Pirates look to remain perfect at home this Saturday

The Massachusetts Pirates will look for their eleventh consecutive home victory at the Tsongas Center on Saturday afternoon at 1:05 when they face the Northern Arizona Wranglers. As the Pirates approach the halfway mark of the season, they are 5-2 and tied for the second spot in the Indoor Football League’s Eastern Conference with the Green Bay Blizzard. Overall, the Pirates have the fourth best record in the IFL. The Wranglers are on a two-game losing streak with a 4-3 record. They are currently in a three-way tie for third place in the Western Conference.

The Series:

The Pirates all-time series with the Wranglers is tied at one game apiece.

The Last Meeting: 7/8/2023 - Findlay Toyota Center, Prescott Valley, AZ
The Pirates comeback effort fell short, losing 37-32 to the Northern Arizona Wranglers. Massachusetts jumped out to a 14-0 lead as quarterback Anthony Russo connected with wideout Isaac Zico on a 26-yard scoring play and running back Jimmie Robinson added a 20-yard touchdown run, but the Wranglers scored the next 37 points and then held on for a five-point victory.

Russo finished the game 6 of 14 passing for 70 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Alejandro Bennifield was three of five passing off the bench for 62 yards and two scores. He also ran twice for 17 yards. Robinson led the Pirates with five carries for 20 yards and a touchdown. Zico led all receivers in the game with five receptions for 69 yards and two touchdowns. Defensive back Kenneth Durden, making his first start for the Pirates, led the way with nine tackles and three passes broken up. Momodou Mbye had an interception and Lorenzo Hernandez added a sack.

The Last Time Out:
Massachusetts was held to just six points in the second half as Iowa came from behind to upset the Pirates 42 to 34 at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. Pirates quarterback Alejandro Bennifield scored two rushing touchdowns in the first half as the Pirates held a 28-19 halftime lead. In the second half the Pirates offense stalled and Iowa took its first lead of the game with 13:03 remaining as Robert Washington found the end zone from five yards out. Gabriel Rui’s PAT made the score 33-28. Rui connected on his second “deuce” of the night, upping the advantage to 35-28.

The Pirates scored their first points of the second half with 2:40 to play as Bennifield found a wide-open Thomas Owens from 14 yards out. Those would be the last points of the night as the point after was no good, making the final score at 42-34.

The Pirates outgained Iowa with 241 yards to 162. Bennifield was 18 of 28 passing for 209 yards with two touchdowns. He also rushed for two scores. Jimmie Robinson led the Massachusetts running attack with 25 yards on nine carries with a touchdown. Robinson also has six receptions for 34 yards and wide out Teo Redding added four catches for 83 yards and a touchdown.

Matt Elam recorded nine tackles for the Pirates while Guy Thomas had five stops including three tackles for a loss with a sack.

Last Saturday, the Wranglers took their contest down to the wire at home, but ran out of time losing to the Bay Area Panthers 39-36. Trailing 33-27 with 4:39 remaining in the game, Axel Perez kicked a 45-yard field goal to put the Wranglers down by three. The Panthers answered with a 24-yard touchdown run by Shane Simpson for a 39-33 lead. For Simpson it was his four score of the game. With 34 seconds on the clock Wranglers quarterback Joshua Jones connected with Tosin Oyekanmi on a 14-yard scoring play, but those were final points of the game.

Jones was 17 of 26 passing for 160 yards and two touchdowns. He was also his team’s leading rusher with 36 yards on eight carries with two scores. His top target was Kobay White with four receptions for 47 yards. Perez connected on three of four field goal attempts and Wallace Cowins led the defense with four tackles and one assist.

Team Stats: (Includes IFL rankings)
The Pirates are ninth in the league scoring 41.9 points per game. The Massachusetts offense averages 223.4 yards per game which is eighth. The Pirates defense continues to be one of the best in the league giving up a league low of 181.1 yards per game. The 37.9 points per game allowed ranks second. The Pirates are also second in yielding just 115.6 passing years per contest. The Massachusetts defense is also second in fourth down conversion defense as opponents are successful just 27.3 percent of the time.

Northern Arizona is seventh in the league scoring 44.1 points per game while allowing 42.6 (6th). The defense leads the league with five forced fumbles The Wranglers offense is also fourth with 231.6 yards per game and third in passing with 165.3 yards per outing. The edge in the kicking game sides with the Wranglers as they have connected on eight of 12 field goals while the Pirates have made just three of ten.

Players to Watch: (Includes IFL rankings)

Jimmie Robinson of the Pirates is one of the top backs in the IFL. Robinson has rushed 74 times (2nd) for 296 yards (4th) and averages 43.9 yards per game (5th). He has scored five rushing touchdowns. Robinson leads the IFL with 137.8 all-purpose yards per game. Teammate Tavion Thomas has rushed 28 times for 139 yards and scored four times. His five yards per carry ranks fifth while his 46.3 yards per game is seventh.

Quarterback Joshua Jones of Northern Arizona has rushed 54 times for 239 yards (8th) and his nine touchdowns place him tenth in the IFL. He averages 34.1 yards per game.

Fans will see two of the top IFL quarterbacks on Saturday. Alejandro Bennifled of the Pirates is 75 (6th) of 117 (8th) for 837 yards (7th) and 17 touchdowns (6th). Bennifield averages 139.5 passing yards per game (8th) with an efficiency rating of 167.0. He completes 64.1 percent of his passes. He also has rushed for nine touchdowns this season. Jones of the Wranglers is 97 (4th) of 146 (4th) for 1,126 yards (3rd) with 21 touchdowns (3rd). He completes 66.4% of his passes (6th) for 160.9 yards per game (3rd) with an efficiency rating of 174.6 (3rd). Jones ranks third in total offense averaging 195.0 yards per game.

The Pirates Teo Redding is their top receiver with 25 receptions for 313 yards and seven touchdowns. He averages 44.7 receiving yards per game while John Maldonado leads the Wranglers with 23 catches for 302 yards, seven scores and 43.1 yards per contest.

Kick returners Jimmie Robinson and Arsiah McCorker will put their skills to the test. Robinson has returned 19 kicks (5th) for 379 yards (5th) for an average of 19.8 per return (10th). McCorker of the Wranglers has brought back 24 kicks (2nd) for 454 yards (3rd) with two touchdowns (1st) at 18.9 yards per return. He is also third in the IFL with 119.3 all-purpose yards per game.

Defensively, Calvin Bundage of the Pirates is fourth in the IFL with 33 solo tackles. His total of 38 ranks tenth and his 6.3 tackles per game is eighth. Shannon Reid of the Wranglers has 27 assists which is seventh. He has a total 32 tackles and ranks sixth with 3.5 sacks.

Guy Thomas of Massachusetts is tenth with six tackles for a loss. Tramond Lofton of Northern Arizona is seventh with seven TFL and he leads the IFL with four forced fumbles.

Pirates defensive back Eugene Ford is third in the league with three interceptions. He has defended 11 passes (2nd) and broken up seven (3rd) Travion Banks of the Wranglers is first with 13 passes defended and first with ten passes broken up. He is also fourth with three interceptions.

The Coaches:

This is Rod Miller’s first season as Head Coach of the Massachusetts Pirates and he is the sixth Head Coach in the history of the franchise. He is also the Defensive Coordinator and Defensive Backs Coach. He is 5-2 leading the Pirates. Miller was the Defensive Coordinator for the Vegas Knight Hawks last season. His last stint as head coach was in Bismarck from 2019 through 2022 before the Bucks suspended operations. Miller was also a head coach in the China Arena Football League with the Qingdao Clipper. Prior to that, he led the Omaha Beef, the Trenton Steel and the Laredo Rattlesnakes.

Les Moss enters his third year as the Northern Arizona head coach. In 2022, Moss led the Wranglers to their first IFL National Championship. Prior to the Wranglers, Moss was the Head Coach of the Iowa Barnstormers in 2021. Moss was hired to be the Quarterback’s and Running Back’s coach for the Arizona Rattlers for the 2020 season, but the season was ultimately canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moss was the Assistant Head Coach & General Manager of the Arena Football League’s Albany Empire from 2018 to 2019. He began his career in indoor football in 1988. Some of his coaching highlights include serving as the Jacksonville Sharks Head Coach & Director of Football Operations (AFL) from 2010-2016. Moss led the Sharks to two Arena Bowl appearances including the 2011 title, as well as two additional Conference Championship game appearances.

About the Massachusetts Pirates                                                                       The 2021 United Bowl Champions; Massachusetts Pirates are members of the Indoor Football League (IFL) and play their home games at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell. For more information on the Massachusetts Pirates please call (508)452-MASS (6277), email contact@masspiratesfootball.com or visit http://www.masspiratesfootball.com. Follow the Pirates on Facebook via Facebook.com/MAPirates, Instagram @mass.pirates, and Twitter @mass_pirates.

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