04/18/2016 9:16 PM -
JACKSONVILLE – The Jacksonville Sharks had possession in the final minute of a tie game, but a fumble allowed the Orlando Predators to march down the field and score the eventual-game winning touchdown, as the Predators handed the Sharks a 63-56 loss on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena on Monday night.
Jacksonville (1-2) held a 56-49 lead with less than a minute remaining in the contest. On third and goal from the nine, Orlando (3-0) quarterback Randy Hippeard hit Brandon Thompkins out to the right, as Shark defensive back David Hyland dragged Thompkins down at the two. But Hippeard went right back to Thompkins on the next snap, connecting with his receiver for a two-yard score that allowed Orlando to tie the game at 56.
After Jacksonville’s LaRoche Jackson recovered an attempted onside kick, the Sharks had first and goal from Orlando’s six-yard line. But on that first-down snap, Predator defensive lineman Terrance Taylor beat his man, knocked the ball free from Shark quarterback Tommy Grady’s hand and fell on the loose ball. The fumble recovery allowed Orlando to regain possession with just 32 seconds remaining. A few plays later, Hippeard went deep to Greg Carr, who hauled in a 33-yard touchdown to put the Predators in front, 63-56.
With 19 seconds and two timeouts to work with, Grady brought the Sharks down the field, connecting with Joe Hills on back-to-back throws to advance the ball to the Orlando 10. With seven seconds and no timeouts remaining, Grady was forced to attempt a pair of passes into the end zone. After a first-down throw to Tiger Jones was incomplete, Grady looked for Hills in the back-right corner. But the Jacksonville receiver couldn’t quite haul in the pass, as the ball hit the turf as time expired, allowing Orlando to emerge with the victory.
Earlier, Jacksonville had an opportunity to seize command of the game. In the final minute of the first half, defensive lineman Anthony DeGrate pressured Hippeard and knocked the ball from the quarterback’s hand. Shark Jack linebacker Alvin Ray Jackson picked up the loose ball and brought it back for a touchdown, putting the Sharks in front, 34-21.
Orlando got the ball back with less than 30 seconds remaining in the half, and Greg Reid quickly forced another turnover, stepping in front of a Predator receiver to haul in his third pick of the season. Reid was ruled down by contact with three seconds remaining in the half, and the Sharks sent out the field goal unit to try to add to the lead. Marco Capozzoli’s kick missed wide right, and Thompkins took the live ball off the net and returned it all the way back for a Predator touchdown, allowing the Predators to enter the locker room with a one-score deficit.
Orlando opened the second half with another special teams play, recovering a chip-shot onside kick served up by Lewis’ right foot. The Predators turned that extra possession into a score, taking a 35-34 lead early in the third. From there, the teams exchanged scores into the fourth, setting up the late-game situation.
In the loss, Grady completed 29 of his 40 pass attempts for 289 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. Hills led the Sharks with 11 catches for 124 yards and three scores, while Roger Jackson caught 10 passes and Tiger Jones hauled in seven. With 69 receiving yards, Jones moved past both Chris Jackson and Barry Wagner and into third place on the AFL’s all-time receiving yardage list. Moqut Ruffins took a screen pass nine yards for his first score of the season, while Derrick Ross ran the ball eight times for 15 yards and three touchdowns.
On defense, Reid recorded seven tackles and two pass breakups to go along with his interception. Alvin Ray Jackson made 5.5 stops, recovered two fumbles and picked off a pass, while LaRoche Jackson recorded 5.5 tackles and executed a fake extra point for two points.
For Orlando, Hippeard went 26-of-37 for 296 yards and four touchdowns against two interceptions. Carr led Orlando with eight catches for 108 yards and two scores, while Larry Brackins turned both of his receptions into touchdowns. Varmah Sonie recorded a game-high 10 tackles and added a pass breakup.
Jacksonville will look to rebound in Week 4, as the team hosts the Arizona Rattlers on Saturday, April 23. Kickoff from Sea Best Field is set for 7:00 p.m.