Carolina Cobras (10-5, 2nd in NAL) vs. Jacksonville Sharks (14-1, 1st in NAL)
Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena
Saturday 7:00PM EDT
National Arena League Championship
Written by DJ Wagner with Contribution by Brian Hall WFMY
Rubber Match: In two NAL Seasons the Carolina Cobras and Jacksonville Sharks have faced each other six times, each team has won three of the games, with Jacksonville winning the last two in a row. So, this is Game 7 and the NAL Championship is on the line.
All or Nothing: Coach Billy Back has been in the playoffs in now eight of his ten seasons. In that time, he has gone 11-2. His teams have either lost in the first round or won the Championship in the previous seven playoff appearances. Since the Cobras won in round one in 2019 then history looks good for the Cobras.
How They Rank: This is a battle between the #2 Scoring Offense of the Cobras (51.4/game) vs #2 Scoring Defense of the Sharks (33.9). On the other side of the ball it is the #1 Scoring Offense of the Sharks (57.5) vs the #1 Scoring Defense of the Cobras (31.1).
All-NAL: The Carolina Cobras had TEN players on the All-NAL First and Second Team Combined. The First Team winners were QB Charles McCullum, WR Jordan Jolly, NT Bill Vavau and DB Michael Green. The Second Team was FB Dashawn Johnson, WR Von Pearson, KR Cedric Poole, DL Micah Robinson, DL Steve Miller, MLB Dante Holmes, JLB Pasquale Vacchio.
Last Stand For the Trophy: Coach Back was asked about the Championship and he had this to say “I am pretty excited, this is what you play for, and for our guys to start the course early on, we are practicing here on Championship Week. It leads to a little less summer but that is exactly why we coach and why we play. It isn’t for these accolades of Player of the Year, Coach of the Year it is for the rings and the things that come with it and to be able to say we are the champs. That is the goal.”
In the Trenches: One thing has held true for all six games these two teams have played, if you have more sacks, you win. The team with the most sacks in this series has won all six games. So which line has the most control of this game, will likely determine who wins the game.
Turnover Battle: Jacksonville and Carolina finished #1 and #2 respectively in turnover margin. Jacksonville was +19 in the regular season while Carolina was +17. In what could come down to a game where the team that wins has the least mistakes, this stat will be very important.
Matchup to Watch: Temper Temper These two teams do not like each other. Probably never will like each other, so that leads to what is going to be most important. Keeping tempers in check. Last year in the playoff game between these two teams there were three ejections of Shark players. Will tempers flare again, or can everyone keep their heads in the game?
Undersnakes: The Cobras are coming into this game as a clear underdog facing a team on a 14-game winning streak, but Coach Back had this to say about that “I still feel like it is us against the world. It is the Carolina Cobras vs the NAL. I feel like the odds are stacked against us in everything we do. I think this is the finish, we started this, and through all the adversity and all the tough times our motto is ‘Tough times don’t last, tough people do’ and we have been tough this entire season to get to where we are at and we are looking to finish on Saturday night”
Last Meeting: June 15 it was Jacksonville 55-29 over Carolina in Greensboro. Murphy’s Law was in full effect for the Cobras as they turned the ball over four times and allowed five sacks, plus only scored 7 points in the second half after building a 15-2 lead in the first quarter
Series History: The series is tied 3-3.
QB 1 Charles McCullum 232-394-15 2,883 yards and 66 TDs passing
WR 4 Jordan Jolly 104 Receptions 1,210 yards 31 TDs receiving
WR 11 Von Pearson 45 Receptions, 586 yards and 17 TDs receiving
DB 17 Michael Green 62.0 Tackles 10 INTs, 44 Passes Defended and 1 TD
JLB 27 Pasquale Vacchio 33.5 Tackles 7 INTs 3 Fumble Recoveries 3 TDs
QB 3 Jonathan Bane 160-290-12 1,844 yards and 39 TD.
WR 1 Devin Wilson 102 Receptions 1,179 yards 29 TDs Receiving
WR 4 Jarmon Fortson 72 Receptions 785 yards 18 TDs Receiving
DB 15 Seth Ellis 44.5 Tackles 13 INTs, 38 Passes Defended, 1 TD
DL 22 Nick Woodman 39.0 Tackles, 15 TFL, 12.5 Sacks 2 Fumble Recoveries