06/01/2012 1:29 PM - JACKSONVILLE – The ArenaBowl XXIV Champion Jacksonville Sharks host the Tampa Bay Storm on Saturday, June 2 on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena in Week 13 of the 2012 Arena Football League season. Saturday’s kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m.
The Sharks (5-5) will take the field on Saturday in search of their third consecutive win, having defeated the Iowa Barnstormers and Orlando Predators, respectively, in each of the last two weeks. In addition, Jacksonville stands just a half-game behind the Storm (6-5) in the South Division and would leap in front of Tampa Bay with a win this week. Depending on the Georgia Force’s result against the New Orleans VooDoo, the Sharks could claim sole possession of first place in the division on Saturday.
This weekend’s game also serves as an opportunity for the Sharks to get a measure of revenge on this in-state rival, as the Storm defeated Jacksonville by a 71-69 count back on March 30. In that game, Bernard Morris hit Terrance Smith for a go-ahead, 42-yard touchdown pass with 4.5 seconds remaining, but an intentional pass interference penalty gave the Storm one final play at the one-yard line, which Tampa Bay converted for the game-winning score.
Jacksonville’s last two wins have been a result of outstanding defensive play. The Sharks allowed a total of just 56 points in those two games, holding the Barnstormers to a franchise record-low of 19 points in Week 11. The Sharks have held each of their last five opponents under that team’s points-per-game average.
A consistent pass rush has been a key factor in the defense’s impressive work of late. The Sharks have racked up three or more sacks in three of their last four games and now rank fourth in the league with 20 sacks in 2012. Leading the charge along the defensive line are Aaron Robbins and Scooter Berry, who lead the team with 6.5 and 6.0 sacks, respectively. Robbins has totaled 5.5 sacks in the Sharks’ last five games, while Berry has recorded a sack in five of the team’s last seven contests.
The Jacksonville defense will need to overcome the loss of Micheaux Robinson, who was placed on the other league exempt list Wednesday after signing with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. In two games with the Sharks since joining the team via trade on May 11, Robinson provided a consistent presence in the middle of the secondary with two interceptions and eight pass breakups.
On the offensive side of the ball, Bernard Morris is set to make his fourth consecutive start. After a somewhat rocky outing against the Philadelphia Soul in Week 10, Morris has fired 10 touchdown passes without an interception over the last two games. In addition, the mobile quarterback rushed for 44 yards and a touchdown on just four carries last Friday in Orlando. Morris leads the Sharks with 113 rushing yards and ranks second in the AFL in averaging 18.8 rushing yards per game.
Wide receiver Terrance Smith continues to produce, recording another three touchdown receptions against the Predators. The only receiver to start every game for the Sharks this season, Smith leads the team in every major receiving category and ranks tied for seventh in the league with 23 touchdown catches. As a dual threat in the return game, Smith continues to hold second place on the AFL’s all-purpose yard leaderboard (186.9 yards per game).
Know Your Foe
No team in the Arena Football League has a greater disparity between their home and road performance than the Tampa Bay Storm. Through 11 games, the Storm are a perfect 6-0 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum but have yet to record a win in five road contests. Tampa Bay enters this week tied with the Georgia Force for first place in the South Division, just a half game ahead of Jacksonville.
A key piece of intrigue heading into this game is Tampa Bay’s quarterback position. Earlier this week, southpaw Nick Hill was activated from the other league exempt list and the former Orlando Predator could make his first start in a Storm uniform this weekend.
However, Tampa Bay currently has three quarterbacks on its active roster and has not made a change at the position in response to Hill’s activation. Stephen Wasil has started each of the Storm’s games this season, while Matt Grothe is a Tampa Bay local who shows promise but has seen limited action.
Fans can expect whoever starts at quarterback for the Storm to look for Prechae Rodriguez early and often. The rookie from Auburn leads Tampa Bay with 82 catches for 1,109 yards and 28 touchdowns. Rodriguez led his team with five touchdown catches against the Sharks in Week 4.
On defense, Tampa Bay features the reigning Defensive Player of the Week in Pernell Phillips, who picked up three tackles for loss, a sack and two pass breakups last week against Milwaukee. For the season, Phillips leads the storm with 8.0 tackles for loss and has dropped the quarterback in the backfield six times.
About the Jacksonville Sharks
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 $75. 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.