The Pirates open the scoring when Rannell Hall caught a 20-yard pass from Sean Brackett to get a late first quarter 7-0 lead. Brackett would end the night going 21-40 with three touchdowns and one interception and 295 yards. Hall led all receivers with nine catches and 134 yards.
After an exchange of touchdowns, Carolina missed the tying extra point to be down 13-14 with 2:40 remaining in the first half. With one second remaining, Rannell caught another touchdown, this time for eight yards to take a 21-13 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, the Cobras defense came up with a key opening drive stop. Lavon Pearson completed a three-play 41-yard drive when he caught and ran a 32-yard pass from Charles McCullum. James Summers two-point conversion run tied the game at 21. The ensuing series, the Pirates’ kicker, Mike Weaver completed a four play series when his 40-yard field goal split the uprights. The Pirates defense would come up big on the next series. Cobras QB McCullum tripped into the end zone the Pirates Toby Johnson would make the contact him that would award him the safety and the final points the Pirates would score. The five unanswered points made the score 26-21 in favor of the Pirates. Cobras kicker, Brandon Rutherford, wasted no time in making up those two lost points when he successfully scored a deuce on the kickoff to bring the Cobras to a three point deficit.
McCullum made the highlight of the game in the fourth quarter. With 8:46 remaining, a bootleg fooled the entire Pirate defense whilst McCullum trotted into the end zone untouched. McCullum finished 17-33 for 202-yards with one interception and two passing touchdowns and the rushing touchdown. This score would prove to be the game winner as the Cobras took the permanent four-point lead. The Pirates believed they still had a chance when they got the ball back with :58 remaining in the game. A 40-yard completion to Hall brought the ball into the red zone with a moving clock and fewer than eight seconds. The penultimate play would bring the fans to the edge of their seat when a sideline interference call would nullify a potential touchdown — or interception depending on the point of view. However the penalty call would make the issue a moot point. The game clock was reset with 2.1 seconds and time enough for one play. The Brackett incomplete pass ended the Pirates season and give the Cobras an NAL Championship game berth.
The Cobras will play the winner of Tuesday night’s Jacksonville-Columbus game on August 17 or 18. They are currently the National Arena League’s defending champions.