Charlotte Cobra History
The Charlotte Cobras are a charitable, non-profit organization that competes in the NPSFL. The Cobras are considered a semi-professional football team that raises money for various charities in the Charlotte metro area, mostly for injured or disabled first responders who work for an area agency.
All of the players are sworn members or former members of a first responder organization including local, state and federal agencies to include police officers, firefighters, sheriff’s deputies, medics, state agents and federal agents. The team came into existence in 1995 when 2 Officers who worked for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) decided to explore the option of fielding a team of local first responders in the NPSFL.
Officer Matt Pitcher and John Collins reached out to the governing board of the NPSFL to request membership in the league. Officer Pitcher was interested in joining the league as a way to pay tribute to his recently deceased father and give back to the community through a charitable organization. The team competed as a probationary member of the league during the 2006 and 2007 seasons and eventually became a full member during the 2008 season.
After discussions the Cobra team was formed in late 2005. Matt and John invited all public safety personnel in the Charlotte area to join the team, including firemen, police officers, sheriff deputies, state and federal agents and medics. As a new member of the league the Cobras were on probation until they could get their feet under them and prove that they could compete and operate as a team in the league. This included being able to host a home game and travel as a team to play an away game.
The first year the Cobras played two home games in the spring of 2006, one against an independent semi-pro team named the Georgia Patriots, and the other against the LAFD Heat. The next year, 2007 had the Cobras playing 2 home games and 1 away game. After the 2007 season the Cobras were formally admitted into the NPSFL after showing their viability as a team that could survive and compete.
CHARLOTTE COBRAS FACTS:
*Charlotte Cobras – Member of the National Public Safety Football League (NPSFL)
*Full member of the NPSFL since 2008 season
*Division 1 National Champions 2015 season
*Division 1 runner-up 2013 season
*Division 2 runner-up 2009
OVERALL RECORD (All games) - 35 – 20 .636
NPSFL RECORD (full member) - 34 – 16 .680
2006 Season - Probation
The Cobras first game was played in the spring of 2006 at the historic Charlotte Memorial Stadium. The stadium was built in 1936 and named in honor of fallen local soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice to their country in World War 1. The stadium was a project of the Works Progress Administration under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the great depression.
The Cobras played against the semi-professional Georgia Patriots (not a team in NPSFL) in a physical and exciting game. The Cobras fell 14-19 but interest in the team and league was high in the community for the competitive brand of football and raising money to help first responders in need. The first score by a Cobra came on a long touchdown run by former star Wingate football and baseball player Steven Graham (OC) who still works at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to this day. The Cobras also competed against a tough and veteran NPSFL team, the Los Angeles Fire Department Heat team later in the spring falling by a score of 35-3.
2006 Season Record: 0 – 2
Home Georgia Patriots L 14 – 19
Home LAFD L 3 - 35
2007 Season – First Win
The 2007 season brought the team’s first win against another NPSFL probationary team, the DC Generals by a score of 20-19 at Independence High School in Charlotte. Demarco Jeter (OC) made an incredible over the shoulder catch for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to bring the Cobras within 1 point. Coach Eddie Levins made the bold decision to go for two and the win which paid off when Tight End “Big” Charles Artis (OC) caught the 2 point conversion pass in the end zone sealing the victory. The Cobras had their first win and were on their way to establishing themselves as a sustainable team with the ability to attract local sworn first responders to play full contact football for the purpose of raising money for charities. The Cobras also played their first away game during the 2007 taking on the DC Generals again, however, this time falling by a 32-0 score. The most important game of the 2007 season came against a non NPSFL team, the Georgia Extreme.
Even though the Cobras lost 42-13, the game was played to honor 2 fallen CMPD Officers, Jeff Shelton and Sean Clark who tragically died after being shot on duty. The game rose over $5000 dollars for the fallen Officer’s families.
2007 Season Record 1 – 2
Home DC Generals W 20 – 19
Home Georgia Extreme L 13 – 42
Away DC Generals L 0 – 32
2008 Season – Welcome to the NPSFL - Tough Times
The 2008 season marked the Cobras first season as a full member of the league. Even though interest in the team was high, times were tough. The Cobras at times struggled to field a competitive team against more established and organized teams in the league. The Cobras finished the season with a 1-4 record. The highlight of the year came in the last game of the season against the Atlanta Defenders with the Cobras winning by a score of 21-20. The Defenders scored a touchdown with less than a minute to play in regulation to make the score 21-20 and decided to go for a tie and overtime by attempting an extra point. Defensive End and former Western Carolina standout, Jarod Wishon, deflected the attempted extra point causing the ball to go wide left, and preserve the Cobras first official NPSFL league win.
2008 Season Record 1 – 4
Home LAFD Heat L 0 - 26
Home NYPD Finest L 0 – 49
Away DC Generals L 6 – 14
Home Cleveland Warriors L 10 – 13
Home Atlanta Defenders W 21 – 20
2009 Season - New Beginnings – Turnaround
The 2009 season started out like the 2008 season, with another loss, this time to the Philadelphia Blue Flame, but the Cobras showed intensity and potential against the much more established league team, falling by a score of 26-20 on a late fourth quarter touchdown by Philadelphia.
The next game was against the Cobras I-85 rival, the Atlanta Defenders. With the Cobras down 19-3 late in the 3rd quarter the outcome was bleak. Another losing season stood only one quarter away. At this point in time the team came together as a family and decided enough was enough and took over the game, winning on a dramatic punt return touchdown late in the 4th quarter by York County Sheriff’s Deputy Rodney Hope to take a 20-19 lead. The Cobras defense held Atlanta for the final minute and the fortunes of the Cobras and the organization were forever turned.
The Cobras rattled off 3 consecutive wins after the Atlanta game and found themselves battling the Bakersfield Falcons in the NPSFL Division 2 Championship game. The game was played in Bakersfield in 105 degree heat and early mistakes by the Cobras could not be overcome even after a valiant effort in the second half. The Cobras fell 19-13 after being down 19-3 at halftime.
Even with the loss the Cobras had established themselves as a formidable team with a bright future. By virtue of playing in the Division 2 Championship game the Cobras moved up to Division 1 of the league and haven’t looked back since, playing annually against the biggest, toughest, and most established teams in the league. The Cobras were now one of the “Big Boys”.
2009 Season Record 4 – 2
Home Philadelphia Blue Flame L 20 -26
Away Atlanta Defenders W 20 – 19
Away Cleveland Warriors W 14 – 3
Home Orlando Guardians W 32 – 13
Home DC Generals W 28 – 13
Away Bakersfield Falcons L 13 – 19*
*NPSFL Division II Championship Game
2010 – Division 1
The Cobras played their first season in the 1st division of the NPSFL and finished with a 4-2 record with wins against the South Carolina Commanders, former Division 2 champions Orlando Guardians, the Roanoke Rampage and once again over the rival Atlanta Defenders. By this point the Cobras were 3 – 0 against the Atlanta team and eventually the Cobras amassed an overall record of 8-0 against Atlanta before they folded operations after the 2015 season. The two losses of the season came at the hands of the San Diego Enforcers 10 – 0 and the Dallas Defenders 18-14.
2010 Season Record 4 – 2
Away SC Commanders W 48 – 6
Home San Diego Enforcers L 0 - 10
Home Atlanta Defenders W 32 – 6
Away Orlando Guardians W 42 – 6
Away Dallas Defenders L 8 - 14
Home Roanoke Rampage W 54 – 0
Home Columbus Marauders W 55-3
2011 Season – More Success
The Cobras finished the 2011 season with a record of 4-1. The only loss came at the hands of the LAPD Centurions during a hotly contested game in Los Angeles with the final score being 26-20. The Cobras racked up lots of points with a potent offense in their four wins, 42 against Atlanta, 47 against Roanoke, 40 against South Carolina and 49 against the Columbus Marauders. The Cobras were a force in the league, but weren’t an elite team yet, work still needed to be put in to make the jump from good to great. Recruitment of players continued and additional staff and coaches were added to make the team better with more available resources.
2011 Season Record 4 – 1
Away Atlanta Defenders W 42 – 13
Away LA Centurions L 20 – 26
Away Roanoke Rampage W 47 - 0
Home SC Commanders W 40 – 0
Home Columbus Marauders W 49 – 0
2012 Season – Frustration
The 2012 season was one of ups and downs. The Cobras finished with a 3-2 record, beating the teams that they were expected to beat (Atlanta, San Antonio, and Philadelphia) but were coming up short against the league powerhouses with loses to NYPD’s Finest and the LAPD Centurions. Even though the Cobras were enjoying winning seasons during the past couple of years, the team could not seem to make the break through into one of the “elite” teams of the league. More work was needed and continued recruiting took place to engage members from various public safety organizations in the area to join the team.
2012 Season Record 3 – 2
Home San Antonio Raiders W 35 – 3
Away NYPD Finest L 7 - 12
Home Atlanta Defenders W 13 – 10
Home LA Centurions L 21 – 26
Away Philadelphia Blue Flame W 33 – 18
2013 Season – Almost There
The 2013 season was an incredible year for the Cobras. Even after a disappointing 2012 season the 2013 team had the toughest NPSFL schedule that had ever been put together. The Cobras had both the NYPD’s Finest on the schedule again as well as the FDNY Bravest. Between these two teams alone they had won a combined 10 NPSFL titles. The Cobras were also playing the defending NPSFL Champions, San Diego Defenders, in San Diego to boot! (FDNY was the previous year’s runner-up) And if that wasn’t enough the Cobras were also playing the Atlanta Defenders who had just come off of their 2012 season moving up to Division 1 after winning the Division 2 title. Throw in a 5th game for good measure against the Cleveland Warriors.
The season started off with a huge win against the San Diego team who were defending their National title at home as the Cobras won 17-9. The Cobras followed up with (another) win against the Defenders in Atlanta. The biggest play in Cobras history was made during the third game of the season against FDNY. In a closely contested game the Cobras were leading 7-0 going into the 4th quarter. The FDNY team made one last gasp effort as time was running down and marched down the field with several miraculous plays to keep the drive alive. FDNY finally scored with less than 10 seconds left in the game. FDNY decided to go for the tie with an extra point to try and push the game into overtime. Montrey Gilchrist (former UNCC track star and CMPD Officer) made an INCREDIBLE play demonstrating his track skills by leaping high in the air (look at the picture below and see how far above the other players he is) to block the extra point and preserve the win!
With this momentum the Cobras went on to beat NYPD in Washington DC to commemorate National Police Memorial Week at the nation’s capital and then blowout Cleveland setting up a rematch with NYPD in the Division 1 National Championship game. (The game was played in New York, somewhere on Long Island) and unfortunately the Cobras dream season came to an end with a disappointing 6-9 loss, but what a season! The future was brighter than ever and the Cobras finally felt that they were now also one of the elite teams beating the defending league champions from Division 1 and 2 as well as the division 1 runner up.
Montrey Gilchrist makes “The Block” to preserve the win 7-6 against FDNY
2013 Season Record 5 -1
Away San Diego Enforcers W 17 - 9
Away Atlanta Defenders W 22 - 7
Home FDNY Bravest W 7 - 6
Neutral* NYPD Finest W 21 - 10
Home Cleveland Warriors W 48 - 0
Away NYPD Finest L 6 – 9**
* At Washington DC for Police week
**NPSFL NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME DIVISION 1
2014 Season – Let Down
The Cobras 2014 season had high hopes with the success achieved during the 2013 season, however, had a tough schedule to face after making it to the National Championship game the previous season. Right out of the gate the Cobras took on the powerful and veteran FDNY team in New York. The Cobras came up short losing 7-9 as FDNY scored on 3 field goals, with the last field goal coming from almost 50 yards away.
The NPSFL season is a short one with each team having to declare 4 league games as the games which will count toward the standings. A single loss during the season often will put a team out of the championship picture.
The Cobras rebounded to beat Atlanta (again) however lost at home to the NYPD team 24-12. The Cobras were simply overmatched this time around. The season ended on a high note with the Cobras crushing the DC Generals 40-0 at home.
One of the points taken from the 2014 season was the need to continuously recruit new players from Charlotte area public safety agencies and to practice with a purpose. Most weeks in the fall and winter the Cobras only get to practice once, maybe twice a week, so the team learned to make the most of this opportunity. Players were sent information, videos, and plays over the internet and social media to study and review so time could be spent more efficiently at practice.
2014 Season Record 2-2
Away FDNY Bravest L 7 – 9
Home Atlanta Defenders W 13 - 10
Home NYPD Finest L 24 - 12
Home DC Generals W 40 - 0
2015 Season – CHAMPIONS! “Big Haze Strong”
After the 2014 season the Cobras refocused their attention toward a return to the National Championship game. Something the team was not prepared for during the offseason was the death of Special Teams Coach, Hazel Richardson who passed unexpectedly (read below comments in Cobra Tradition section) from bone cancer.
Most of the team came to Hazel’s funeral as a sign of respect and love for their coach. Instead of letting this moment bring the team down, players appeared to rally around the “Big Haze Strong” mantra that the team used as motivation. Hazel never let on how sick he was and kept coming to practice during the 2014 season even though he was in great pain and knew his time was limited. This gave inspiration to all Cobra team members to work harder and play with one goal in mind while “between the lines”.
The Cobras beat Atlanta (again) in the home opener, 22-0. The Orlando Guardians were the next recipient of a Cobra beat down losing 55-0. Teams in the league were taking notice of the strong defense lead by DE Kemp Rasmussen and DT Demaine Duckett (Former East Carolina standout and NY Giants and Carolina Panthers player) as well as a potent offense as the Cobras improved to 3 – 0 after crushing the Dallas Defenders 54 – 0. By the time the 4th game rolled around, Philadelphia didn’t stand a chance and fell to the Cobras 35-0. For the 4 game regular season the Cobras had scored an incredible 166 points on offense (41 + points per game) and allowed 0. (Yes that is 0 points allowed in 4 games for 0.0 average)
The Cobras were dominant on both sides of the ball, but the San Diego Enforcers were the “Best of the West” and blowing out teams as well in their games finishing with an unblemished record of 4-0 as well. The Championship game was set, The Beast in the East vs. The Best of the West, to be played at Providence Day School in Charlotte.
The game was a thriller with both teams making hard hits, running and throwing the ball with precision. The Cobras were scored upon for the first time all season. Two great defensive plays helped seal the game and the Championship for the Cobras. First, Steven Graham – OC (Yes the Steven Graham of Cobras folklore who scored the very first touchdown in Cobras history) stripped a San Diego receiver of the football just before he crossed the goal line causing a fumble which the Cobras recovered to keep their slim lead at the time. The second play was made by defensive end Kemp Rasmussen (Charlotte Firefighter and former standout at Indiana University and former Carolina Panthers player who holds the Cobras team records for sacks in a game, season and career) when he intercepted a ball after the San Diego quarterback had been hit. Kemp reached out and was horizontal as he plucked the ball out of the air just before it hit the ground. In the end the Cobras gave the capacity crowd of 2000+ fans an exhibition in teamwork and football excellence as they beat the San Diego team in a historic game, 35-20.
The Cobras were National Champions and Hazel’s spirit was right there with the team on the field as the NPSFL trophy was raised high in the air by each team member. As a tribute each and every team member’s championship ring is inscribed on the inside with, “Big Haz Strong”.
Cobra’s team, fans, and Hazel’s spirit celebrating the National Championship win!
2015 Season* Record 5-0
Away Atlanta Defenders W 22-0
Home Orlando Guardians W 55-0
Home Dallas Defenders W 54-0
Away Philadelphia Blue Flame W 35-0
*Home San Diego Enforcers W 35-20
*NPSFL NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME DIVISION 1
2016 Season - Let Down
The Cobras entered the 2016 season as defending NPSFL Champions and continued their previous season’s success with a 16-3 win over the DC Generals on a cold, windy and wet day in the nation’s capital.
The second game was the mandated league game between the last season’s two teams that had played in the national championship game at the other team’s home field, so the Cobras packed their bags and went to sunny San Diego. In this rematch the Defenders were able to get the better of the Cobras and won 23-17. The Cobras could not blame several questionable calls by the officials for the loss and knew they had a chance to win but could not pull off the needed plays in the end.
The Cobras knew that single loss could knock them out of contention for a second national championship but continued to fight hard beating two very tough teams in the process, FDNY by a score of 25-3 and the Chicago PD by a final of 41-26. The Cobras were tied with several other teams with a 3-1 record while the only undefeated team remaining was the San Diego Enforcers. The Cobras ended up losing on one of the league tiebreakers to the LAPD Centurions and were eliminated from the championship game. The Cobras fought hard this season, but came up just short.
2016 Season Record 3-1
Away DC Generals W 16-3
Away San Diego Enforcers L 17-23
Home FDNY Bravest W 25-3
Home Chicago PD Enforcers W 41-26
2017 Season – Still Working Hard
Entering the 2017 season the Cobras were desperate for a return to the national championship game. Several key players and coaches had retired but there were new recruits to take their place. Could the new coaches and players find the right chemistry to make another run at the title?
The season started off with wins against both Central Texas (49-20) and Roanoke (35-0). The next game was against the mighty NYPD at North Mecklenburg High School. The Cobras took the lead at the start of the second half 26 – 20 with an incredible kickoff return by one of the fasted players in the league, Daryl Green, who has been thrilling the Cobras fans ever since his first game. Unfortunately the Cobras could not match the depth of NYPD who came back to eventually win the game 42-26. The Cobras did finish strong against an overwhelmed and understaffed Columbus team by a score of 55-3 to finish the season at 3-1.
2017 Season Record 3-1
Away Central Texas Wolf Pack W 49-20
Away Roanoke Rampage W 35- 0
Home NYPD Finest L 26-42
Home Columbus Marauders W 55-3
2018 Season- What does the Future Hold?
Even though the Cobras had gone 6-2 over the past 2 seasons, any loss in the short NPSFL season is devastating. The Cobras face one of the toughest schedules in the league for the 2018 season with games at both the powerful NYPD and Chicago FD. The Cobra’s home games include a team the Cobras have never played, NYC Department of Corrections as well as the always dangerous LAPD Centurions. Rest assured the Cobras are getting ready for the challenge on the field and in the community to make a positive impact through financial donations and community involvement.
2018 Season* SCHEDULE
Away 04/07 NYPD Finest
Away 04/21 Chicago FD Blaze
Home 04/28 NYCD Boldest
Home 05/19 LAPD Centurions