Jacksonville Sports Day

AFL: Jacksonville Sharks Looking for First Win of Season in Philly

JACKSONVILLE – The Jacksonville Sharks will head to the City of Brotherly Love this week for a matchup with the Philadelphia Soul on Sunday, April 12. 

Kickoff from Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia is set for 4:00 p.m. ET, as the game will be broadcast live online via ESPN3.com and the WatchESPN app.

Jacksonville (0-2) heads into this week in search of its first win of 2015, having lost by a single point in each of the first two weeks of the season. Most recently, the Sharks were unable to get a defensive stop in the final minute of last Friday’s home opener against the Orlando Predators, as Orlando ran out the clock to seal the game.

As is the case with any close game, a few plays in either direction could have easily changed the result. Against Orlando, the Sharks’ offense came up empty on one third-quarter possession, the defense had an interception called back due to a penalty, and the kicking operation was unable to convert on three extra points – one miss, one block, and one botched snap. But no matter the reason, the result is that the Sharks find themselves in an early hole, and would do well to rebound this week against Philadelphia (2-0).

The Sharks’ roster underwent some transition this week, as the team added wide receivers Prechae Rodriguez and Johnathan Haggerty, and traded for defensive lineman Scooter Berry, who returns to the team with which he put together an All-Arena season in 2012. In addition, the Sharks’ roster is without a kicker as of the publication of this preview, so more change could be on the way before Sunday’s matchup.

Getting these new players up to speed is one key to Sunday’s game. With that said, Rodriguez brings with him a familiarity with quarterback Tommy Grady. Playing together with the Pittsburgh Power last season, Grady and Rodriguez combined for 32 touchdown connections in the 10 games in which Rodriguez played. The Sharks hope that their chemistry carries over when Rodriguez is called upon here in Jacksonville.

Sunday’s game also serves as a homecoming of sorts for four of the Sharks’ offensive starters. Wide receiver Tiger Jones, fullback Derrick Ross, offensive lineman Wayne Tribue and offensive/defensive lineman Jason Holman all played with the Soul in 2014. On top of that, Jones and Ross each spent three seasons in Philadelphia, and were key parts of an offense that helped the Soul reach back-to-back ArenaBowls.

Whether or not these players have extra motivation in taking on their former team, Jones and Ross have already become a major part of the Jacksonville offense. Jones grabbed 10 receptions in each of the first two games, and broke out with five touchdown receptions in Week 2. Ross has come as advertised at the fullback position, racking up a total of 81 rushing yards and four scores over the course of the first two weeks.

On the other side, the Sharks’ defense takes on a Philadelphia attack that benefits from a long-term relationship between coach and quarterback. Head Coach Clint Dolezel and quarterback Dan Raudabaugh have worked together since the 2011 season, when the two were with the Dallas Vigilantes. This is now Raudabaugh’s fourth season with the Soul, although this is somewhat of a new-look offense in terms of personnel.

At receiver, Ryan McDaniel and Marco Thomas form a potent one-two punch, while Tommy Taggart has been called on to fill the void left by Ross’ departure. So far, this combination of weapons has worked, as McDaniel and Thomas have combined for 46 receptions and nine touchdowns through two weeks, while Taggart has chipped in with 46 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Defensively, the Soul return a number of familiar faces, including defensive lineman Bryan Robinson, Jack linebacker Joe Goosby, and defensive backs Kent Richardson and James Romain. The Soul did make one major addition in the middle, acquiring Mac linebacker Beau Bell in an offseason trade with the Los Angeles KISS, the first in a series of deals that eventually led Ross to Jacksonville. With that trade in mind, it is fitting that it will often fall on Ross to slow down Bell’s pass rush in Sunday’s matchup.

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