-By Jose Bahena
The Carolina cobras made their final visit of the regular National Arena League season to Allentown, PA to take on the winless Lehigh Valley Steelhawks one more time after falling short on the road last week against the Pirates of Massachusetts.
Carolina took to took the offense to open the game and decided to display their power at the wide receiver position. Cobras Quarterback Charles McCullum was free to move the ball down the 50 yard field and smoothly place it into the arms of Jordan Jolly for a Carolina touchdown. Kicker Craig Peterson made the extra point to take the lead, and also split the uprights for a deuce on the kickoff to take the lead out to 9-0 for Carolina. The Lehigh Valley Steelhawks offense rolled out on their home field looking for points. Despite all their efforts the cobras defense held tight to keep the Steelhawks from finding the end zone. Lehigh was able to put points up with a 45 yard field goal by Spencer Hotaling to make the score 9-3. Back on the offensive side of the ball, Carolina kept the momentum rolling and another McCullum-Jolly connection was good for a Cobras touchdown again.
Peterson hit the extra point again to pull farther away at 16-3. Lehigh Valley hit the offense again looking for a touchdown, but was forced by strong Cobras defense to Bring out the field goal unit. Hotaling hit the long 41 yard field goal to close the gap between the two teams to 16-6. McCullum’s offense went back out on the black-and-gold turf of Allentown wanting to repeat the previous drives. The Steelhawks defense stepped up to cut the Carolina Cobras short on the drive by forcing Jolly to fumble the ball over to a Steelhawks defender. A shift at quarterback by the Steelhawks to Patrick Ryan ended quarter with Lehigh Valley driving the ball at the horn.
Ryan continued to push the ball down the field to the one yard line to set up a Steelhawks rushing touchdown. A botched extra point left the steelhawks still down 16-12. The Carolina Cobras struck back quickly with a two play drive to the end zone. Fabian Guerra was covered by a Steelhawks defensive back but hauled the catch in over the goal line. Peterson tack on the extra point, followed by a deuce on the kickoff to bring the score up to 25-12. Caleb Walton return under center for the Lehigh Valley team but was unable to move the line of scrimmage, resulting in a turnover on downs and a very short field for the Carolina Cobras. Just needing eight yards for a touchdown, the play call was a hand off to the big fullback Jugg Russell. Russell bowled into the end zone for the touchdown, followed by the extra point by Peterson to extend the lead to 20 points at 32-12.
Disaster continue for the steelhawks as they never left the line of scrimmage on the next drive before being intercepted by the newest player for the Carolina Cobras Pasqual Vacchio. The linebacker made it a pick six by taking the ball 20 yards back for a defensive touchdown. The point after attempt was foiled by a steelhawk that broke through the line and force Jordan Jolly to take off with the ball short of the goal line, but still maintained the lead at 28-12. After the kick off Lehigh Valley struggling to move the ball had their drive snuffed out by Vacchio again intercepting the pass. Vacchio gain some yardage before flipping the ball out the Omari Manhertz to give the Cobras the ball back on offense. Lehigh Valley quickly returned the favor by intercepting McCullum’s pass at the goal line to give their offense another shot before halftime. Capitalizing on the Cobras error, Walton was able to hit a receiver in the end zone with just 16 seconds before the end of the half to bring it closer at 38-19 after the extra point. Hotaling Aldo hit another deuce on the kick off to add two point for Lehigh Valley before heading to the locker room for halftime with The Steelhawk trailing at home 38-21.
After the intermission LeHigh Valley headed out to try to close the gap on the scoreboard. The Steelhawks tenacity prove worth it when Walton was able to get the ball down close enough for a quarterback sneak for a rushing touchdown. The positive point after try brought it closer to 38-28. The first offensive drive for Carolina was just as successful as McCullum found Phillip Barnett open to negate the Steelhawks touchdown with one of his own. The Cobras special team unit went for a two point conversion that was not successful but Peterson made up for it with his third deuce of the game to put the score at 46-28. The next drive for the steelhawks stalled out under the Cobras defensive pressure and gave the Cobras offense another shot to stretch the score. Keeping their foot on the gas, Carolina struck again with the connect to Barnett for a touchdown leaving Lehigh Valley feeling stuck in a loop. Petersons kick after was good this go round to make it 53-28. Still stuck in second gear, the Steelhawks took to the offense and again was forced a turnover on downs to end the third quarter of play.
The Cobras were on cruise control as the offense drove the ball down again and once more called Russell for the final play of the drive with a rushing touchdown. Peterson again missed the PAT and left the score at 59-28. Feelling all the pressure of the game Lehigh again went four and out with just seven minutes left in the game. Back on the attack the Cobras continued to work down the field. McCullum hit Guerra for his second touchdown reception of the night. Despite the big lead, Peterson still failed on the drop kick attempt after and left Carolina comfortably in the lead at 65-28. The Steelhawks tried to find a scoring drive again. Ryan under center still couldn’t move the ball and turned it over as the Cobras defense had backed them up on a fourth and 13. With just over two minutes left in the game the Carolina Cobras let a little lack of mental readiness creep in as they let the ball be knocked away from Russell on his third carry of the night. Recovered by the Steelhawks at the one yard line with just 60 seconds on the clock, Ryan’s pass was immediately intercepted by Carolina’s defensive back Michael Green. Head Coach of the Cobras Billy Back kept McCullum on the field another two pass drive to the end zone, this time spreading the receptions to Tyrell Goodman for the touchdown. Peterson split the uprights on the point after, making 22 straight points for Carolina and leaving the Allentown natives down 72-38. With just seconds to work with the Steelhawks went out for the next offensive try. As the script of the night suggested, Lehigh Valley fumbled the ball on the first play. The loose ball was scooped by Anthony Ellis for Carolina as he took it across the goal line for a final Carolina Cobras touchdown. Peterson tacked on the extra point to make the score a whopping 79-28. Just a few ticks remained on the clock as Lehigh trotted out again. The final nail in the coffin, as Darius Thomas forced another fumble from a Steehawks receiver as the time ran off the clock and ended the game.
The match leaves the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks winless still and puts the Carolina Cobras at 9-5 on season and in third place in the National Arena League. Carolina will be back at home for their final regular season game against the Columbus Lions in a battle for a home field advantage in the NAL playoffs. The game kicks at 7pm on Saturday August 4th and tickets are available at the Greensboro Coliseum Box Office or by visiting Carcobras.com