Gunslingers Remain 2nd Seed, But Next Game Critical
GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA - The Carolina Cobras looked every bit a contender for the 2023 National Arena League (NAL) Championship last Saturday night in the Greensboro Coliseum as they dominated the San Antonio Gunslingers from the start to a 67-43 finish. The Gunslingers were unable to mount a comeback as they missed opportunities on two key possessions. The loss keeps Carolinas’ hopes of hosting the first round of the playoffs alive as they are now only one game back from San Antonio in the NAL standings.
Cobras quarterback, Malik Henry, completed 28 of his 33 passes for an astounding 85% completion rate, including all ten of his second half passes. Henry finished with eight touchdowns through the air, including four to Nyqwan Murray, two to Miles Kelly, and one each to Lance Evans and Adam Smith. Smith also scored the only Carolina rushing touchdown on a two yard run in the first quarter. Kicker TC Stevens wowed the Greensboro crowd with a very impressive nine for nine performance on conversions and two deuces. Stevens missed perfection with two kicks outside the rebound structure, which awarded the Gunslingers two ultimately inconsequential points.
San Antonio started out solid on the first two drives and had an early opportunity to take the lead on a Cobra fumble. Darius Banks stripped the ball away from Carolina’s Nyquan Murray near the goal line, and Kyle Chandler recovered the fumble in the end zone for a Gunslinger touchback. On the next play, Kendrick Ings in his debut in a Gunslinger uniform hauled in a 36-yard pass from quarterback Arvell Nelson to set up a first and goal on the four yard line. But San Antonio failed to score and turned the ball over on downs just one yard short of the goal line. The Gunslingers second missed opportunity to take a lead came on their opening possession in the second half when their drive stalled at midfield. Nelson finished the game completing 23 of 42 passes (55%) with five touchdowns and one interception. Phillip Barnett caught two touchdowns, and was joined by Brian Robinson, Kadir Chisolm, and Kendrick Ings with one touchdown reception apiece. Calvin Fance scored the last touchdown for San Antonio on a three yard run. Kicker Drew Pearson kicked a deuce and made one of two conversions in the first quarter. The Gunslingers attempted four straight two point conversions, completing only one on a run by Nelson.
Nelson was clearly unhappy with the result but was optimistic about the team rebounding from the loss. “We have got to finish plays and drives, these are all things that we can easily correct with film study. It is do or die, win or go home time now, and it is very important to play at home in the playoffs.” San Antonio Head Coach Fred Shaw was even more circumspect about the loss. “We each have to look ourselves in the mirror and ask, ‘What did I do wrong?’ There is a lot of blame to go around, but ultimately this loss is on me.”
San Antonio remains the second seed in the NAL playoffs but needs a win this Saturday, July 22nd, versus Carolina to clinch the right to host a home playoff game. Home teams are 13-2 in the history of the NAL, 8-0 among the teams currently playing. A third straight Gunslinger loss will almost certainly drop San Antonio to third seed and send them back to Greensboro to face the Cobras in the first round of the playoffs.
ABOUT THE SAN ANTONIO GUNSLINGERS
The San Antonio Gunslingers are members of the National Arena League (NAL) and were awarded Franchise of the Year by the NAL for their overall performance during the 2022 season. Gunslingers play all home games at the Freeman Coliseum. Follow the Gunslingers on Facebook at @210sagunslingers, on Twitter @SA_Gunslingers and Instagram @sanantoniogunslingers. For Gunslingers season tickets, group packages or partnerships, visit https://www.sanantoniogunslingers.com/tickets or call (210) 298-6900.
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 has kicked 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/nationalarenaleague, twitter.com/NALfootball, Instagram.com/nationalarenaleague.