Established in 2017, the Massachusetts Pirates are still a fairly new team, however, it would be a grave error to confuse them for football amateurs. The players and coaching staff have a wealth of experience in the sport and have established themselves as the best of the best. The talent across the team is formidable – made up of a collection of players that were Division 1 National college champions, Division 1 FBS All-Americans as well as former NFL draft selections/players and 2 Super Bowl champion ring holders, they are truly set up as a powerful force and positioned for an exciting season.
Indoor football is played in an arena on a field that is half the size of a traditional outdoor field, and each team has eight players on the field instead of 11. Rules and points are typically the same but the field is much smaller, so there is more scoring and faster turnaround, making for a really fun and fast-paced game to watch.
“We saw an opportunity to provide a competitive brand of football during the NFL off-season and introduce this region to arena football,” says Pirates owner and Worcester resident Jawad Yatim, who is also the youngest owner and operator of a professional football team, founding the team at only 27 years of age. The Pirates are currently the only arena football organization in New England.
Yatim began playing football when he was ten years old for Shrewsbury and played the game for 17 years, including two years in arena football, where he realized he really wanted his own team.
“After my playing career I wanted to stay involved in the game and being able to bring a professional football organization to my hometown is a blessing. We take a lot of pride in our product and being from here motivates us even more to represent the city of Worcester and state of Massachusetts in a positive light,” he remarks.
In both 2018 and 2019, the Pirates did especially well and made it to the playoffs, but unfortunately didn’t take home wins in those years. The AFL cancelled their 2020 season, which allowed the team to turn their attention to reinvigorating their brand and helping others. From providing refreshments to hospital workers to helping with youth football camps, they epitomized the true meaning of community. A year later, they became the first East Coast team to join the Indoor Football League, and were ready to take their game to a whole new level.
Not only did they have an incredible season overall, but they won the United Bowl championship with a score of 37-34 in overtime against the Rattlers. Nine of their players were recognized with honors and Quarterback Alejandro Bennifield was named as the game’s MVP. Coming off their 2021 championship win, the team is feeling confident and ready to tackle anything (and anyone) that might try to get in their way. Led by 2021 Defensive Coordinator turned 2022 Head Coach Rayshaun Kizer, the team is hopeful that they will get a chance to defend the title.
“Last year’s team was a very special group of guys,” says Kizer. “It’s easy to do my job as a coach when you have such great players…what made us stand out last season was the brotherhood they formed with each other. They really enjoyed being around each other outside of football. When that happens, those teams are hard to beat because there’s a great chemistry and connection there.”
Kizer told us that the Pirates have about half of the team they did last year and many new players, and that he is feeling great about the things they are looking to do this season as well.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing how this team comes together each week and competes to try to get to the championship game again,” he says.
Owner Jawad Yatim is also looking toward a successful run this year.
“We want a repeat. We want to continue to build our fan base and win another championship,” he says.
The Pirates play at the DCU Center in Worcester and tickets are reasonably priced. Tickets are roughly $18-$100 each depending on where you sit, but any seat is a good seat with a field this size. It’s a great game to bring friends or family to and it’s right in our backyard.
“We are a family friendly, very competitive entertainment product that you should come check out. The majority of our players have signed NFL contracts in the past – we have an exciting group of guys to cheer on,” says Yatim.