JACKSONVILLE - The Jacksonville Sharks opened their 2014 home schedule in style on Saturday night, rolling over the San Antonio Talons in a 63-22 victory in front of 10,144 on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
Saturday’s game was decided in the early stages, as the Sharks raced out to a 26-0 lead. Jacksonville (1-1) received the game’s opening kickoff and marched down the field in five plays, capped by a 15-yard touchdown pass from R.J. Archer to London Crawford. The Sharks’ defense took its turn and set a tone of its own, as Aaron Robbins pounced on a Mitch Mustain fumble, forcing a San Antonio (0-3) turnover.
That sequence repeated into the second quarter. The Sharks scored on an eight-yard touchdown pass to Mardy Gilyard, a one-yard sneak by Archer and a 14-yard run by fullback Jared McGriff-Culver. Sanwiched in between those scores were two defensive stops, as the Sharks forced back-to-back turnovers on downs.
That story continued for much of the game. Though the Talons did get into the end zone on a kickoff return by D.J. Stephens, the Sharks built a 44-16 halftime lead thanks to touchdowns by Gilyard, Crawford and Jeron Harvey. Harvey’s 8-yard scoring grab came with just 12 seconds left in the half as the Sharks put an emphatic finishing touch on a dominant thirty minutes of football.
Jacksonville’s defense clamped down even more in the second half, as the team yielded just one touchdown in the game’s final two quarters. Making his first appearance of the season, defensive back Terrance Smith pulled down two interceptions on Saturday night, continuing the parade of defensive stops. On offense, Archer fired a 45-yard bomb to Crawford to cap his night.
Later in the third, Jared McGriff-Culver put together a scoring drive all by himself. Carrying the ball on six consecutive snaps, McGriff-Culver pounded the Talons’ defense for thirty yards, culminating in his second touchdown of the night.
In the fourth quarter, Kyle Rowley entered the game at quarterback and got on the scoresheet, firing a seven yard touchdown pass to Gilyard midway through the frame.
Overall, Archer put together a remarkably efficient performance, going 16-of-22 for 194 yards and six touchdowns to go along with his rushing score. He spread the ball evenly between his trio of starting receivers, as Harvey caught eight passes for 78 yards and a score, Crawford totaled 96 yards and three touchdowns on eight grabs, and Gilyard’s six catches for 53 yards included his first three AFL touchdown receptions.
On the ground, McGriff-Culver has emerged as a workhorse in the early going of 2014, as he carried the ball 12 times for 48 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, Smith put together an impressive all-around performance with 3.5 tackles, one pass breakup and his two picks. Tracy Belton led Jacksonville with 4.5 tackles, while Micheaux Robinson racked up three pass breakups of his own. Making his first career appearance at Jack linebacker, Xavier Brewer added a tackle for loss. Up front, a week after being held without a sack, the Sharks’ pass rush got on the board on Saturday, as Jerry Turner (1.5) and Justin Parrish (0.5) combined to take down Mustain on two occasions.
For San Antonio, Mustain completed just nine of his 29 passes, totaling 144 yards and two touchdowns against two interceptions. Mykel Benson ran the ball effectively for San Antonio with three carries for 34 yards, while former Shark Jomo Wilson was the Talons’ leading receiver, totaling 67 yards and a touchdown on three grabs. On defense, Jamar Ransom racked up a game-high total of six tackles, adding a tackle for loss. Both Kelvin Rodgers and Carlton Brown recorded three pass breakups apiece.
The Sharks return to action next Saturday night, as Jacksonville will travel west to meet the Arizona Rattlers on Saturday, April 5. Kickoff from US Airways Center is set for 9:00 p.m., as the game will air live on AM 600 WBOB and online via ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.
Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game – Jacksonville QB R.J. Archer
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game – Jacksonville DB Terrance Smith
J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game – Jacksonville WR London Crawford
Cutters Catch of the Game – Jacksonville WR Jeron Harvey’s eight-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter
AFL Highlight of the Game – San Antonio WR D.J. Stephens’ 57-yard kickoff return touchdown in the second quarter
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 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 and Chum at facebook.com/chumsharks.