WEEK 1 RECAP: Cobras Short in Season Opener 41-40
SAN ANTONIO, TX – The Carolina Cobras started their season on the road near the banks of the winding San Antonio river in South Texas as they took on the San Antonio Gunslingers in a Saturday Night season opening showdown. The game featured two award-winning NAL coaches as the 2022 assistant coach of the year James Fuller entered his first game as the head coach of the Carolina Cobras. Meanwhile the Gunslinger’s second-year head coach Fred Shaw entered his first game since he was awarded 2022 NAL coach of the year. The two arena masterminds went head to head to fight for their first win of the season.
As the Tex-Mex classic mariachi band played the national anthem moments before kickoff months and months of prep melted away and the 2023 season literally kicked off the foot of Cobras TC Stevens sending the ball to the opposing endzone for Gunslingers kick returner Kali Rashad who sprinted the ball to near midfield to start the game. The Cobras defense showcased a great first drive as quarterback pressure and two pass breakups by defensive back Kieron Jones killed the Gunslingers first drive of the game. On offense, Carolina struck first to score as quarterback Charles McCullum faked a pass for a sneak to score giving the Cobras their first rushing touchdown of the season. Into the second quarter, the Gunslinger got on the boards early with an Arvell Nelson bullet pass to receiver Phillip Barnett in the middle of the endzone. A Drew Pearson missed PAT attempt would tie the game 6-6 with 14-minutes left in the second quarter.
The Gunslingers defense picked up the pace with back to back sacks on Carolina coming from Justin Alexandre and Pierre Turner forcing the Cobras second drive to collapse. San Antonio gained great field position and took advantage with a quick score using DL/FB Pierre Turner for the rushing touchdown. Gunslingers up 13-6, Coach Fuller and the Cobras were poised to put points on the board and they did as Charles McCullum dialed up a 18-yard touchdown pass to receiver Lance Evans for the Cobras first passing touchdown of the season. Kicker TC Stevens missed his second PAT attempt keeping the Gunslingers ahead 13-12. Despite a strong second quarter for the Gunslingers the Cobras forced the first turnover of the night as a fumble recovery by defensive lineman Sha’Haun Williams delivered the ball back to the Cobras offense but an attempt to score was denied. Before the end of the half Gunslingers quarterback Arvell Nelson connected with Phillip Barnett again for a receiving touchdown giving San Antonio the lead at halftime 19-12.
Coach Fuller’s amplified halftime speech was clearly effective as an inspired offense hit the field and scored right away as quarterback Charles McCullum hit receiver Jalen Rima on a short pass to the middle endzone to give McCullum his second touchdown pass of the night. Unfortunately, the Gunslingers punched back with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Arvell Nelson to WR/KR Kali Rashaad to keep the Gunslingers in the lead 28-18 in the 3rd quarter. The Cobras unfazed punched in their own touchdown from the ground as the Carolina offensive line paved the way for DL/FB Kyle Voyles to launch a 18-yard rushing touchdown followed by a successful two-point conversion also by Voyles. It would be the Carolina's running game that tied the score at 26-26. A quiet Cobras kicker TC Stevens woke up the crowd and changed the momentum of the game at kickoff launching a bar ball that bounced right into the hands of Sha’Haun Williams to give the Cobras the ball inside the redzone. The Cobras offense repaid the favor with a receiver sweep by Miles Kelly that got the ball to the goal line. Allowing McCullum to sneak in his second rushing touchdown of the night on the next play. Stevens continued to heat up kicking a deuce delivering the Cobras the 34-26 lead in a hostel Freeman Coliseum to end the 3rd quarter.
In the fourth quarter, both teams exchanged scoring blows with San Antonio scoring twice on the ground with Arvell Nelson and the Cobras striking a final blow with a 41-yard receiving touchdown by Jalen Rima who dodged four Gunslingers to score for the Cobras with twenty seconds left in the game. The Cobras one point away from sending the game to overtime went for a two-point conversion with a passing attempt from McCullum to Lance Evans but the incompletion put the pressure on All-NAL kicker TC Stevens to knock down the deuce to win the game. The game started and ended on the toes of the same Cobras kicker TC Stevens as Cobra nation hoped for a deuce to deliver the win... As the ball took flight the entire game was reflected on the result of that kick; the Cobras were close but short of victory in this one, ending the night 41-40 in Texas.
The Cobras showed they have a great roster but on the field exposed areas to improve finishing week 1. Particularly on special teams, as the Cobras were guilty of multiple delay of game penalties. All-NAL kicker TC Stevens who only recently signed with the team looked like he could have used some training camp reps as he struggled going 0/4 in PATs but issues may have layed on the line upfront as the Gunslingers blocked two of his kicks tonight. On defense, Keiron Jones had an active night leading the team with four pass breakups but gaining at least one of those as an interception could have made more of an impact to prevent San Antonio scoring drives. The mobile Arvell Nelson did not see much pressure after the first quarter. Offensively, the Cobras look promising and no doubt have the right pieces but the next step will be to build consistency as Cobra Nation rarely saw a back to back scoring drive tonight. Despite the loss, the talented arm of Charles McCullum in silver & white was more than a relief to see. The 2018 NAL champion quarterback was impressive throwing 17/28 for 211 yards and three touchdown passes while adding two rushing touchdowns and a rushing two-point conversion. Into the receiving core the Cobras had a dynamic duo between Lance Evans who led the team in receptions with five catches & one touchdown and Jalen Rima who led the team in receiving touchdowns with two and four receptions on the night. The Cobras missing LB/FB Zack Brown tonight hurt but Sha’Haun Williams really stepped up tonight amassing multiple tackles plus a forced fumble and a bar ball recovery on kickoff in which both plays forced turnovers to help the Cobras close in on the Gunslingers who nearly lost this shootout in Texas.
The Cobras return home next week to face the West Texas Warbirds for the first time in team history. Were looking forward to a super exciting home opener as it’s Superhero Night / Education Appreciation Night presented by Acme Comics. Kickoff is set for Sunday, April 16 at 3pm (est). For tickets call 336-455-7232. Can’t make the game? Watch it live or later on carolinacobras.com or visit the National Arena League’s YouTube channel for all cobras games & more.
ABOUT THE CAROLINA COBRAS
The Carolina Cobras are members of the National Arena League (NAL). Founded in 2017, the Carolina Cobras are starting their sixth season in 2023 and were the 2018 National Arena League Champions. The Cobras play their home games at the Greensboro Coliseum. Cobra Season Ticket Memberships are on sale now call (336) 445-7232 or visit carolinacobras.com. Follow the Cobras on Facebook at facebook.com/carcobras, twitter.com/carcobras and instagram.com/carcobras.
ABOUT NATIONAL ARENA LEAGUE
The National Arena League was founded in 2016 and hosted its inaugural season in 2017 as the premier league in arena football. The National Arena League will kick off its seventh season in 2023. For more information regarding expansion opportunities or partnerships, contact Commissioner Chris Siegfried at firstname.lastname@example.org . For more information about the NAL visit www.nationalarenaleague.com, facebook.com/nationalarenaleauge, twitter.com/NALfootball, Instagram.com/nationalarenaleague.