Empire Inch Ahead of Sharks 68-67
Jacksonville's Season Ends Despite Last Second Glory
ALBANY, NY - Entering a big game against the defending champions the Sharks walked on to the turf as underdogs playing the #1 Albany Empire (9-5). Jacksonville (7-7) locked into the game early shutting down the Albany offense on the opening drive. The momentum started with a touchdown rejection from defensive back Kerion Jones whose pass breakup stopped the Empire from an early score. Next, defensive lineman Sevyon Lowry made a tackle to stop quarterback Sam Castronova from a touchdown run. On third down it was defensive lineman Chei Hill who got a major sack forcing the Empire to fourth down and then Markus Smith with a pass breakup to force the turnover on down in the endzone. Jacksonville’s defense not only set the tone but set the advantage early this in one.
On offense, the energy did match the intense defense as they went three and out. On fourth down kicker Nick Belcher kicked from the endzone but kick returner Marquel Wade returned the kick for a touchdown to put the first points on the board. The Sharks second drive proved more electric as quarterback Arvell Nelson threw a short pass caught by receiver Kamrin Solomon bringing a tackle to score the first touchdown of the night for Jacksonville to tie the game 7-7 in the first. Sharks defensive Kerion Jones continued to stop wide receiver Darius Prince on a potential touchdown catch as Jones forced the Empire to third down but could not stop Prince on the next play as he caught the touchdown to put Albany up 14-7. Jacksonville was quick to respond as Nelson connected with Solomon again for Sharks second touchdown of the game tying the game 14-14. In the second quarter receiver Marquel Wade caught a pass on the one yard line to bring the Empire to the redzone. On the next play lineman Seyvon Lowry got a sack to slow down the Albany offense in scoring position. However, one play later Prince hauled in a pin ball catch that hit multiple walls before he caught the pass in the endzone.
It would be receiver Jenson Stoshak to tie the game 21-21 with a touchdown catch delivering quarterback Arvell Nelson his third touchdown pass of the night. On the next drive the Sharks defense continue to shutdown the Albany offense as lineman Quavyvon Hicks gained his first sack of the night in the second quarter. However, the drive did end up in a score as Castronova got his fourth touchdown pass this time receiver Adam Wascha to put the Empire up 28-21. The Sharks ready to catch up, certainly did with a huge 30-yard pass from Nelson to receiver Milton Williams which got Jacksonville down to the one-yard line with 1:12 left in the half. The drive unraveled on the Sharks as Albany held Jacksonville in the redzone for a turnover on downs. Before the end of the half the Empire found receiver Darius Prince gained his third touchdown of the night with 0:10 seconds left in the half. The Sharks gained the last blow of the half as the kicker Nick Belcher knocked down the 30-yard field goal to close the gap to 35-24 at the half with Jacksonville receiving the ball after halftime.
Powerful start to the second half for Jacksonville as the Sharks quarterback Arvell Nelson connected with receiver Kamrin Solomon for the third time tonight for a score. Kicker Nick Belcher added a deuce to close the game to two points 35-33. The Empire struck back with a score as well as Castronova hit receiver Dywane Hollis for a touchdown pass to put Albany up 42-33. The Sharks took a different angle on their drive as they ran in a touchdown with fullback Chei Hill, setting the score 42-40. The Empire managed another score with a third touchdown connection between quarterback Sam Castronova and receiver Darius Prince who caught a short pass and extended the play to score with multiple broken tackles.
Into the fourth quarter the Sharks went to their quarterback to make a huge play as Nelson threw a 25-yard pass to receiver Miles Kelly to score but missed a two point conversion put the Sharks short 49-46. The biggest turning point in the game came from an interception caught by WR/DB Kamrin Solomon giving the Sharks the ball and a chance to take the league. Coach Burley and his offense took advantage and scored with a rushing touchdown from Quayvon Hicks to hand the Sharks their first lead of the night 53-49. Albany and their captain Sam Castronova ran in the next Empire touchdown and kicker Marc Orozco added a deuce to give the Empire the 58-56 lead. On the verge of a turnover on downs Sharks quarterback Arvell Nelson connected with receiver Jenson Stoshak for a critical first down to extend the Sharks drive. Nelson connected again this time with receiver Milton Williams for a touchdown reception to put the Sharks up again 59-58 with 0:48 left. Albany’s Sam Castronova ran in a touchdown and threw a two-point conversion to receiver Darius Prince. Kicker Marc Orozco, in perhaps the most crucial play, kicked a deuce making the game a 9-point lead with Albany 68-59. With time expiring the Sharks scored in the final seconds to receiver Kamrin Solomon. The Sharks went for two and got it with Kamrin solomon again giving the the Sharks 67 points but the Empire would inch ahead with 68 to win the game.
Eliminated from the championship, the #4 Jacksonville Sharks were two points away from victory tonight against the #1 Empire who advance to the NAL championship against the Carolina Cobras. Leaders tonight include Sharks quarterback Arvell Nelson who threw seven touchdown passes for 353 yards. Receiver Kamrin Solomon who caught three touchdowns including the last play of the game and the two-point conversion. On defense, defensive back Miles Kelly led the team with six tackles while defensive linemen Seyvon Lowry and Chei Hill both gained four tackles and one sack each. On special teams Kicker Nick Belcher had a solid performance going 1 for 1 in field goals and 6 for 6 in extra points while also adding a deuce on the road for tonight's playoff game. In a electric finish the Sharks end the season 7-8 with a nailbiter against the defending NAL champion Albany Empire 10-5 who will host the Cobras for the NAL Championship
About the Jacksonville Sharks
The Jacksonville Sharks are members of the National Arena League (NAL). The 2019 & 2017 NAL Champions and ArenaBowl XXIV Champions play all their home games at the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena. Sharks Nation Memberships for the 2022 season are now available. To become a Shark Nation member or for more information please call (904) 621-0700. Follow the Sharks on Facebook at facebook.com/jaxsharks and on Twitter and Instagram @jaxsharks, as well as the Attack Dance Team at facebook.com/sharkattackdance and Chum at facebook.com/chumsharks.