GREENSBORO – The Carolina Cobras practice was, let’s say, spirited.
The Cobras, Greensboro’s National Arena League football team, were working on execution near in the goal line in preparation for Saturday night’s playoff game against the Massachusetts Pirates.
At the end of each play came a celebration from whichever side was successful. Players were trash-talking each other before, during and after every play. Defensive players were driving the ball-carrier into the padded walls while the coaches furiously blew their whistles to stop the play before an injury did.
“It’s playoff time,” Cobras coach Billy Back said. “Our guys are hungry. They’re angry about losing our last game. This practice was even more competitive than usual.”
The Cobras (10-5) host the Pirates (11-5) at the Greensboro Coliseum on Saturday in the first step to repeating as league champions. The Cobras defeated Massachusetts 54-22 and 50-22 in the first two games of the 2019 season.
"It’s going to be a hard-fought game,” said Chad Kolumber, a 6-foot-7, 330-pound offensive lineman from the University of Richmond. “We beat them twice this season. That’s going to be on their mind. They’re going to want to come in here and show us they’ve improved.”
The Cobras have lost their last two games – a 46-34 decision to Columbus on July 27 and a forfeit loss to New York Street on July 21.
The loss to Columbus, Back said, was caused by a poor performance.
“Our offensive line played like dumpster juice this past weekend,” he said. “We got beat by a team we beat three times previously. We are trying to get a sense of urgency in the offensive line.
“The indoor game is different,” Back added. “For example, Breonte Matthews from N.C. A&T is still learning. This is just his third game playing.”
After a tough two weeks, the Cobras have not forgotten their recent losses.
“I don’t look at the losses as good things, but there is good that came out of it,” said Kolumber. “We’re past that now. We have to look at it like, ‘What can we bring out of the losses and work on in practice?’ We can’t let the season end like that. It’s good motivation.”
The Cobras are also motivated by the chance to play for their second straight championship at home in the Coliseum. A Cobras win and a Columbus (8-7) upset over Jacksonville (13-1) would give Carolina the home game for the final.
First, though, is the top-seeded Pirates.
“We have beaten them twice this year,” Back said. “They have gotten better, but we have improved, too. The red zone will be important and our kicking game will be important. I think we are ready. We are just putting everything together, working on all the small details.”