By Jose Bahena
Over The weekend the Carolina Cobras were at home at the Greensboro Coliseum for their regular season finale against the Columbus Lions with playoff seeding on the line during the Fan Appreciation night in the Snake Pit.
The coin toss was won by the Lions, who elected to defer and kick off to the Cobras. Looking for points early in the contest, the Lions kicker Tyler Rausa scored a deuce kick on the opener and went up 0-2 over Carolina. Quarterback for Carolina Charles McCullum made his presence known quickly on the drive by standing confident in the pocket behind his offensive line to throw and displaying impressive scrambling abilities when needed. It was the latter of those skill sets that earning Carolina the first touchdown when McCullum rolled out of the pocket and across the goal line. Craig Peterson kept his extra point kick between the uprights for a Carolina lead 7-2. The Lions offense lead by back-up quarterback Jeremy Johnson went head-to-head with the Cobras defense, moving the ball against the will of Carolina. Facing a fourth down Johnson rolled out in a near mirror-image of McCullum rushing play but was met at the two yard line by defensive back Anthony Ellis, ending the Lions drive without points on the board. With a 48 yard field to work with Carolina stuck with the formula of pass first offense mixed with McCullum’s legs for a successful drive to the end zone. Tyrell Goodman was the recipient of the touchdown pass, pulling the Cobras ahead 13-2 after a wide point after try by Peterson. Columbus went back on offense looking for points to keep the game close. A soft spot in the Cobras secondary gave Columbus the break they need for a touchdown, bring the score to 13-9 with a positive point after kick. Unphased by the scoring drive of their opponent, Carolina made quick work of their next drive with a 27 yard touchdown from McCullum to wide Receiver Jordan Jolly. The drive gave the Cobras a ten point lead at 19-9 despite the extra point bring no good by Peterson.
Johnson lead the Lions offense out again to prove they were down but not out. The Lions kept the ball moving down field and Johnson was able to find an uncover man in the end zone for another touchdown. The point after was wide of the goalposts but the Cobras lead was still cut on the kickoff by another Lions deuce by Rausa to make the score 19-17. The Cobras offensive continued to control the ball on the next drive, with McCullum finding Phillip Barnett open in the end zone with just 60 seconds in the first half. Peterson made the extra point to spread the score back out to 26-17. Carolina’s Head Coach Billy Back called for an onside kick attempt from Peterson next. Back’s gamble paid off when the kick from Peterson was executed to perfection and allowed a legal recovery by Pasquale Vacchio for the Carolina Cobras. The final drive of the half went four and out by the Cobras but ultimately left the Lions down 26-17 at the halftime.
After the visits to the locker rooms the Lions were first to go on the offense. After struggling for points throughout the first half, the Lions were able to put five up off the foot of Rausa with a field goal followed by a third kickoff deuce. Closing the gap between them and the Cobras to just three points. Not ready to give up their lead just yet the Cobras marched the ball 45 yards down to score again. Goodman made his second touchdown reception of the night, giving the Cobras a bit more cushion was Peterson’s point after kick followed by a deuce kick. The scoring drive all settled was Cobras up 35-22. Columbus went back on the attack with Johnson trying to orchestrate a scoring drive for his Lions but eventually having another turnover on downs forced by Carolina’s defensive unit.
With a single quarter remaining for the evening the home team sprang back into action in front of the crowd of 3,925 to make quick work with a 30 yard bomb to the wide receiver Fabian Guerra. Peterson tacked on the extra point to give the cobras an even 20 point lead at 42-22. The big lead was cut into shortly after by the Lions, in similar fashion as Johnson fired back with his own 30 yarder to the end zone for a touchdown. The point after was missed and still left the visiting Columbus down 42-28. McCullum’s group hit the turf again marching down against the Lions defense. Guerra again found himself to be the open man in the end zone and score the touchdown for the Cobras. Peterson stayed true on the point after and brought up the score to 49-28. Columbus was back to work and facing the uphill battle, but undaunted by the task.
Johnson fired deep and found a man in the end zone to help the cause offensively. Topping the touchdown with the extra point tipped the score slightly closer to Columbus’ favor. With clock running low in the fourth Columbus opted for the onside kick attempt. Unfortunately for the Lions, the kick bounced off the leg of Jarmar Fortson and was legally recovered by Jordan Jolly who ran the ball directly to the end zone for a special teams touchdown. Desperation mode finally kicked in for the Columbus Lions as the offense tried to string together the needed plays. The drive had run three off the clock by the time it fizzled out on a turnover on downs, leaving the Cobras with just over a minute to secure the victory. Nothing remained for the Cobras to do other than burn out the clock and claim their prize.
With the final score of 56-35 the Carolina Cobras have avoided the season sweep by the Columbus Lions with their first victory over the Georgia based team. The rest of the action in the National Arena League’s final week of the regular season brings Carolina to a final standing of Second in the league standings. The regular season results also afford the Carolina Cobras home field as they will host the Jacksonville Sharks in the first round of the NAL playoffs on Tuesday August 14th. As a special promotion for the Carolina Cobras playoff bid in their inaugural season, anyone with a valid single-game purchase ticket from the August 4th match can bring their ticket to the box office to receive free admission to the Cobras first round playoff game. Tickets to the playoff match are also available for purchase at the coliseum box office or by visiting Carcobras.com.