JACKSONVILLE – The Jacksonville Sharks defeated the Tampa Bay Storm, 42-35, in the team’s preseason scrimmage on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena on Sunday night. Sharks rookie fullback Jared McGriff-Culver snapped a 35-35 tie with a four-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter before the Jacksonville defense made a final stop to seal the victory.
With seven minutes left in the game, Storm quarterback Stephen Garcia had trouble with the snap, and Jacksonville defensive lineman Corey Hasting pounced on the loose ball to recover the fumble. On the ensuing play, McGriff-Culver took a toss around the left side and coasted into the end zone to give the Sharks the lead. The Storm had one final possession, moving the ball into Jacksonville territory. But in the final minute, Garcia’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete as the Sharks regained possession. McGriff-Culver then finished the game with a short run to burn off the remainder of the clock.
A back-and-forth game throughout, the two teams headed to the halftime break with Tampa Bay on top, 21-20. Tampa Bay opened the game with back-to-back touchdowns, but the Sharks got on the board with a one-yard touchdown run by Shamar Graves early in the second quarter. On the second play of the Storm’s next drive, rookie defensive back Kieron Jones charged in to intercept a tipped pass. The Sharks converted that turnover into another score, as quarterback R.J Archer hit Andrew Bodenheimer for an 11-yard touchdown to make the score 14-13.
After another Storm score, the Sharks got on the board in the final stages of the first half. Archer marched the Sharks down the field, finding Willie Carter over the middle for a three-yard touchdown as time expired to end the second quarter. Fabrizio Scaccia drilled the extra point to cut the Sharks’ deficit to one at the break.
The third quarter began with the Sharks taking the lead on a safety, as the pocket collapsed around Garcia. After the safety, Kyle Rowley was intercepted on his first pass, leading to a quick Tampa Bay touchdown. But on the Sharks’ next possession, Rowley went deep for a 35-yard touchdown pass to Mardy Gilyard that knotted the game at 28.
The teams then traded touchdowns to set up the game’s closing situation. After Garcia hit Michael Lindsey for a seven-yard score, Rowley came back with a 23-yard touchdown to Graves along the left sideline, making the game even at 35.
For the Sharks, Archer and Rowley each played a full half at quarterback. Archer completed 12 of his 22 passes for 106 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, while Rowley went 5-of-12 for 66 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. Carter led the Sharks with five catches for 44 yards and a score, while Gilyard totaled 63 yards on his four receptions. Bodenheimer added 34 yards on four receptions, while Graves totaled three catches for 33 yards and Jeremy Kelley pitched in with two catches for five yards.
On defense, Xavier Brewer led all players with 6.5 tackles, while Reggie Paramoure racked up two sacks and Brodrick Brown totaled six pass breakups. In addition to his interception, Jones totaled 3.5 tackles and four pass breakups.
For the Storm, Hippeard went 8-of-21 for 110 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, while Garcia was 7-of-15 for 78 yards and a touchdown. Andrew Helmick led Tampa Bay with three receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown, while Rod Issac and James Harrell led the Storm with 4.5 tackles apiece.
After taking Monday off, the Sharks will resume training camp by returning to the practice field on Tuesday morning. Jacksonville’s regular season opener is set for Sunday, March 16, when the Sharks will take on the Orlando Predators at CFE Arena.
About the Jacksonville Sharks
The Jacksonville Sharks are members of the Arena Football League (AFL). The ArenaBowl XXIV and four-time 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 2014 season are now available, two tickets for as low as $185. To purchase 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 and Chum at facebook.com/chumsharks.
About the AFL
Since its inception in 1987, the Arena Football League has showcased a fast-paced and exciting game to millions of fans in a myriad of markets across the country. The ESPN family of networks and CBS Sports Network will nationally broadcast AFL games each week for the entire season. The AFL schedule then culminates with the ArenaBowl Championship game live on ESPN.