By Jose Bahena
The Carolina Cobras faced the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks for the third time this season at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex on Saturday night during their Halloween in July theme night. The Steelhawks from Allentown, PA came in still searching for their first win of the season, meanwhile the Carolina Cobras were looking to bounce back after 2 straight losses.
After Lehigh Valley won the coin toss, the Cobras would go to work on the offense. Carolina drove the ball down the field with relative ease against the Steelhawks, resulting in Charles McCullum making the making the first touchdown connection other night to wide receiver Jordan jolly. Craig Peterson came on to make the extra point after try to the opening score 7-0.
The Lehigh Valley team lead by quarterback Patrick Ryan took to the turf of the Snake Pit, hoping to keep the score tight. The Cobras defense proved too much for the Steelhawks as they held the visitors to a long field goal attempt. On that try, Carolina’s special teams collapsed the line and forced Lehigh Valley’s placeholder to roll out of his placement and scramble to pass the ball. Despite the completion on the broken play, the pass still left Lehigh Valley returning to defense with no points to show for the effort. McCullum’s offense tried to take advantage of the field placement but end their drive long field goal attempt. Peterson nailed the 47 yard kick to add to the score 10-0. Back on the Offense, the Steelhawks woes continued as an overthrown pass from Ryan was pulled down by Defense Back Cedric Poole. The play went under review by the officials, but ended as an Interception for Poole.
Going back to work under center, McCullum easily moved the ball down and into the end zone in just two plays. Phillip Barnett was the uncovered receiver at the goal line for another Carolina Cobras touchdown pass. Peterson stayed steady on the kick after to bring the score up to 17-0. On the Kickoff Craig Peterson hit his first deuce kick of the night to bring the score up to 19-0. The shaken offense of the Steelhawks were pressured by the Cobras Defense again, this time disaster struck quickly as a fumble by Ryan was knocked around with Carolina’s Anthony Ellis getting the scoop and score for a defensive touchdown by the Cobras. Peterson’s extra point ended the first quarter of play with the score 26-0 in favor of the home team.
On the kickoff Craig Peterson hit his 21st deuce of the season, Breaking the National Arena Leagues single season record from last year and lopsiding the score further to 28-0. The Steelhawks made a change at quarterback, switching to Derrick Macon to try to spark something for the offensive unit. Macon quickly fumbled away the ball and Darnell Thompson of the Cobras was there to take it up to the two yard line. With the Cobras knocking on the door for another touchdown, the Steelhawks defense came alive on an alert play as the snap was too high for McCullum, sending the ball bobbling away to a Steelhawks defenseman. Given a second chance the Steelhawks did not perform any better. A series of sacks against Macon ended with Carolina Lineman Jamal Palmer taking him down in the end zone for a safety, giving the Cobras a 30 point lead in the first half. Even as the Cobras took to the field on offense with a big lead, McCullum’s group continued to overpower the visiting team from Allentown.
Barnett found himself open again against blown coverage by the Steelhawks and after the PAT by Peterson, the Cobras were up 37-0 with just under 37 minutes still remaining in the game. With nothing clicking for the Steelhawks offense as Macon under center again fumbled away the ball to Ellis. This time Ellis took the ball back the other way 30 yards for a house call, making it his second defensive touchdown of the night. Peterson tacked on the extra point to drive it up to 44-0. Desperation kicked in for Lehigh Valley as they made another substitution at quarterback, this time in went the usual wide receiver Charles McClain. McClain’s first drive was stopped before it started as the ball was snapped over his head. In his effort to recover the ball, McClain stepped through the back of the end zone for a second Carolina Safety.
The Cobras headed back on the offensive with just three minutes before halftime as a tense moment unfolded in front of the crowd of 3,000 Cobras fans. Charles McCullum mishandled the snap and dove to recover his own fumble; as the pile of Players from both teams dispersed McCullum was still on the arena floor and unable to get up. After several minutes McCullum was up and Carried to the locker room by his teammates, with Tyrell Goodman filling in at the quarterback position. With minds on their missing starter, the Cobras offense stalled for the first time of the night and left the Steelhawks with just 10 yards to the end zone. Even with the gifted short field, McClain was cut off by the Cobras defensive back Ken Walton at the goal line for an interception. Back on the offense, Jordan Jolly went in as a quarterback for the Cobras. Jolly wasn’t able to produce Immediately for the Cobras as his starting drive ended in a scrambled pass deep and into the arms of a Steelhawk with just 19 seconds before the halftime. Lehigh Valley still came up empty on a long field goal attempt, and both teams headed into the locker rooms.
The Steelhawks were first to take possession in the second half. In very similar fashion to the first half, Lehigh Valley was held to a deep field goal attempt. that 40 yard attempt was blocked by Tony Pulu and snatched up by Ken Walton on a slight return for Cobra yardage. Jolly was back under center on the three play drive, that ended with a wildcat play for Jolly himself to rush directly into the end zone. Peterson’s kick after extend the lead to 52-0. Lehigh Valley continued to struggle on offense and fumbled away the ball on the first play of the drive. Ellis again was there for another Cobras fumble recovery at the 20 yard line. Carolina decided to quickly get the offense off the turf with Jolly delivering a 30 yard strike to Goodman in the end zone. Peterson continued to split the uprights to bring it all the way to a 60 point lead for Carolina. The Steelhawks offense trotted back out to the arena turf and finally put points on the board with Macon releasing a 42 yard bomb to an open receiver.
A positive PAT try by Spencer Hotaling gave the Steelhawks another point to make the contes 60-7. On the kickoff Hotaling hit the 58 yard Deuce kick for another 2 points to make it 60-9 and pin the Cobras to their own five yard line. From there the Cobras drove down in five plays but ultimately Jolly under-threw Barnett in the end zone and was intercepted by a waiting Steelhawk. The mistake by Jolly was minute as the Cobras defense again carved up the offensive line and allowed Omari Manhertz to put Macon on his back in the end zone again for third Carolina Safety. The scoreboard showed 62-9 entering the fourth quarter.
Entering the final 15 minutes of the game the Cobras continued to drive the ball down the field. In no dire need of points, the drive ended with a 21 yard field goal by Peterson to make it 65-9. Lehigh Valley continued to work backwards, losing 11 yards on a negative drive that resulted in a turnover on downs. Jolly lead the offense back out and went to work again. The Jolly to Goodman connection was good on the drive again for a touchdown, making it 72-9 after Peterson’s point after kick. The Steehawks continued to play hard as time winded down, unfortunately continuing the trend of the night and going four and out in the final minutes. One final drive for Carolina saw Jolly again dial-up a wildcat and find the end zone for a Carolina Cobras touchdown. Peterson missed the extra point after try, his only error in his record-breaking night. The Last minute of the game went to the Lehigh valley team as time expired and ended the Steelhawks nightmarish evening with a final score of 78-9.
While the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks remain win-less on the season, the win officially locks in the Carolina Cobras spot in the National Arena League playoffs with a season record of 8-4. The Cobras are now tied for second in the NAL and will travel to Worcester to take on the Massachusetts Pirates Saturday July 21. Cobras fans can tune in to watch starting at 7pm via the National Arena League’s Youtube Live streaming channel.