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Sharks Drop Home Opener Against Predators on Friday Night, 55-54

Friday April 3, 2015

Jacksonville suffers second consecutive one-point loss

JACKSONVILLE – The Jacksonville Sharks suffered their second one-point loss in as many weeks on Friday night, as the team fell to the Orlando Predators by a 55-54 count on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.

For the second consecutive week, Jacksonville entered the final minutes with a chance to win the game with a defensive top. After Derrick Ross’ second rushing touchdown of the night brought the Sharks to within a point, Orlando started its ensuing drive at its own three-yard line with less than a minute to play. After the pass rush corralled Randy Hippeard for a short gain, Xavier Brewer made an outstanding downfield pass breakup to bring up third and long.

Two plays later, Hippeard appeared to throw an incompletion that would have resulted in a turnover on downs – and the Sharks starting at the Orlando one – but it was ruled that Jacksonville Mac linebacker Pierre Turner made an illegal outside rush, resulting in an automatic first down. With just one timeout remaining in the Sharks’ back pocket, the Predators were able to burn off the remaining time and seal the game.

For a second straight week, the kicking operation played a significant role in a close game. Two extra points were blocked, one was missed, and Predator defensive lineman Jeremy Geathers a hand on a clear-out field goal in the third quarter, setting up a short field. In a game decided by the slimmest of margins, the Sharks’ execution in this area proved costly.

The game started as a back-and-forth contest, as neither team recorded a defensive stop in the first half. After Orlando opened the game with a touchdown drive, Tommy Grady responded with a 16-yard toss to Joe Hills, the first of Grady’s four fist-half touchdown passes. Grady found chemistry with Tiger Jones in the second quarter, as Jones racked up three scores before halftime. The only margin in the game at the break was a blocked extra point, as Orlando went to the locker room ahead by a 35-34 count.

In the second half, the Sharks received the opening kickoff and immediately took their first lead, as Grady hit Jones for a 30-yard touchdown to put Jacksonville in front, 40-35. But Orlando answered with one of Bernard Morris’ four rushing touchdowns, regaining a 42-40 edge. It was at this point that the Predator defense forced the game’s first stop, backing Jacksonville into a fourth and long that led to the tipped clear-out field goal attempt.

In the fourth quarter, the Sharks tied the game thanks to the effort of fullback Derrick Ross. A few plays after picking up a fourth-down conversion, Ross took a handoff up the gut for his second score of the night, then followed that up with a two-point conversion. Ross’ handiwork tied the game at 48 with nine and a half minutes to play.

Orlando answered with a touchdown run by fullback Michael Simons, taking a seven-point lead in the process. On the ensuing drive, Grady found Jones for their fifth scoring connection of the game, pulling the Sharks to within 55-54 with one minute left in the game and setting up Orlando’s closing possession.

Grady enjoyed a largely efficient game in the loss, completing 19 of his 30 pass attempts for 213 yards and six touchdowns without an interception. Jones totaled 10 catches for 133 yards en route to his five touchdowns, while Hills (40 yards, TD) and Jeron Harvey (33 yards) added four receptions apiece. Ross again proved to be largely unstoppable, piling up 40 yards and two touchdowns on his 10 carries.

Defensively, James McClinton and Joe Sykes each recorded a sack for Jacksonville, while Demarcus Robinson (7.0 total tackles), Alvin Ray Jackson (6.0 total tackles) and Xavier Brewer (4.5 total tackles) notched two pass breakups apiece.

For Orlando, Hippeard went 17-of-31 for 214 yards and just one touchdown pass. The game-change for the Predators’ attack was Morris, who entered the game in sub packages and carried the ball six times for 13 yards and four touchdowns. Morris also spent time on defense, logging 5.5 total tackles. Brandon Thompkins (eight catches, 97 yards) was the Predators’ top receiving target, while O’Hara Fluellen recorded seven total tackles and two pass breakups.

The Sharks are back in action next Sunday afternoon, as the team travels to Philadelphia to take on the Soul on April 12. Kickoff from Wells Fargo Center is set for 4:00 p.m.

Media Awards

Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game – Jacksonville WR Tiger Jones

Riddell Defensive Player of the Game – Orlando DB O’Hara Fluellen

J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game – Orlando QB Bernard Morris

Cutters Catch of the Game – Jacksonville WR Tiger Jones’ diving 30-yard touchdown catch with 13:12 left in the third quarter

AFL Highlight of the Game – Orlando FB Michael Simons’ eventual game-winning touchdown run with 7:19 left in the fourth quarter

About the Jacksonville Sharks

The Jacksonville Sharks are members of the Arena Football League (AFL). The ArenaBowl XXIV and four-time South Division Champions are presented by Sea Best Seafood and play all home games on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Season Tickets for the 2015 season are now available, two tickets as low as $99. To reserve your season tickets or for more information, please call (904) 621-0700. Follow the Sharks on facebook at facebook.com/jaxsharks and on Twitter @jaxsharks, as well as the Attack Dance Team at facebook.com/sharkattackdance and Chum at facebook.com/chumsharks.