04/18/2010 8:56 PM -
Aaron Garcia threw six touchdown passes and arena football made a smashing debut in Jacksonville as the Sharks routed the Orlando Predators 57-31 Friday night before 11,179 fans at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
Garcia threw three TDs to Jomo Wilson and then spread the wealth with one each to Sale Key, Dallas Baker and Jeron Harvey. Baker, known as the "Touchdown Maker" when he played at the University of Florida, punctuated his 18-yard TD reception late in the third quarter with a Gators chomp.
The Sharks (2-1) jumped to a 24-7 halftime lead and after a Carlos Martinez's field goal narrowed the gap to 24-10, Jacksonville scored 27 of the next 34 points. Garcia's 14-yard scoring pass to Harvey, a Jackson High graduate, made it 51-17 with 13:59 left.
"The defense really played well, and the offense really got it going," Sharks coach Les Moss said. "Our offense is a work in progress. When you've had the turnover we've had in our receiving corps, it's going to take time for them to get on the same page as the quarterback. When they get on the same page as Aaron, that offense is going to be hard to stop."
The Sharks built their halftime lead on touchdown passes by Garcia to Wilson, the first a 1-yarder on third down midway through the first quarter and then a 42-yarder in the final minute of the quarter on the first play after Orlando's only TD of the half.
"Their defensive backs were playing very deep and Jomo's the guy who can catch the stuff underneath the defense," Garcia said. "I've always tried to throw the ball around. Our wide receivers all have a lot of talent."
Kirby Griffin took a pitch and scored from 3 yards to give the Sharks a 21-7 lead with 3:06 remaining in the half, and Paul Edinger added a 27-yard field goal with 7.1 seconds left.
Griffin, a 280-pound fullback, ran 2 yards for another TD in the fourth quarter.
Two Jacksonville touchdowns followed defensive stops, including a sack by Henry Taylor and Courtney Young at the Orlando 6-yard line. The Sharks also thwarted an Orlando threat when Will Alford tipped Nick Hill's pass into the end zone and Micheaux Robinson intercepted.
The Sharks sacked Hill four times, recovered two fumbles and Jason Perry made an interception in the second half.
"In this game, if you get four stops you should win, and I think we got five," said defensive back Dee Webb, who played for the Jaguars, Florida Gators and White High School. "Our defense had a point to prove. We gave up some touchdowns on the ground last week [a 63-49 loss to Alabama] that we shouldn't have."
Orlando (0-2) scored its only touchdown of the first half on an 8-yard pass from Hill to Antoine Tolliver with 2:40 left in the first quarter. Hill threw two more TD passes late in the fourth quarter.
Garcia and Wilson broke the 7-7 tie with their hookup on the first play after the kickoff. The third Garcia-Wilson collaboration was a 33-yarder one play after the Predators' second-half field goal. Garcia dropped back, hesitated and lofted the ball down the left dasher boards as Wilson ran past Orlando defender Dion Byrum.
"Those adjustments are built into each and every play," Garcia said. "Our offensive line did a great job of giving me the opportunity to look for those adjustments."
Moss was quick to praise Jacksonville's turnout.
"That was awesome," he said. "This is definitely something to build on. I hope they all had a good time."