By Jose Bahena
For the first time this season the Carolina Cobras headed north to take on the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks in Allentown, PA at the PPL Center looking to remain perfect against the Black and Gold.
The Cobras opened with possession of the ball and went to work quickly and scored with just two plays as Charles McCullum found Jordan Jolly who pushed down for the remaining four yards to the end, zone. Craig Peterson’s extra point kick attempt split the uprights to take the lead 7 to nothing. The Steelhawks offense looked ready to score and keep the score knotted but Cobras defensive Lineman Jugg Russell had other plans. Russell was able to strip the Steelhawks quarterback of the ball, in turn giving Darius Thomas the opportunity to scoop the fumble recovery and take it back to midfield for the Cobras. McCullum and crew made easy work of the short field with Tyron Laughinghouse walking into the endzone for another Carolina touchdown.
The scoreboard showed 13-0 as Petersons PAT nudged right of the goalposts. Lehigh’s offense was set to shake off the opening drive blues but disastrous reactions to the Cobras defensive pressure backed them up and eventually resulted in a turnover on downs at the two yard line. McCullum handed the ball off to his Fullback for the evening Jordan Mosely and the 320 pounder bowled in for a touchdown with ease. Peterson’s extra point hooked left and no good, but he atoned for the errand PAT’s by hitting the first deuce of the night on the kickoff making the score 21-0 to end the first quarter.
The second quarter saw the Steelhawks drive again come up empty as Linebacker Jermaine Jones intercepted Foltz’s pass and once more put the Cobras in prime position. The Cobras offensive may have gotten too comfortable on the field as Lehigh Valley’s defense came to life and sacked McCullum on three straight plays with the final sack resulting in a forced fumble that was recovered by Dakota Everett for the Steelhawks. An adjustment at quarterback for the Steelhawks resulted in a quick pass to the end zone to get them off the ground, but a failed two point conversion left the home team still down at 21-6. Eager to widen the point spread back out, Carolina took the field and routed the Steelhawks on another two play drive with Phillip Barnett finding himself open for the touchdown pass from McCullum. The extra point after was successful by Peterson, driving the score out to 28-6.
The Steelhawks may have been down, but refused to be counted out at home, as Walton’s pass found a receiver open in the end zone on the next drive. With the extra point kick blocked by Carolina, the score would sit at 28-12 with one minute left in the first half. McCullum wasn’t satisfied to head to the locker room without one more scoring play, this time to Jolly for his second touchdown of the night. Without hesitation the Steelhawks used every bit of clock to find another touchdown before halftime letting both teams hit the locker rooms with the score 35-18.
The second half of the game immediately started off going the Cobras way as Peterson hit his second deuce of the game on the kickoff, netting two more points for the Cobras. Costly errors for the Steelhawks continued to pile up as the very next first pass of the second half landed squarely in the arms of the Cobra’s Cedric Poole. For the second time in the contest Laughinghouse would shake a defender and haul in a touchdown pass from McCullum, the score 44-18 with Carolina on top. Undaunted, Lehigh Valley stretched their next possession out and finally cashed in from five yards out,and landed the two point conversion to attempt to keep the game within reach at 44-26. Carolina took to the field on offensive once again, driving down the field to find the connection between McCullum and Tyrell Goodman. Peterson tacked on another extra point to slide the score farther lopsided to 51-26.
With just one-quarter left, Lehigh Valley tried to spark the offensive unit but that spark was snuffed by a botched exchange under center combined with Cobras Linebacker Ricky Dowdy scooping up the fumble for the fourth Lehigh turnover of the night. Refusing to let off of the gas, Carolina quickly found Laughinghouse open for his third touchdown followed by a positive PAT to make it 58-26. Still searching for their offensive footing, Caleb Walton fired high and found a man open to the end zone to cut the Cobras lead. Even the Steelhawks defense stepped up and intercepted McCullum for the first time on the night with just under five minutes remaining in the game. Not willing to go out quietly, Walton threw deep to find another six points for the home team before a failed two point conversion seemed to seal their fate with time running out and the final score left at 58-28.
The win lets the Carolina Cobras advance to 6-2 on the season and reclaim sole possession as the top team of the National Arena League. The Cobras will return to the Snake Pit at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex on Saturday June 9th to take on the Jacksonville Sharks. Tickets are available at the coliseum box office or online at Carcobras.com