03/24/2012 8:43 PM - JACKSONVILLE - The ArenaBowl XXIV Champion Jacksonville Sharks struggled on both sides of the ball, falling to the South Division rival Georgia Force, 69-41, in the Sharks first home game of the regular season on Saturday night in front of 10,142 at Sea Best Field inside the Jacksonville Veteran’s Memorial Arena.
“It will be a learning experience,” head coach Les Moss said. “Anytime you get beat there is a lot to learn from. Not only players but coaches also. And I promise you there are plenty of mistake to go all the way around in that locker room. So we’ll learn from that and get better.”
Quarterback Omar Jacobs, who was named the starter at the beginning of the week, struggled out of the gates in his first start of his Arena Football League career. Jacobs accounted for four turnovers in the first half. He fumbled the ball on the opening drive, and threw three interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown by the Force’s Eric Crosby.
The Sharks continued their first quarter woes, only managing one first down. Their inability to move the ball early led to no points in the first quarter, as they trailed 13-0 after one.
“My performance was probably one of my worst performances ever,” Jacobs said. “That first half, I couldn’t even explain it. Offensively we sputtered. It sucks to lose at home. A lot of us are frustrated.”
The Force on the other hand, used a dynamic combination of quarterback RJ Archer and wide receiver Larry Shipp. The two hooked up for touchdowns five times in the first half, including on a 45-yard bomb, early in the second quarter to give the Force a 20-6 lead.
Jacksonville answered on the very next play when Jacobs hit Bobby Sewall for a 45-yard touchdown of his own. The score was their only offensive score of the half. The Force continued to pour it on rattling off 21 unanswered points as they took a 41-14 lead into halftime.
Jacobs appeared to settle down in the second half, leading the Sharks to touchdowns on both of their offensive possessions in the third quarter. Jacobs connected with ArenaBowl XXIV hero Jeron Harvey for a touchdown, from inside the Force 10-yard line, on the last play of the third quarter. The score cut the Force lead to 27-48, entering the fourth quarter.
“Once we got settled down and we came out in the second half we were more productive and were playing sharper football,” Jacobs said. “I’m optimistic. I think the second half proved that we’re a high-powered offense and we can score points.”
Jacobs finished the game completing 24-of-40 passes for 258 yards and five touchdowns. However, it was the turnovers that hurt the Sharks with Jacobs throwing four interceptions, while fumbling once.
Still, despite Jacobs' second half improvements, the force had too much fire power for the Sharks. The Sharks defense had no answer for the Force, as Archer led Georgia to four more second-half touchdowns, throwing three and rushing for another.
Archer carved up the Sharks secondary, completing 26-of-39 for eight touchdowns and no interceptions. Shipp led all receivers with 12 catches for 144 yards and six touchdowns. Brandon McRae added 11 catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns.
Terrance Smith led the Sharks with 11 catches for 81 yards and one touchdown, while Harvey and Sewall each scored two touchdowns.
The loss drops the Sharks to 1-1 on the season, while pushing the Force back above .500 at 2-1. Next up for the Sharks is a road trip to the Gulf Coast to take on the Tampa Bay Storm, March 30, at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game: Larry Shipp
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game: Eric Crosby
JLS Ironman of the Game: Terrance Smith
AFL Playmaker of the Game: Larry Ship
Cutters Catch of the Game: Terrance Smith
Spalding Highlight of the Game: Jacobs to Sewall 45-yard touchdown pass
National Guard MVP of the Game: Larry Shipp
The Jacksonville Sharks are members of the Arena Football League (AFL). The ArenaBowl XXIV and back-to-back 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 2012 season are now available, two tickets as low as $135. 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.