06/06/2015 10:31 PM
JACKSONVILLE – The Jacksonville Sharks scored 50 second-half points on Saturday night, as the team erased a seven-point halftime deficit en route to a 66-51 victory over the Orland Predators in front of 10,217 on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
Jacksonville (6-5) turned the tide by forcing a pair of turnovers in the third quarter. With his team down by a 30-22 count Tommy Grady hit Jeron Harvey on a 10-yard touchdown pass to bring the Sharks within a point. On the Predators’ ensuing possession, Jason Holman chased down Orlando (6-5) fullback Michael Simons, knocking the ball free. Greg Reid picked up the fumble as the Sharks secured possession. Three plays later, Grady hit Tiger Jones for a 22-yard touchdown strike, allowing the Sharks to take their first lead of the game, 36-30.
On the third play of Orlando’s next drive, Joe Sykes hammered Predator quarterback Bernard Morris from behind, forcing a fumble that Jerry Turner recovered to set up the Jacksonville offense in the red zone. On the very next snap, Grady fired a quick pass to Joe Hills, who dove into the end zone for the first of his two touchdowns in the game. Hills’ score put the Sharks in front by two scores.
Though Orlando’s offense recovered in the fourth quarter, Jacksonville matched the Predators score-for-score to maintain that two-score advantage. After Simons found paydirt with a two-yard touchdown run, the Sharks faced a fourth-and-two from their own 23. On that snap, Grady took a deep shot to Jones, who reached back to make an outstanding diving catch for a 27-yard touchdown.
Following a Greg Carr catch-and-run touchdown, Grady hit Hills for a five-yard score as the Sharks answered yet again. That touchdown gave Jacksonville to a 57-44 lead, setting the scene for Sykes to provide an exclamation point.
On the first play of the Predators’ next drive, Sykes again knocked the ball from Morris’ hand. Though Orlando’s Erle Ladson picked up the loose ball, Turner forced Ladson against the wall in the end zone for a safety. The sack was Sykes’ second of the game and 14th of the season, as he has established a new franchise record in that category with seven regular-season games remaining.
Following the safety, Orlando tried an onside kick, but the ball bounced over the wall. With one minute left in the game, Derrick Ross went to work, as he carried the ball forward three times to force the Predators to burn their timeouts. On his fourth rush in as many plays, Ross took it in from a yard out to secure his third touchdown of the game, putting the Sharks in front, 66-44. Though Orlando’s Kendal Thompkins hauled in a long touchdown on the Predators’ next drive, the Sharks recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the remainder of the clock.
With their fifth straight win, the Sharks have now moved into first place in the South Division for the first time this season. Jacksonville currently owns the second tiebreaker over Orlando based on point differential in head-to-head games.
In the victory, Grady completed 26 of his 36 pass attempts for 275 yards and six touchdowns against two interceptions. After throwing both of those picks in the first half, Grady went 13-for-14 with five touchdown passes over the game’s final two quarters. On the ground, Ross carried the ball a season-high 15 times, totaling 32 yards and three touchdowns.
At receiver, Jones recorded his ninth 100-yard game in 11 weeks, racking up 136 yards and three touchdowns on his 10 receptions. Hills caught seven passes for 60 yards and two touchdowns, while Harvey added seven catches for 49 yards and a score.
On defense, LaRoche Jackson recorded a team-high total of 6.5 tackles and hauled in the Sharks’ only interception of the game. Reid and Terrance Smith each recorded two pass breakups, while Sykes totaled 2.5 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles. Pierre Turner notched his first sack of the season as well.
For Orlando, Morris completed 19 of his 32 attempts for 292 yards and six touchdowns against one interception. Kendal Thompkins led the Predators with 103 receiving yards and two touchdowns, while Brandon Thompkins caught six passes for 90 yards and a score while racking up 163 kickoff return yards. Emanuel Cook recorded a game-high total of 10.5 tackles, while Toby Jackson recorded the Predators’ lone sack.
Next week, the Sharks will look for their sixth straight win as they travel for a showdown with the Tampa Bay Storm on Friday, June 12. Kickoff from Amalie Arena is set for 7:00 p.m.
Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game – Jacksonville WR Tiger Jones
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game – Jacksonville DL Joe Sykes
J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game – Orlando WR Brandon Thompkins
Cutters Catch of the Game – Jacksonville WR Tiger Jones’ over-the-shoulder diving catch for a 27-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter
AFL Highlight of the Game – Jacksonville DL Joe Sykes’ strip-sack in the third quarter, forcing a fumble recovered by DL Jerry Turner
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 2015 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.
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 2015 season. The AFL schedule culminates with ArenaBowl XXVIII Saturday, August 29, 2015 on ESPN.