05/01/2016 3:48 PM
TAMPA – After a go-ahead touchdown from Tommy Grady to Prechae Rodriguez with less than five minutes remaining on Sunday, the Jacksonville Sharks’ defense forced a turnover on downs in the final minute, helping Jacksonville secure a 33-27 victory against the Tampa Bay Storm at Amalie Arena.
Jacksonville (2-3) trailed by a 27-26 count after Tampa Bay (0-4) quarterback Jonathan Bane hit T.T. Toliver deep for a 27-yard touchdown with 10 and a half minutes remaining in the game. Backed up to a second-and-32 following multiple offensive penalties, Grady connected with Joe Hills for a 31-yard catch-and-run to bring the ball to the Storm 11. Three plays later, Grady bided his time before finding Rodriguez in the back corner of the end zone for an eight yard score, putting the Sharks on top by six points with 4:35 to play.
For their part, the Storm marched down the field on the ensuing possession, chewing up the majority of the clock before Bane hit Mike Washington for a 30-yard pass down to the Sharks’ seven-yard line. But as the clock ticked under a minute to play, the Jacksonville defense stood strong. A combination of pressure up front and strong coverage in the secondary forced four straight incompletions, as the Sharks took over with 45 seconds remaining following the turnover on downs.
The Sharks were then able to burn off the remainder of the clock, as Hills and Derrick Ross each picked up a first down, forcing Tampa Bay to call its remaining timeouts. Tommy Grady then sneaked the ball forward to run the clock and secure a Jacksonville victory.
The critical fourth-quarter defensive stop capped a strong game by the Jacksonville defense, which forced four turnovers on downs while only yielding three offensive touchdowns over the course of the contest.
Earlier, Jacksonville had a chance to assume command, as the team led 26-13 and had the ball after forcing a stop on Tampa Bay’s opening possession of the third quarter. But the Jacksonville offense turned it over on consecutive possessions, as first an interception by Cameron McGlenn led to a quick touchdown pass from Bane to Toliver, cutting the Storm deficit to just six points.
On the Sharks’ next drive, Roger Jackson initially appeared to have scored after taking a quick pass and diving for the goal line, but a Tampa Bay challenge led to a reversal, as Jackson’s knee was ruled to have hit the turf with the ball just outside the goal line. With new life, the Storm defense stood strong, as Cortez Stubbs stripped Ross of the ball and returned it all the way to the Jacksonville 17. That led to Bane’s 27-yard pass to Toliver, putting the Storm in front by a point before the Sharks rebounded and held on.
The Sharks’ offense started the game quickly. After yielding a kickoff return touchdown to open the contest, Grady fired a 48-yard bomb to Hills on Jacksonville’s first play from scrimmage. The touchdown extended Hills’ personal streak to 57 consecutive regular-season games with at least one touchdown reception.
In the victory, Grady completed 28 of his 37 passes for 308 yards and four touchdowns against one interception. Hills (135) and Tiger Jones (106) each crossed the 100-yard mark and scored a touchdown, while Prechae Rodriguez totaled three catches for 11 yards and a score in his season debut and Moqut Ruffins caught his second touchdown of the year.
Roger Jackson added six catches for 50 yards, while Ross totaled 19 yards and a touchdown on his eight rushing attempts. On defense, LaRoche Jackson led the way with eight total tackles (seven solo), while Greg Reid made six stops.
On the other side, Bane went 21-of-38 for 281 yards and three touchdowns for the Storm. Toliver led all players with nine receptions for 148 yards and two scores, while Xavier Boyce also caught a touchdown pass. Mike Washington totaled four receptions for 65 yards to go along with a kickoff return touchdown. On defense, McGlenn racked up nine solo tackles and an interception.
The Sharks will head back out on the road in Week 6, as the team travels to face the Cleveland Gladiators on Saturday, May 7. Kickoff from Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.
Postgame Media Awards
Under Armour Offenisve Player of the Game – Tampa Bay WR T.T. Toliver
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game – Tampa Bay DB Cortez Stubbs
J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game – Jacksonville WR Tiger Jones
Cutters Catch of the Game – Tampa Bay WR T.T. Toliver’s diving touchdown catch with 9:50 remaining in the fourth quarter
AFL Highlight of the Game – Tampa Bay WR Mike Washington’s 58-yard kickoff return touchdown to open the game
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 2016 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.