One week after clinching a playoff berth, the Jacksonville Sharks (12-1) will prepare to take on inter-divison rival the Tampa Bay Storm (6-7) on Saturday, June 25, 2011 at 7:00 P.M on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. The game will be broadcast on CW17, featuring TJ Streit doing play-by-play and Jerry Odom accompanying with color commentary. The game will also be broadcast on 1010XL, hosted by Terry Norvelle.
The Jacksonville Sharks are undefeated against the Tampa Bay Storm and are 3-0 all-time in the regular season. Earlier this season the Sharks defeated the Storm in Tampa 54-30. The 30 points is the second lowest the Sharks have allowed all season. During that game Sharks Defensive Back LaRoche Jackson set a franchise record for tackles in a game.
A lot has changed for the Storm since that last game however. The Storm look as if they have been able to right the ship under new quarterback Brian Zbydniewski. Under Zbydniewski, the Storm are 4-1 in their last 5 games. Last week, the Storm defeated the Orlando Predators in the War on 1-4. Tampa Bay is now looking for their first three game winning streak of the season against the Sharks.
Under Quarterback Brian Zbydniewski the Storm have played with more consistency and have become a more dynamic and explosive offense. Zbydniewskis offensive weapons include Wide Receivers Huey Whittake and Amarri Jackson as well as deadly kick returner Michael Lindsey . Whittaker is 4th in the AFL in pass receptions and has over 1250 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns. Receiver Amarri Jackson had an MVP performance against the Orlando Predators and caught 11 passes for 151 yards and five touchdowns. Jackson now has more than 150 receiving yards in each of the last two games. Kick Returner Michael Lindsey is also a deadly force on kickoffs as he has nearly 1200 return yards and three touchdowns.
Defensively, Tampa Bay is an expert at sacking the quarterback. They are the only team in the AFL with more sacks than the Sharks. The Storm have 33 while the Sharks have 32. Tampa Bay is led by Linebacker Cliff Dukes, who currently leads the league in sacks with 12.5 and with 3.5 more will set an all-time AFL record for sacks in a season. Additionally, Defensive Lineman Jarriett Buie had 4.5 against the Predators last week. Those 4.5 sacks are the most a player has had in a single game this season.
The Sharks are riding a 12 game win streak and with a win against the Storm, the Sharks will own the record for consecutive wins in a single season with 13.The feat has not come easy though as the last four teams that the Sharks have faced have kept the score close until the waning minutes of the fourth quarter. In addition, the Sharks will clinch their second consecutive South Division Title with a win.
Offensively, the Sharks get Full Back Kirby Griffin back from injury just in time to go against the most dangerous pass rush in the AFL. His acclaimed blocking will hopefully be able to stymie Tampa Bay's ferocious pass rush . Prior to missing the last two games Griffin had 4 touchdowns against the New Orleans VooDoo. The Sharks saw little to no downturn in receiving numbers with Jeff Hughley and Jamarko Simmons stepping into the starting roles for injured starters Jeron Harvey and Sale Key. Hughley had 264 all-purpose yards against Milwaukee, which tied a franchise record in addition to his three touchdowns. Jamarko Simmons had a clutch catch in the 4th quarter to effectively put the game out of grasp. He had a rushing touchdown and a forced fumble as well.
Defensively the Sharks are sack masters just like the Storm. Defensive lineman Derrick Summers is third in the AFL with nine sacks. Also defensive lineman Jerry Brown has six sacks and one in each of the last three games. In the back field Defensive Back Micheaux Robinson is making a case for defensive player of the year and has made an interception in each of the last three games.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Who will win the line of scrimmage? Tampa has 33 sacks and Jacksonville has 32 sacks. Whichever team is able to get to the quarterback the most effectively will most likely win the game
Can the Sharks contain Storm Kick Returner Michael Lindsey? The Sharks have allowed two kickoff return touchdowns in the last three games while only allowing two in the previous 10.
High expectations come with a price. Can the Sharks sweep the South Division and win the South Division title for the second year in a row knowing Tampa Bay will give their best effort? One more win and the Sharks would have gone 8-0 in division play and clinched another Division Title.