Command fades to 52-28 loss to Jacksonville
Anticipation was high for the Command's first game of the year. The visiting Jacksonville Sharks are defending champs but were minus several important pieces of last year's team. Both teams started rookie quarterbacks and the Command rookie outplayed the Sharks rookie in the first half, but this was not enough as the Command fell to the Sharks by a final score of 52-28, in front of 5161 fans.
Command quarterback Nate Davis got off to a hot start with two quick touchdown passes. Sharks signal caller Chris Leak also started well and the first quarter ended with a Command lead of 14-7. The teams traded scores in the second quarter and at half time the Command had a 21-17 lead. The Command defense was encouraged by holding the Sharks to a 26 yard field goal as the first half expired.
Sharks head coach Les Moss must have said all the right things at half time because the Sharks put up the first thirty five points of the second half to easily take control. Reserve quarterback Steven Gachette accounted for the final Command touchdown with 2:38 remaining. By this time the outcome was well decided.
Kansas City quarterback Nate Davis put up a final line of 11-of-19 passing for 177 yards. He connected for three touchdowns and was sacked once. Returning wide receiver Christian Wise accounted for two of the touchdowns and finished with 4 catches for 89 yards. Our defense was lead by newcomer defensive lineman Diyral Briggs. An experienced NFL and UFL veteran, Briggs accounted for seven tackles and recorded his first sack in the AFL. Defensive back Rashad Barksdale also contributed seven tackles. But the teams twelve penalties (70 yards), three turnovers and a safety were too much to overcome.
Shark quarterback Chris Leak, in his first AFL start, finished with 21-of-31 passing for 196 yards and five touchdowns with one interception. Leak was also sacked five times. The Sharks were able to overcome this problem with the most drastic example coming late in the third quarter. The Command defense had pushed the Sharks back into a 4th-and-26 situation. Definitely a momentum changer was in the works, right! Wrong! Leak calmly hit receiver Shamar Graves for a weaving 30 yard trip through the Command's troubled defense all the way to the end zone. That gave the Sharks a 30-21 lead and afforded some breathing room for the visitors. In the fourth quarter Leak passed for two more scores, plus the Command contributed to its own demise with the safety and an interception that was returned for the final Jacksonville touchdown.
No post game comments from Command head coach Danton Barto this game but his body language was an exercise in control, especially through the disastrous second half. The Command are only a second year squad with rookies and first year players filling all but five of the roster spots. When you factor in that this was the first start for the home team's rookie quarterback, perhaps the final result is not all that shocking.
The Command next play at Cleveland on Friday night. The next home game is Thursday night, March 29 when the Arizona Rattlers come to town.
Tom Campbell has written about the AFL since 2006, when the local team was the Kansas City Brigade. Previous game articles appeared on www.arenapulse.com and www.sportsphan.com, and he was a voting member of the AFL Writers Association. Tom currently owns a franchise in the American Poolplayers Assoc and previously worked in commercial banking for 17 years.