It was December 7, 2017 in Greensboro NC, when the announcement was made that the Carolina Cobras were being founded and would play in the National Arena League. The first announcement for the team was the hiring of Head Coach Billy Back. The first player signing in Cobras history was DL/NT Walter Thomas.
The NAL Schedule for 2018 was announced a couple weeks later and the opening game for the Carolina Cobras would be at the Greensboro Coliseum against the Jacksonville Sharks, who were opening their 2018 schedule as the defending 2017 NAL Champions. It was April 7, 2018, and in that game the Cobras struck first, as a combo that would be very popular in 2018, Charles McCullum to Phillip Barnett for a 2-yard TD. Craig "The Leg" Peterson made the extra point and made it 7-0 Cobras. The game went back and forth, the biggest lead for either team was only nine points and the Sharks pulled out the game 41-38 to go 1-0 against the Cobras. It would be the only time the Sharks led this series.
It was just three weeks later, on April 28, when Carolina returned the favor and travelled down to Jacksonville. The defensive effort by the Cobras was just smothering. The Cobras shut out the Sharks in both the first and fourth quarter and only allowed 21 points in the other two. The Cobras poured it on the fourth quarter, turning a 23-21 lead into a 55-21 win after scoring 32 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. The 21 points scored by Jacksonville was the lowest scoring effort in Sharks history. In the game Cobras WR Tyron Laughinghouse set the NAL record with 181 yards receiving and 239 All Purpose yards.
In the final regular season matchup on June 9, the Sharks travelled back to Greensboro, and this game was all Cobras from the beginning. The Cobras scored the first 13 points of the game and put up 29 in the fourth quarter and held the Sharks to just 33 points while scoring 73. Michael Green was the defensive star of the game for the Cobras with three interceptions. Jordan Jolly led the Cobras on offense with 7 catches for 108 yards and 3 TDs.
These two teams met again in the Playoffs, back in Greensboro on August 14, 2018. This was a game where tensions were high, as there were multiple ejections for unsportsmanlike conduct in the game. The Cobras blew this one open early, scoring the first 26 points and leading 39-7 at the half. The Sharks tried to fight back in the second half but could not get any closer than 21 as the Cobras won for the third time in a row 73-48, taking the series to 3-1 Cobras. This win not only dethroned the defending NAL Champions, it sent the Cobras to the NAL Championship where they destroyed the Columbus Lions 66-8 to become the 2018 NAL Champions.
2019 brought a lot of changes to both teams. The Sharks lost their top 2 QBs, and three of their top 5 receivers from the season. The Cobras lost four of their top 5 receivers from the 2018 Season. The Cobras lost. Jacksonville wasted no time signing replacements, going after the top two receivers from the Columbus Lions, including Jarmon Fortson who set the NAL Record in 2018 for receptions and TDs, Durron Neal who set the NAL record with 1,085 yards for Columbus and Devin Wilson from Maine who also went over 1,000 yards in 2018. That combo was good for 262 catches for 3,120 yards and 83 TDs.
The Cobras were not quite as aggressive on the offensive side at first, but certainly beefed up the defense, bring in the Ohio State Defensive Line bookends, with Steve Miller and SeVon Pittman, and from Syracuse brought in Micah Robinson. Add to that keeping NT Walter Thomas and the D-Line for the Cobras was probably one of the best in the league. Of course, the Cobras also brought back Cedric Poole and The General Mike Green in the secondary back, as well as Jac Linebacker Pasquale Vacchio.
It was week 4 in 2019 before these two teams met the first time on May 11. The Cobras travelled down to Jacksonville, the Cobras came into the game 3-0, while the Sharks were 2-1. The Cobras again scored first in the game, but this game was a complete defensive contest, which you don't typically think of in the arena game. The game went back and forth but there was not a lot of scoring in the game. There were only three scores in the entire second half and the Cobras came out on the short end as they only scored 6 of those themselves. The Sharks collected a hard fought 35-24 win. The 24 points was the lowest scoring effort in Cobras History.
The final regular season meeting was back in Greensboro, the Cobras were riding a two-game winning streak while Jacksonville was at that point on a six-game winning streak. The matchup was on June 15 and the Cobras were playing without Pasquale Vacchio and still working on getting their offensive line set after the loss of Joe Harris the line was completely out of sync, especially in the second half. After Jacksonville K Brandon Behr hit a deuce on the opening kick-off giving the Sharks a 2-0 lead the Cobras scored the next 15 and led 15-2 at the end of the first quarter. It was downhill from there as the Sharks put up 24 in the second to take a 25-22 halftime lead. The Cobra would score on their first drive of the second half, but never scored again as Jacksonville put up 30 straight unanswered to finish the game and get the win 55-29. That tied up the series at 3-3.
With the series tied the Championship game will be the proverbial game seven, and with the NAL Championship on the line this is going to be a good one. So far, these teams are tied at 3 games each, but the Cobras lead the overall scoring 292-233. The Cobras have shout out the Sharks in 5 of the 24 quarters so far (20.8%), Jacksonville has shut out the Cobras in three (12.5). The Cobras have outscored the Sharks 62-17 in the first quarter and hold just a 230-216 advantage the remaining three quarters.
Scoring first hasn't really mattered much in the series, as the team scoring first is 3-3. Most passing yards won't guarantee victory either, it only has led to a 4-2 margin. Two stats that have shown to matter are turnover margin, where the winner of that battle is 4-0, twice they tied in margin. The most telling stat looks right into the trenches. The team with the most sacks in the game are 6-0 in the series. So, whoever gets to the opposing QB most seems to be most likely to win.
This is a battle of the two top teams in the league in Turnover margin, Jacksonville is +19 the Cobras are +17. This is also a battle of the top two teams in Sacks, Jacksonville has 40 and Carolina with 36. The Sharks have only given up 11 Sacks all season, the Cobras have allowed 24. So, this game is going to come down to the basics. Who can protect who best? Who can get to the QB more?
This game is going to be a total must see, not just because the 2019 NAL Championship is on the line, but this is about bragging rights, this is personal, we will be able to break down all of the X's and O's going into the game, but it will be settled by the players on the field. Both coaching staffs will have their players ready to go, the players are going to be amped up and have the dial turned up to 11, and Jacksonville is likely to have 10,000+ in the stands for the game.
So, make sure you get your tickets now and do the trip. The Cobras are setting up a bus for the game. It will cover the bus, hotel and tickets behind the Cobras bench for just $215. The bus will leave Greensboro early Saturday morning August 17, include a hotel room Saturday night, and a ride back Sunday. If you want to be part of the NAL Championship game, call 336-455-7232 Extension 2 NOW!
Article by: DJ Wagner
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National Arena League Stories from August 10, 2019
- The Rivalry - Carolina Cobras
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