Predators clinch South Division title with 64-50 victory over Sharks
Sunday August 2, 2015
Preds Secure Home Field Advantage in First Round of Postseason
ORLANDO – August 1, 2015 – The Orlando Predators hadn’t gone without a score in the first quarter through the first 16 games of the season. After the first 15 minutes of play Saturday night at Amway Center, Orlando trailed Jacksonville 14-0. The Sharks pushed their lead to 17-0 early in the second quarter.
But the Predators roared back and rolled to a second straight South Division Championship.
Orlando (11-6) outscored Jacksonville (9-8) 43-13 over the course of 23 minutes in the second and third quarters. The Predators put points on the scoreboard in a myriad of ways during the outburst, which turned the tide and led to a 64-50 victory for Orlando. The win clinched a second straight South Division title and a first-round home game in the Arena Football League Playoffs.
“To win back-to-back South Division championships in the first two years of this staff is unbelievable,” head coach Rob Keefe said following the game. “It means the world to me. I’m so excited for this organization.
“What I was proud about – and it almost makes me tear up – is we were down 17-0,” Keefe added. “To win this thing 64-50, I think it speaks to the character, I think it speaks to the heart, I think it speaks to the fan base that continued to provide us great energy. It was a great win all-around.”
The Predators’ first three touchdowns were scored by the offense, defense and special teams, respectively. Larry Brackins caught a 7-yard Randy Hippeard aerial to break the ice. Just 1:15 later, Nick Taylor returned an interception 25 yards to make it 17-14. After Jacksonville pushed its lead to 23-14, Brandon Thompkins swung momentum quickly. Thompkins turned on the jets for a 56-yard kickoff return score to make it 23-20.
Orlando trailed by just three, 30-27, at halftime but received the ball to start the second half. Five plays later Larry Brackins scored on a 4-yard run to make it 34-30. It was the first time the Predators had the advantage on the scoreboard all night. But they would not relinquish the lead.
“We knew scoring last in the first half and first in the second half … there’s your two-for-one,” Keefe said. “What we talked about at halftime was the last time we played them, they had a 50-point second half. (Tonight) we stayed aggressive. We were hungry. We became the team to set the pace in the second half.”
Just over a minute after Orlando took its first lead of the game, the Predators were on the board again when Ryan Cave forced Jacksonville quarterback Tommy Grady to fumble in the end zone. The Sharks recovered in the end zone, but it was a Predators’ safety putting Orlando up 36-30. More importantly, it gave Orlando the opportunity to take a two-score lead.
The Predators did just that. Brackins scored on a 1-yard run, a league-leading 36th rushing score for Orlando, to put the Predators on top 43-30.
Jacksonville pulled back within one touchdown early in the fourth quarter. But a Thompkins rushing touchdown and a 50-yard interception return for a score from Terence Moore allowed the Predators to pull away. Moore’s touchdown put Orlando on top 57-37.
Brackins and Thompkins both scored three times to lead Orlando. Brackins crossed the goal line twice on the ground and once through the air. Thompkins hit paydirt on the long second-quarter kick return and tallied a rushing and receiving TD in the fourth quarter, as well. Thompkins averaged 34.6 yards per kick return, giving the Predators great field position all night.
The Predators return to the Amway Center on Saturday, August 8 for the team’s regular season finale against the division-rival Tampa Bay Storm. For tickets, call 407-355-2200 or visit OrlandoPredators.com. For all the latest news and updates, visit OrlandoPredators.com and follow the team on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
RUSSELL ATHLETIC OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
Orlando WR Larry Brackins
RIDDELL DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
Orlando LB Terence Moore
J.LEWIS SMALL PLAYMAKER OF THE GAME
Orlando WR Brandon Thompkins
CUTTERS CATCH OF THE GAME
Over-the-wall interception by Jacksonville DB Terrance Smith (Q1 | 11:06)
AFL HIGHLIGHT OF THE GAME
50-yard interception returned for touchdown by Orlando DB Terence Moore (Q4 | 10:18)
ABOUT THE ORLANDO PREDATORS
The 2014 South Division Champion Orlando Predators enters its 24th season as Central Florida’s most exciting and innovative professional sports franchise. Proud members of the Arena Football League, the Predators have achieved unprecedented success on the field. Orlando has advanced to the AFL playoffs a league-leading 22 times in their history while securing seven conference championships, including two ArenaBowl Championship victories in 1998 and 2000.