07/12/2016 3:04 PM -
JACKSONVILLE - The Jacksonville Sharks will travel to the West Coast for this week’s contest against the Portland Steel on Saturday, July 16. The matchup at Portland’s Moda Center is set for 10:00 p.m. ET.
Saturday’s game will be the second and final contest between Jacksonville (5-8) and Portland (1-12) in the regular season. Jacksonville handily defeated the Steel in Week 8, 71-34, thanks in large part to Tommy Grady’s eight touchdown passes and four interceptions by the Sharks’ defense. The Sharks take the field this weekend in hopes of snapping their three-game losing streak.
A victory this week is crucial if the Sharks plan to come back in the race for the No. 4 overall seed. Currently, the Gladiators hold that No. 4 spot by a game and a half over the Sharks and one game over the Los Angeles KISS, the next team on the Sharks schedule. Cleveland lost to Philadelphia last Saturday and battles the KISS this week, so the Sharks are still in contention to secure an opening-round home game. However, Jacksonville cannot win a head-to-head tiebreaker against Cleveland, which makes each of the Sharks’ final three regular-season games absolutely critical.
Last week, the Sharks came up short at Talking Stick Resort Arena against the Arizona Rattlers, falling by a 69-67 count. In what was a one-score game for the entirety of the second half, the Sharks failed on an attempted two-point conversion which would have tied the game with just nine seconds left on the clock.
A turnover proved costly again this week, as Arizona’s Rodney Fritz sacked Grady from behind late in the first quarter, forcing a fumble that eventually led to a Rattler touchdown. Aside from the one turnover, Grady protected the football well, firing a team-record 10 touchdown passes en route to a 29-for-47, 344-yard night.
In all, the Sharks’ offense scored a touchdown on all but one offensive possession last week, and Jacksonville will look bring that same chemistry into this week’s matchup with the Steel. Last time out, all four of the Sharks receivers found the end zone at least once. Joe Hills led the charge with five scores, while Tiger Jones returned to the lineup and racked up 10 receptions for 112 yards and two touchdowns. Reggie Gray also scored twice and totaled 214 all-purpose yards, while Andrew Robustelli hauled in his first career touchdown reception.
On the other side of the ball, the Sharks will defend against a Portland offense which has had trouble coming up with scores, as the Steel are second-to-last in the AFL with an average of 40.5 points per game. One area in which the Sharks will look to take advantage is turnovers, as the Steel have given the ball away 35 times through 13 games, an average of nearly three turnovers per contest.
Steel quarterback Shane Austin is mobile as he ranks second in the league amongst rushing quarterbacks behind Cleveland’s Arvell Nelson. However, Austin has struggled to protect the football this season, tossing a league-leading total of 17 interceptions in just eight games. Jacksonville’s front four did not record a sack in either of the last two games, so this week the Sharks will look to generate pressure while also neutralizing Austin’s scrambling ability.
On the other side, Portland’s defense has had issues generating consistent stops, as the Steel rank last in points allowed per game (60.9). The Steel defense has secured two interceptions in the past four weeks but has not recorded a sack or a fumble in that time period.
The Sharks must put it all together for 60 minutes this week to get back in the win column and gain ground in the standings. Saturday’s kickoff is set for 10:00 p.m. ET.
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.