UNCG may not have an official football team, but after last Saturday night, they may end up unofficially adopting one.
It was Country Night, presented by UNCG, at the Carolina Cobras game on Saturday evening at the Greensboro Coliseum. Before a solid showing of Cobra fans flecked with Blue and Gold, the Cobras came away with a 55-47 win against the Massachusetts Pirates—and boy, was it fun.
First, some context. In case you haven’t seen the advertisements all over the place, the Carolina Cobras kicked off their inaugural season in the National Arena League (NAL) in Greensboro on April 7. They lost that game but secured their first victory in franchise history with a win at the Maine Mammoths on April 14. The Cobras now move to 2-1 on the season.
While the sport is recognizable as football, one look at the field and you’ll see that this is a very different game. The field is fifty yards long, as opposed to the standard hundred. There are out-of-bounds walls instead of out-of-bounds field markers. The goalposts are noticeably narrower. My personal favorite (and a rule I’d like to see implemented in other forms of football), on a kickoff following a score, two points are awarded to the kicking team if the ball goes through the uprights.
All of this culminates to be a game designed to excite you.
After UNCG’s Bands of Sparta played the National Anthem and Spiro nailed the coin toss (Carolina won and chose to receive), the Pirates kicked off. It was the Cobras who struck first, as quarterback Charles McCullum drilled receiver Tyron Laughinghouse for an easy touchdown on their first drive of the game.
The Pirates responded in kind then added two more points on the ensuing kickoff to push their lead to 9-7. Carolina’s Fabian Guerra regained the lead for the Cobras on the next drive. In the flashiest play of the night, Guerra put an ankle-breaking double move on his defender and left him sprawled on the artificial turf. He then caught the pass and pranced into the end zone.
Massachusetts, however, did not go away. They scored 12 straight before halftime and took a 21-14 lead late in the first half. A botched surprise onside kick gave the Cobras excellent field position, and Laughinghouse snagged his second touchdown reception of the evening with 17 seconds left. It was a tie game at half, 21-21.
It was still Country Night, but that didn’t stop the Bands of Sparta and Spiro from rocking out to their usual rendition of Rage Against The Machine at halftime. Invigorating an already raucous crowd, it seemed like half the stadium were bobbing their heads.
After play resumed, Massachusetts again reclaimed the lead on a long touchdown pass. The extra point clanked against the upright and fell harmlessly into the end zone—27-21, Pirates. Thus continued the back-and-forth, fast-paced action fans had enjoyed throughout the first half. The Pirates took a 41-34 lead into the fourth.
Carolina’s Tyrell Goodman bullied his way into the end zone early in the fourth quarter for his second score of the game, but the extra point was blocked, leaving the Cobras trailing by one, 41-40.
After the teams exchanged scores, the Pirates missed their extra point then turned the ball over on downs with the game tied at 47. Guerra caught a pass and made quick work of a hapless Pirate defender, dashing across the goal line with less than three minutes left.
A missed penalty on the extra point enraged Pirates head coach Ameer Ismail, which was no good anyway, and he was promptly ejected after verbally attacking any official he could find. The ejection threw off his team’s flow—and that was all the Cobras needed.
Still, on a night of spectacular touchdown passes and one-handed receptions, it was the Cobra defense that sealed the win. With 50 seconds left, a Pirate receiver muffed a backwards lateral and a horde of Cobras pounced on the live ball. Carolina ran out the clock and moved on, 55-47.
If you’re looking to get your football fix this summer, it’s worth checking out a Carolina Cobras game. Arena football is a radically different game from the brutally physical game you see on the gridiron every Sunday afternoon in the fall, but in some ways, it’s far better. This league is as occupied with being entertaining as it is with being competitive. You can see for yourself on May 5, as the Cobras take on the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks.