JACKSONVILLE – The Jacksonville Sharks (3-7) have returned from their bye week and are gearing up to host the Spokane Shock (6-5) in Week 13 action on Saturday, June 7. Kickoff on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena is set for 3:00 p.m. Saturday’s game will be broadcast on national television, airing live on ESPNEWS as well as online via ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app. In addition, the Sharks’ radio broadcast will air live on AM 600 WBOB.
The Sharks enter this week’s game looking to snap a two-game losing streak, as Jacksonville dropped a pair of divisional games to the Orlando Predators and Tampa Bay Storm just before the bye week. Thanks to consecutive Predator losses, however, the Sharks did not lose much ground in the South Division race, as Jacksonville sits two-and-a-half games behind the first-place Predators (6-5) and one-and-a-half games behind the second-place Storm (5-6).
With eight games remaining, each week is critical for a Sharks team that is looking to turn its season around. Jacksonville takes the field this week looking for improved offensive efficiency.
In each of their last two games, the Sharks have come up empty on their first offensive possession, leading to early two-score deficits in each contest. Against Orlando, Jacksonville was able to rebound and take a two-score lead of its own in the second half, but the team was never able to do so against Tampa Bay. Though quarterback R.J. Archer is in the midst of an impressive run of protecting the football – having thrown 27 touchdowns against one interception in the month of May – the Sharks are looking for more output after scoring just 35 points against the Storm.
Jacksonville will take the field this week with a re-tooled receiving corps, as wideout London Crawford was recently placed on injured reserve after suffering an injury during the third quarter of the Sharks’ trip to Tampa Bay. While veterans Jeron Harvey (17 touchdowns) and Jomo Wilson (10 touchdowns in six games since returning to the team) remain in the fold, the team made a pair of additions to its receiving corps this week.
Third-year veteran Maurice Williams was acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles KISS, while the Sharks also added rookie Charles Gilbert, who competed with the team during training camp prior to the 2013 season. Along with fellow wideout Tristan Purifoy, this combination of receivers will attempt to fill the void left by Crawford’s absence, and in doing so provide Archer with additional options down the field.
On the other side, Spokane’s season has also been defined by injuries. Within the last five weeks, starting quarterback Erik Meyer and top receiver Adron Tennell have been placed on injured reserve, and remain out of the lineup as of Thursday. Without those two players, Spokane is missing two crucial pieces of what was the League’s No. 2 ranked scoring offense a year ago.
Following Meyer’s injury, Spokane underwent transition at the quarterback position, losing three consecutive games. The team recently brought in veteran Brian Zbydniewski, who righted the ship in Spokane’s victory over the Portland Thunder last week. With that said, in the absence of Meyer, the Shock prefer to win with defense.
To this point in the season, the Shock’s front four has emerged as the AFL’s most dominant pass-rush unit, as Spokane leads the league with 26 sacks in 2014. That pass rush is led by James Ruffin, who has already established a new team record with 9.5 sacks. Joining Ruffin is former Shark Derrick Summers, who has transitioned to Mac linebacker and recorded six sacks to this point in the campaign.
Spokane is also talented in the secondary, featuring an experience defensive backfield that is led by Terrance Sanders. One of the top playmakers in the League, Sanders has racked up a team-high total of seven interceptions while also serving as a dynamic kick returner. Spokane will also benefit from the return of Paul Stephens, who is back with the team after a brief stint with the CFL’s B.C. Lions. Stephens leads the team with 20 pass breakups this season.
Following Saturday’s game against Spokane, the Sharks will embark on a two-game stretch of road divisional contests, beginning with the matchup against the Orlando Predators on Thursday, June 12. Kickoff from CFE Arena is set for 7:30 p.m.
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.