WORCESTER, Mass. — It took every minute and every second but the Massachusetts Pirates were able to pull out a 56-53 victory against the Carolina Cobras to improve to 10-4 and claim the No.1 seed in the National Arena League playoffs.
The Pirates started off strong taking a multi-score lead early in the first quarter but turnovers and special teams mistakes gave the Cobras momentum as the first half progressed. Quarterback Sean Brackett, who threw two interceptions in the first half, said he needs to clear up these mistakes and take care of the ball going forward into the playoffs.
“I want to protect the ball a little bit better,” Brackett said. “[I] want to control the things that we can control, as an offense we gotta score every drive.”
Things looked bad for the Pirates at the beginning of the third quarter as the Cobras were moving down the field with ease until they reached the one-yard line. It appeared that the Cobras were poised to take complete control of the game until a not-so-familiar face made the play that woke up the team and the crowd.
Defensive lineman B.J. McBryde, who had been with the Pirates for only a few days, recovered a fumble at the goal line, breathing new life into the DCU Center.
“Right before the play I looked at the center and knew that they were close and that we had to make something happen,” McBryde said. “As soon as the ball snapped I just lunged and put everything I can into the center and got lucky.”
McBryde piggy-backed off this great play with another huge backfield tackle, as well as a tipped pass at the goal line to give the offense the ball back when they needed it. The former San Francisco 49er passed it off as a series of events caused by adrenaline.
“As players sometimes we get anxious,” McBryde said. ” I was really anxious and upset that I wasn’t doing better sooner. When I came off, coach kept saying keep playing the game and something’s gonna happen and that’s exactly what I did. Once you make one play you, you catch fire and get excited.”
Wide receiver Devonn Brown ignited the offense all the way to the final buzzer as he went for six with a touchdown reception over 40 yards.
“Before that play, I talked to coach and we saw that the defensive back was playing flat footed and he said we are about to take a shot right now,” Brown said. “As we got on the field we started at the five-yard line and Brackett trusted me and we shot for it.”
But that wasn’t even his play of the game. Down 53-50, with 1.7 seconds left, Brackett took the snap and threw it up as the loud DCU Center buzzer roared with the ball falling into Brown’s hands for a touchdown to secure the game and first place for the Pirates.
“I was just hoping that nobody hits me and if it does happen just hold onto it,” Brown said. “When I found out we got the game winner, I was just too excited.”
The catch signified an unlikely comeback from what was an unlikely season for the Pirates. They are now the second first-year franchise in professional sports following the National Hockey League’s Las Vegas Golden Nights to finish in a first place position.
Pirates Owner Hassan Yatim applauds the entire organization saying it came down to everyone involved to create something very special.
“It’s very special,” Yatim said. “I mean these guys, I love these guys they work hard, they play hard. It’s a great feeling to be No.1 but you know what, that’s not the end goal, the end goal is a championship.”
The Pirates close out their season against the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks on Aug. 4.