06/12/2015 9:42 PM
TAMPA – The Jacksonville Sharks rallied to erase a 14-point deficit against the Tampa Bay Storm on Friday night. But after allowing a touchdown with 56 seconds remaining, the Sharks’ offense was unable to respond with a score, as the team fell by a 63-56 count at Amalie Arena.
Down 56-42 at halftime, Jacksonville (6-6) used a pair of red-zone turnovers to close the gap. Late in the third quarter, Chris Smith stepped in front of a Tampa Bay (5-6) receiver in the end zone, pulling in his first interception in a Shark uniform. On the ensuing possession, Tommy Grady rolled out of the pocket and found Joe Hills for a four-yard touchdown, bringing Jacksonville within one score, 56-48.
As the game moved into the fourth quarter, the Storm offense again marched into Shark territory. This time, it was Jack linebacker Alvin Ray Jackson who came up with a pick, as he read the quarterback and snared his team-leading fifth interception of the season. Taking advantage of the turnover, Grady connected with Hills on both a three-yard touchdown and a two-point conversion, tying the game at 56 with 1:55 left in the contest.
Jacksonville then elected to attempt an onside kick in order to maximize the amount of time its offense would have to work with following a potential score. Tampa Bay’s Julius
Gregory leaped to recover the high-hope onside kick, and Storm quarterback Jason Boltus found T.T. Toliver for a seven-yard touchdown with 56 seconds left in the game. That score allowed Tampa Bay to regain the lead, 63-56.
The Sharks’ offense had more than 50 seconds and all three timeouts to work with, and Grady quickly found Tiger Jones to bring the ball out near midfield. But the Jacksonville drive stalled from there, as Tampa Bay’s tight coverage led to several incompletions. After Jones nearly made a sliding touchdown catch, Grady’s fourth-down pass to Hills was broken up, and the Sharks turned the ball over on downs with 12 seconds left in the game. The Storm ran out the remainder of the clock to seal the game.
Earlier, Jacksonville scored on all but one of its possessions during a wild first half that saw the two teams combine for 98 points – the second-highest total in a half in Arena Football League history. Tampa Bay gained an early advantage thanks to a pair of special teams touchdowns by Kendrick Ings Late in the first quarter, Ings returned a kickoff for a touchdown to give Tampa Bay a 21-14 lead. In the second, Storm kicker Craig Peterson put a ball off the iron, and Ings sprinted to gather the loose ball for another Tampa Bay touchdown. That score gave the Storm its first two-score lead of the contest, and Tampa Bay carried that margin into the locker room at halftime.
In the first half, Grady operated efficiently under center, completing 12 of his 17 pass attempts for 211 yards and five touchdowns over the course of the game’s first two quarters. But the Sharks were unable to find paydirt on neither their final drive of the second quarter nor their first drive of the third, opportunities that could have changed the complexion of a one-score game.
Overall, Grady finished the game 26-of-46 for 351 yards and seven touchdowns without an interception. Hills tied a single-game franchise record with six touchdown catches, totaling nine receptions for 126 yards. Jones led Jacksonville with 12 receptions for 162 yards and a first-quarter touchdown. On the ground, Derrick Ross carried the ball three times for nine yards and a score.
On defense, Greg Reid and Terrance Smith each notched five solo tackles, while Jackson (4.0 tackles) and Chris Smith (3.5 tackles) each hauled in an interception. Reid also totaled 88 yards on five kickoff returns.
For the Storm, Boltus went 22-of-34 for 243 yards and six touchdowns against two interceptions. Gregory led Tampa Bay with nine receptions for 89 yards and three scores, while Toliver caught four passes for 59 yards and two touchdowns. On defense, Alfred Phillips racked up 13 solo tackles and six pass breakups, while Nick Addison and Tim Shelley each broke up a pair of passes.
With their five-game winning streak snapped, the Sharks will now enter the first of this season’s two bye weeks. The team returns to action on Saturday, June 27, as the Cleveland Gladiators will make their way to Sea Best Field. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m.
Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game - Jacksonville WR Joe Hills
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game - Tampa Bay DB Alfred Phillips
J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game - Tampa Bay WR/KR Kendrick Ings
Cutters Catch of the Game - Tampa Bay WR Julius Gregory's over-the-wall touchdown catch with 2:28 remaining in the second quarter
AFL Highlight of the Game - Tampa Bay WR Kendrick Ings' net recovery touchdown in the second quarter
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.