JACKSONVILLE – The Jacksonville Sharks and Arizona Rattlers were knotted at 42 at the end of a rapid-fire first half on Saturday night. But Arizona gained the edge with a key stop in the fourth quarter and held on from there, defeating the Sharks by a 70-61 count in front of 9,732 on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
Jacksonville (2-5) and Arizona (7-0) went toe to toe throughout the first half, as each team scored on its first six offensive possessions. Shark quarterback R.J. Archer opened the game with an 18-yard pass to London Crawford before the Rattlers responded with a 19-yard strike from Nick Davila to Kerry Reed.
On two separate occasions in the first half, the Sharks turned tough situations into long scores. Facing fourth-and-8 from their own eight-yard line, Archer drifted back in the pocket and laid a ball up for London Crawford, who dashed under it for a 42-yard touchdown. In the second quarter, this time with a fourth-and-7 from their own 17, Archer extended the play and fired a strike to Jeron Harvey at the goal line for a touchdown that made the score 28-21 in favor of the Sharks.
But each time the Sharks scored, Arizona had an answer. Davila tossed six touchdown passes in the first half, the last of which came with 10 seconds left in the half. Jacksonville had an opportunity to score, as Archer hit Crawford across midfield with one second remaining on the clock. But Fabrizio Scaccia’s 35-yard field goal attempt missed wide right, and the two teams went to the break tied at 42.
Arizona took the opening kickoff of the third quarter and turned it into points, as Rod Windsor collected a 32-yard touchdown pass. The teams continued to trade touchdowns into the fourth quarter, as Archer connected with Crawford and Jomo Wilson. After Wilson’s one-yard score, the Sharks trailed 56-55 with 12:05 remaining in the game.
It was over the next two possessions that the game turned. Arizona marched down the field and scored, as Davila hit Reed for their fourth touchdown connection of the night. On the Sharks’ next drive, Reed leapt up from his Jack linebacker spot to deflect Archer’s fourth-down pass, forcing a turnover on downs.
In a game that saw neither team throw an interception or lose a fumble, that possession proved pivotal. Arizona managed the clock well from there, taking it under a minute left before Windsor caught a 10-yard touchdown pass that gave the Rattlers a 70-55 lead. The Sharks came back down the field with a score, as Harvey out-jumped a pair of Arizona defenders to haul in his second touchdown of the night, but Arizona then recovered Scaccia’s onside kick attempt to seal the game.
In the loss, Archer completed 22 of his 40 pass attempts for season-high totals of 341 yards and eight touchdowns. Crawford established a pair of new season highs as well, with totals of 178 yards and four touchdowns on his nine catches. Wilson caught nine passes for 109 yards and two scores, while Harvey grabbed four catches for 54 yards and his two touchdowns.
Getting his first start of the season, fullback R.J. Bibbs ran effectively when called upon, totaling 16 yards and a touchdown on his four carries. Defensively, Terrance Smith led all players with 7.5 tackles, while Micheaux Robinson, Charlie Hunt and Xavier Brewer each recorded a pass breakup.
For Arizona, Davila went 24-of-31 for 389 yards and 10 touchdowns, becoming just the second player to ever throw for 10 scores against the Sharks. Windsor led the Rattlers with eight receptions for 180 yards and three scores, while Reed racked up 85 yards and four scores on his seven catches. It was an impressive all-around performance for Reed, who played nearly the whole game on both sides of the ball, totaling 3.5 tackles and a pass breakup at Jack. Jeremy Kellem led Arizona with 5.5 total tackles.
The Sharks return to action next week, as the team will hit the road to take on the Iowa Barnstormers on Saturday, May 10. Kickoff from Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines is set for 8:05 p.m. ET.
Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game – Arizona QB Nick Davila
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game – Arizona DB Jeremy Kellem
J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game – Arizona WR/JLB Kerry Reed
Cutters Catch of the Game – Jacksonville WR Jomo Wilson’s one-handed, 13-yard touchdown catch against the wall with 0:41 left in the second quarter
AFL Highlight of the Game – Arizona WR Maurice Purify’s 40-yard catch-and-run touchdown with 8:15 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 $121. 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.