TAMPA – The Jacksonville Sharks trailed buy just seven points in the last minute of the first half before the Tampa Bay Storm came away with two touchdowns in the final nine seconds of the second quarter on Saturday. Tampa Bay used that surge of momentum to take control of the game, as the Sharks ultimately fell by a 56-35 count at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Tampa Bay (4-6) had gained the game’s first advantage by forcing a turnover on downs on the Sharks’ first drive, but Jacksonville (3-7) bounced back to keep pace into the second quarter. With less than a minute until halftime, R.J. Archer hit Jeron Harvey over the middle on fourth and goal, as the four-yard touchdown toss pulled the Sharks to within seven points, 28-21.
But the Storm surged in the ensuing moments. After a Jerry Turner sack brought up third-and-16, Randy Hippeard dropped back and fired a pass toward the left wall that T.T. Toliver hauled in with a diving catch to give Tampa Bay a touchdown with one second left in the half. On the ensuing kickoff, the ball bounced away from Jacksonville returner Jomo Wilson, deflected off a couple of other players and was eventually gathered in the end zone by Tampa Bay’s James Harrell. With two touchdowns in the final nine seconds of the first half, the Storm took command of the game with a 42-21 halftime lead.
In the second half, the Sharks were unable to generate the stops necessary to get back into the game. Jacksonville did open the third quarter with a score, as Cornelius Lewis took a tight end screen 15 yards for his first career touchdown. But the Storm responded with points on the ensuing drive, as Hippeard connected with Joe Hills from 10 yards out, a score that allowed Tampa Bay to hold serve with a 49-28 edge.
The Storm defense then prevented the Sharks from gaining any ground, as Tampa Bay came up with back-to-back defensive stops. Archer’s pass to Harvey in the end zone was deflected, bounced off the iron and into the arms of Harrell for a Tampa Bay interception. After a Storm touchdown, the Sharks brought the ball down into the red zone, but Archer’s toss to Harvey was batted down, forcing a turnover on downs.
In the fourth quarter, Micheaux Robinson showed great instinct to cut in front of a deep route and haul in his second interception in as many games. Robinson’s fourth pick of the season allowed the Sharks to stop the Storm’s offense for the first time in the game, and Jacksonville turned the turnover into a score when Archer stepped up in the pocket and fired a short pass to Harvey, who created space for himself in the end zone to haul in his third score of the night.
But the stop and score proved to be too little, too late, as the Sharks’ ensuing onside kick attempt bounced out of bounds. Tampa Bay took over in a short-yardage situation and bled the clock, taking it into the final minute before the Sharks forced a stop on fourth-and-goal. But the Sharks did not have enough time to mount a dramatic comeback, as time expired on the Sharks’ ensuing drive.
In the loss, Archer finished 27-of-48 for 271 yards and five touchdowns against one interception. Harvey led the Sharks’ receiving corps with 12 catches for 114 yards and three touchdowns. With London Crawford and Terrance Smith out with apparent injuries, backup quarterback Alex Carder was forced into spot duty at receiver and hauled in four receptions for 56 yards.
On defense, Robinson led the Sharks with 8.5 total tackles to go along with his interception. Turner’s sack of Hippeard gives him a team-high total of 5.5 quarterback takedowns this season, as he also recorded 2.5 total tackles.
For Tampa Bay, Hippeard went 21-of-29 for 255 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. Hills led the Storm with three touchdowns, while Toliver recorded team-high totals of seven catches and 81 yards to go along with his two scores. Jean Fanor led all players with 10.5 tackles, while Harrell racked up 6.5 stops of his own to go along with his interception and net recovery touchdown.
Despite the defeat, the Sharks did not lose ground in the overall South Division race, as the division-leading Orlando Predators fell to the Pittsburgh Power on Saturday night. But Jacksonville did fall to third place in the division, as the Storm claimed sole possession of second place.
The Sharks will now enter their second bye week of the season, returning to the playing field to take on the Spokane Shock on Saturday, June 7. Kickoff from Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena is set for 3:00 p.m.
Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game – Tampa Bay QB Randy Hippeard
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game – Tampa Bay DB James Harrell
J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game – Tampa Bay DB James Harrell
Cutters Catch of the Game – Tampa Bay WR T.T. Toliver’s diving 26-yard touchdown catch with :01 remaining in the second quarter
AFL Highlight of the Game – Tampa Bay DB James Harrell’s net recovery touchdown on the final play of 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 for as low as $105. 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.