The Maine Mammoths play their first home game on Saturday against the Carolina Cobras.

For the first time in nearly two years, fans in Maine will have a chance to watch a local professional sports team play in downtown Portland.

Saturday night at Cross Insurance Arena, the Maine Mammoths will take on fellow expansion franchise Carolina Cobras in the second arena football game for both teams. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Not since the Portland Pirates lost 3-1 in Game 2 of an American Hockey League playoff series with the Hershey Bears on April 23, 2016, has Cross Insurance Arena played host to a pro team.

The Mammoths, who came into being barely five months ago, lost their season opener 51-24 last weekend in Worcester to the Massachusetts Pirates, the third expansion franchise among the six-team National Arena League, now in its second year of operation.

“It was something to learn from,” Mammoths Coach James Fuller said of his team’s initial outing. “I thought we did some good things on defense, but offensively, we had some situations I thought we could have taken advantage of, and we just didn’t, for whatever reason, if it was line play or just missed communication.”


Carolina also lost its opener, 41-38, to the defending league champion Jacksonville Sharks last weekend at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Both teams suffered through play-clock violations and fumbled snaps and had trouble protecting their quarterbacks, Jonathan Bane for Maine and Charles McCullum for Carolina.

Banes’ favorite target was Devin Wilson, a former indoor football teammate in Richmond, who had two touchdowns among his six receptions.

“Everybody’s excited,” Wilson said of the home opener. “It’s buzzing around the city. It’s unbelievable.”

McCullum’s favorite target was Phillip Barnett, who caught three touchdown passes against Jacksonville.

If Saturday’s debuts are an indication, fans should be prepared for plenty of passing, a bunch of scores and a bit of confusion. In Worcester, two apparent Pirates scores were negated after lengthy consultations among the five officials.


The first was an illegal return covering the 50-yard length of the playing field following a point-after kick that caromed off an upright (such returns are allowed only on field goals and kickoffs; nobody punts in arena football). The second was an apparent safety (although in arena ball, it would be a rouge, and worth a single point) after a Maine returner attempted to field a kickoff in his own end zone but the ball struck the wall or stands behind him before he gained possession and subsequently was tackled.

The ball is considered out of bounds when it passes over the padded hockey boards.

“It’s a different dynamic than outdoor ball,” Fuller said. “Our guys have got to learn how to play this. They’ve got to learn that possessions matter. You have to score points early so you’re not chasing points late.”

The Mammoths also lost their kicker, Brandon Rutherford, to a knee injury first suffered on the negated run-back and made worse when he was buried under three Pirates following his attempt to make something of a bungled snap on the PAT attempt after Maine’s second touchdown Saturday night.

“I feel like I’m one of the more athletic kickers in the league,” said Rutherford, a four-year veteran of indoor football. “I’ve been making plays off busted extra points. Unfortunately, that was a lesson learned.”

Michael German, Maine’s backup quarterback, handled kickoff duties the rest of the game. The Mammoths tried — and failed — 2-point conversions on their subsequent two touchdowns.


With Rutherford out, the Mammoths brought in Henry Nell, a 19-year-old South African with a rugby background.

“I’ve never played high school football and I’ve never played college football,” Nell said after Thursday’s practice at Cross Arena. “Saturday’s going to be my first football match. Exciting times!”

Tickets for Saturday’s game range in price from $11 to $70. Jeff Bouchy, who is part of the ownership group for Maine and Carolina as well as serving as both Jacksonville general manager and head of expansion for the league, said 3,000 tickets have been sold for the game. Capacity at Cross Insurance Arena is approximately 6,700.

“Everywhere we go around town we hear questions about what we are and what we do,” said Fuller, a 20-year veteran of arena football. “It’s definitely going to be an exciting evening.”

The Maine Mammoths practice at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland on Thursday in preparation for Saturday night’s home opener against Carolina. (Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Press Herald Photo)

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