Sharks Send Storm Out of Playoffs 69-62
As jubilant as a locker room can be after a 21-point come-from-behind victory, Jacksonville Sharks quarterback Bernard Morris asked a simple question that none of his teammates could answer simply.
“Fellas. Fellas. Why does it have to be so hard?” Morris pondered after Jacksonville survived this 69-62 instant classic with Tampa Bay in the American Conference semifinal Saturday.
Rhetorical as it was, he was right. The Sharks may have had the #1 seed in the National Conference, but it’s been a consistently inconsistent season and many of the team’s struggles have been self-inflicted.
If this had gone according to script, a top-seed should have had little trouble putting away a fourth-seeded team whose last victory came while British royalty was still gestating. Then again, scripts involving sharks and storms haven’t exactly been top quality lately, and Mr. Predowitz upstairs should be happy I was able to drop a Sharknado reference within four paragraphs of this complimentary opine in exchange for a ride to see my boy Jean Fanor from Bethune-Cookman make his first playoff appearance.
Instead of a 20-point blowout, we got what we love about thisamazing, yet mismanaged niche sports of ours: A 7-11 team up 34-13 in the third quarter, tons of onside kicks, a replay overturn or two, Tampa Bay scoring 21 points in the third quarter on two offensive plays, a Sharks fan nearly becoming the arena football version of Steve Bartman, a go-ahead two-point conversion by Jeff Hughley with eight seconds remaining and an insurance defensive touchdown by Derrick Summers five seconds later.
Morris could allow himself the satisfaction of pulling off the win, but he also fumbled away one possession without being touched in the first, got a bad break when an errant pass bounced off the wall in the end zone and became a Storm pick, and gave up another fumble for a Tampa Bay touchdown at the start of the second half that for the briefest of moments, had all of ArenaFan-dom pondering that an Orlando-Tampa Bay conference final was a distinct possibility.
“I’ve got a great group of guys around me that kept my head in the game," said Morris, who was 28-of-37 for 266 yards with six touchdown passes.
Jacksonville’s defense, which gave up those two easy third quarter passes on the exact same wheel route from Shane Boyd, made of couple of stops, and Jeron Harvey (13 catches, 113 yards, three touchdowns) and Jeff Hughley (279 all-purpose yards) did their thing when they needed to.
“Everything we’ve done this season, all the predicaments, all the losses, we’ve done to ourselves,” Hughley said. “Luckily, we got it done at the end. We want to be on top of teams and be in control. That’s what championship teams do.”
Sometimes, championship teams find a way to win when they’re not playing their best game, Mr. Hughley.
“That’s true,” Hughley said. “But championship teams don’t let other teams take advantage, they step up as soon as the lights are turned on and come out fast. We need to do that against Philly next week.”