Back in 2018, the Carolina Cobras were the talk of the league. Now, the Flight is the hot topic. Will New Jersey soar in the debut, or will they have trouble getting off the runway?
A Formidable Defense
Both teams in the opening quarter were slow getting out of the gate. New Jersey was able to slow down Carolina on the opening drive, keeping the Cobras on the field for nearly eight minutes. Carolina forced their first turnover of the season as the quarter came to an end. Deadlocked, 7-7, neither team had the advantage on the scoreboard. On the field, the Cobras were in excellent field position to take momentum and an early lead.
After the Flight’s defense battled a long drive, they were called upon again almost immediately. Carolina felt they had New Jersey off-balanced, and they were right. James Summers covered a chunk of yards with his route, finding the endzone quickly. A turnover spoiled the early efforts of a seemingly stubborn Flight defense.
“The fumbled snap is on me. I put the glove on, made the adjustment at halftime, and this is something I’ll move forward with.”Warren Smith Jr; 5/28/21
“No Respect At All”
The New Jersey Flight had to capitalize on a defensive stop of their own to counter the turnover. Dramatically, the Flight seemed ready for takeoff. Jared Dangerfield closed the half with a touchdown reception from Warren Smith Jr. His touchdown almost pulled the rug out from under the Carolina Cobras following their missed field goal.
At halftime, New Jersey led, 20-16.
Defensively, the Flight looked like they recovered from an early mistake. Next, New Jersey began to look for every optimal way to spread its lead. On the ensuing kickoff, Pat Clarke added two more points with a primo kickoff through the uprights.
Castronova and Ings Make Magic, But Laughinghouse Should Make Sportscenter’s Top 10
Each time the New Jersey Flight had the Carolina Cobras in a third and long situation, Sam Castronova found a way to extend the drive. He crossed midfield on a rush, opening the third quarter. The Flight forced a fumble, but Castronova recovered. Unable to collect the turnover, Kendrick Ings became the recipient of his first touchdown a play later.
On the ensuing kickoff, Tony Stevens attempted an onside kick. New Jersey recovered with a short field to conquer. Tyron Laughinghouse made a spectacular catch, falling over the boards through the back of the endzone. In the NAL, if a receiver maintains possession exiting the field of play over the boards, it’s a catch. Laughinghouse will be sure to put that in his highlight reel.
Again, Castronova and Ings overcame adversity, leading into the fourth quarter, 29-28. On fourth down, following another missed opportunity by the Flight on a loose ball, Castronova found Ings for a twelve-yard touchdown pass. Once Ings finds his stride, he’s one of the best in all of arena football.
“I wasn’t going to limit the playcalling for Samuel. A rookie in his first pro game, usually you want to minimize mistakes and have a shorter playbook going in, but I wanted to be wide open.”Josh Resignalo; 5/28/21
Down a point, the New Jersey Flight had to answer. Tony Stevens nearly had a rouge point on the ensuing kickoff, but the ball bounced off the crossbar into the field of play. It looked as if the Flight weren’t sure about it being a live ball because the miscommunication cost them a possession. The Carolina Cobras took over on offense with a preferred field position and an opportunity to expand the lead.
New Jersey didn’t make the favorable field position an easy transition for points. The Cobras were further away from the goal line than they were on their last score. Again, Ings found a way to bail out Castronova with a 22yrd touchdown reception. Ings added another, totaling four touchdowns in the second half before the regulation time expired.
Jared Dangerfield and Tyron Laughinghouse continued to perform in high-pressure situations. Dangerfield tied the game, 35-35, with a rushing touchdown with 7:57 remaining in the fourth quarter. Later, Laughinghouse nearly forced overtime with a clutch touchdown pass from Warren Smith Jr.
“If we want to use this game as a gauging stick, I think we’re very competitive on the field. I think we’ll end up being a competitor. I think we have a team that can definitely win a championship.”Terrence Foster; 5/28/21
With the game tied, 42-42, Carolina called upon Stevens to kick the game-winning field goal with three seconds left. He walked off a 45-42 victory, converting from 26yrds.
Photo Credit: Jersey Flght