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PREVIEW: SHARKS TO DUEL MUSTANGS IN FRONT OF NATIONAL AUDIENCE

07/05/2012 10:49 AM - JACKSONVILLE - The ArenaBowl XXIV Champion Jacksonville Sharks head back to Sea Best Field this week as they take on the East Division’s Milwaukee Mustangs at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, July 6. The game will air live in front of a national audience as part of the Arena Football League’s “Net10 Arena Football Friday” series on NFL Network.

Jacksonville (7-8) enters Week 18 as the No. 4 seed in the American Conference, a full game behind the South Division-leading New Orleans VooDoo and a half-game behind the Georgia Force, who occupy the No. 3 spot. The Sharks’ biggest disadvantage in terms of the playoff race is that the team has lost the head-to-head tiebreaker against each of Georgia and New Orleans, and therefore would need a better record outright in order to pass either of those squads.

The Sharks had a chance to take control of the South Division last weekend, but faltered in the second half in a 65-55 loss to the VooDoo in New Orleans. The ten-point defeat handed the tiebreaker back to New Orleans, as the VooDoo hold a plus-six point differential in the two meetings that the teams split this season.

Unlike many of their other losses this season, the Sharks did not fall victim to turnovers. Though New Orleans’ defense did grab a pair of interceptions, the Sharks countered with a pair of takeaways of their own – including a 15-yard interception return for a touchdown by Micheaux Robinson in the second quarter. That pick-six was Robinson’s team-high fifth interception of the season.

What proved costly against the VooDoo was a turnover on downs early in the third quarter. Jacksonville trailed 34-33 at halftime but received the first kickoff of the second half. However, the Sharks could not capitalize on that opportunity as Bernard Morris and the Shark offense went four-and-out to set up the New Orleans offense in prime scoring position. The VooDoo put together a short touchdown drive and never looked back.

Morris finished last weekend’s game 24-of-37 for 250 yards, four touchdowns and two picks, though one of those interceptions came in the final seconds with Jacksonville down by two scores. Morris will look to recapture his form of two weeks ago, when he played arguably his most efficient game of the season in a 56-42 win over the Cleveland Gladiators, completing 77.1 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns in that contest.

This week, the Shark offense will look for a repeat performance from wide receiver Jeron Harvey, who led the team with nine catches for 120 yards and a pair of touchdowns in last week’s game. It was Harvey’s most productive performance since returning from injured reserve in mid-June, as the receiver put together his first 100-yard game since Week 4.

As usual, Harvey will team up with dynamic playmaker Terrance Smith at wide receiver. Smith enters this week with a chance to build on his own records, as he has established new franchise marks in both kickoff return yards and all-purpose yards over the last two games. Smith has racked up at least 170 all purpose yards in each of the last three games.

Defensively, Robinson and LaRoche Jackson have helped turn the Shark secondary into a ball-hawking unit over the last few weeks. Jackson has four interceptions in Jacksonville’s last five games, while Robinson has hauled in three in the last two contests. Those picks have tended to come in bunches, as the two players have combined for three two-interception games this season.

Know Your Foe

At this point in the season, the Milwaukee Mustangs (5-10) need a whole lot of help to reach the postseason. While the team is still technically alive, they must win each of their last three games and hope that the Sharks, Gladiators and Tampa Bay Storm stumble mightily. Though the season has not gone the way that head coach Bob Landsee would have liked, there is silver lining to be found in the performance of the team’s offense.

This season, the Mustangs rank in the top half of the league in averaging 55.7 points per game. Though he is somewhat prone to interceptions, quarterback Gino Guidugli has fired 74 touchdown passes and completed nearly 63 percent of his passes this season. Guidugli is also the team’s most reliable goal-line runner, as he has accounted for 14 of Milwaukee’s 29 rushing touchdowns in 2012.

The Milwaukee defense has struggled this season, as their average of 60.5 points against per game ranks tied for last in the AFL. Though the Mustangs’ pass rush features a potent tandem in Dwayne Lefall (7.5 sacks) and Luis Vasquez (6.5), the team’s secondary has accounted for just 13 interceptions in 15 games this season.

Shark-a-Ritaville

Friday’s game marks the return of the popular “Shark-a-Ritaville” theme night, as we’ll do our best to turn Sea Best Field into a tropical paradise. Those looking for a new taste can try the “Shark-a-Ritaville Burger,” a hamburger topped with a teriyaki glaze and a pineapple slice.

Also, the Sharks have enhanced “Sharks Happy Hour” for this week’s game. From 6:30-7:30 inside the arena, 12-ounce cans of Bud, Bud Light and Corona will be available at the rate of two cans for the price of one ($7).

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 2013 season are now available, two tickets as low as $185. 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.