05/04/2016 4:44 PM
JACKSONVILLE - The Jacksonville Sharks are back on the road this week, as the team travels north to square off against the Cleveland Gladiators on Saturday, May 7. Kickoff at Quicken Loans Arena is set at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday’s game will be the first of two meetings between Jacksonville (2-3) and Cleveland (1-4). The Sharks look to build on their Week 5 victory over the Tampa Bay Storm, while Cleveland enters this week’s contest having lost three in a row.
Tommy Grady aims to continue his impressive start to the season. Last week, Grady connected on 28-of-37 attempts for 308 yards and four touchdowns with one lone interception. Tiger Jones racked up 10 catches for 106 yards and a score, and has how gone over the 100-yard mark in three consecutive games. Joe Hills contributed with his own touchdown – the 150th of his AFL career and led the team with 135 yards. Nearly a third of the way into the season, Hills (661) and Jones (508) rank first and third, respectively, among all AFL wideouts in receiving yards.
On Sunday, Jacksonville was able to hold the Storm to 27 points, and the Sharks’ defense yielded just three offensive touchdowns. The Sharks clamped down in crucial situations, forcing the Storm to turn the ball over on downs on four separate occasions. The team also held Tampa Bay to 12 first downs and seven rushing yards. This week, the Sharks will look to capitalize on opportunities, as the Gladiators have turned the ball over 16 times through five games.
Once again, the Sharks can ill afford miscues on special teams. Tampa Bay’s Mike Washington returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and ended the game with 108 yards on kickoff returns. This week Jacksonville must contain the dangerous Larry Beavers, who is averaging 18.2 yards per kick return. The Sharks will also search for more consistency in the kicking operation, as Marco Capozzoli connected on just three of his five point-after attempts, and the Sharks had a kick blocked for the second straight game.
On the other side, the Gladiators had a chance to top the unbeaten Orlando Predators last week, as Cleveland led by a point heading into the fourth quarter. But Orlando scored the game’s final 21 points, ultimately handing Cleveland a 76-56 loss. Making his first start of the season under center, Arvell Nelson put up an impressive 332 yards and six touchdowns, but was unable to consistently protect the football as he threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. Collin Taylor put up 148 yards and three scores on his 11 receptions. Jacksonville must always be aware of where Taylor is on the field, as he leads the Gladiators with 11 touchdown catches this season.
While Cleveland’s defense has allowed 57.6 points per game this season – ranking seventh among the AFL’s eight teams – the Gladiators have shown playmaking flair on that side of the ball. Cleveland has returned four interceptions for touchdowns this season, three of which came courtesy of rookie defensive back Joe Powell. Jacksonville must protect the football and avoid giving the Gladiators a chance to swing the game with a big play on defense.
A win this week would lift the Sharks back to the .500 mark entering the team’s first bye week of 2016. The Sharks have enjoyed tremendous success against the Gladiators in the past, holding a 8-1 edge in the all-time
series. After sweeping a pair of matchups from Cleveland last year, Jacksonville will take the field looking to keep that track record rolling on Saturday night.
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 2016 season are now available, two tickets as low as $99. 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.