JACKSONVILLE – Trailing by seven points with three seconds left on Saturday night, the Jacksonville Sharks had time for one final play from their own 21. But R.J. Archer’s throw into the end zone was intercepted, and the Sharks fell to the Portland Thunder by a 69-62 count on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
Jacksonville (2-4) had scored with 40 seconds left on a 17-yard pass from Archer to Jomo Wilson, cutting a 14-point deficit to a single score. The Portland (1-5) offense then picked up a first down on the ensuing drive, forcing Jacksonville to use its timeouts. The Sharks’ defense forced a turnover on downs with three seconds left, giving the offense time for one final snap. Archer drifted in the pocket and fired into the end zone in the direction of Wilson and Jeron Harvey, but Thunder defensive back Eric Crocker pulled down the interception as time expired.
The Sharks had been playing catch-up for much of the second half, as Portland was the beneficiary of the game’s biggest swing midway late in the third quarter. After Rowley connected with Eric Rogers for a touchdown pass that gave Portland a 41-35 lead, Thunder Jack linebacker Bryce Peila stepped into Archer’s throwing lane, returning the interception for another quick Portland score. After Peila’s touchdown, the Thunder held a 48-35 edge.
As a result of Portland’s back-to-back touchdowns, Jacksonville never had the football with a one-score deficit from that point until the game’s final play. Though Archer responded to the pick-six with a 47-yard deep throw to Jomo Wilson, then scored a touchdown on the ground and later fired a 16-yard score to London Crawford, the Thunder answered each of those scores with touchdowns of their own.
The game started in back-and-forth fashion. Portland won the toss and deferred to the second half, then got an immediate turnover when the Thunder’s kick coverage unit forced a fumble on the opening kickoff. The teams exchanged scores into the second quarter, as the game was tied at 14 at the end of the first.
Jacksonville did gain the advantage midway through the second. After Archer hit London Crawford for an eight-yard score, the Sharks’ defense forced a turnover on downs when Aaron Robbins sacked Rowley on fourth and long. Taking over inside the one-yard line, Archer quickly turned that stop into a touchdown with a short quarterback sneak, giving the Sharks a 28-20 advantage.
But Portland turned the game back in their favor with a pair of touchdowns that bookended halftime. Rowley connected with Alvance Robinson for a six-yard score with 18 seconds left in the first half, and the Thunder marched down the field on the opening drive of the third quarter as Davon Allen plunged in from a yard out. That touchdown pulled Portland back in front by a 34-28 count, as the Thunder led at that point by the same margin as they did before Peila’s interception.
For the Sharks, Archer completed 17 of his 33 passes for 322 yards and six touchdowns against three interceptions. He also scored two touchdowns on the ground, while Jared McGriff-Culver added 18 yards and a touchdown on his four carries.
At receiver, Harvey led all players with 151 yards on his eight receptions and scored two touchdowns. Wilson also crossed the 100-yard mark as he totaled five catches for 134 yards and two scores. Crawford added four receptions for 37 yards and two touchdowns of his own.
On defense, Micheaux Robinson led the Sharks with 6.5 total tackles and three pass breakups. Charlie Hunt logged four tackles and a tackle for loss, while Robbins and Rashaad Duncan each recorded a sack. Jerry Turner recovered a fumble for the Jacksonville defense.
For Portland, Rowley completed 24 of 42 passes for 277 yards and eight touchdowns. McNeil led all players with four touchdown catches, pacing the Thunder with nine receptions for 108 yards. On defense, Peila led Portland with five total tackles to go along with his interception, while Crocker pulled down two picks and recorded three pass breakups.
The Sharks return to Sea Best Field next Saturday night, hosting the Arizona Rattlers in a game that will air on CBS Sports Network. Kickoff for that game is set for 7:00 p.m.
Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game – Portland QB Kyle Rowley
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game – Portland JLB Bryce Peila
J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game – Portland WR Douglas McNeil III
Cutters Catch of the Game – Portland WR Douglas McNeil III’s one-handed catch in the fourth quarter
AFL Highlight of the Game – Jacksonville WR Jomo Wilson’s 47-yard catch-and-run touchdown with 44 seconds left in the third 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 $137. 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.
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.