Jacksonville Sports Day

AFL: Jacksonville Sharks Fall to San Jose SaberCats, 68-48

A touchdown pass from Tommy Grady to Joe Hills pulled the Jacksonville Sharks to within three points with 12 minutes remaining on Friday night, but an ensuing kickoff return touchdown and “bar-ball” recovery proved costly as the Sharks fell to the San Jose SaberCats, 68-48, on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.

In a game in which the Sharks trailed by four points at halftime, Jacksonville (0-4) held serve into the fourth quarter, as Grady fired an 11-yard strike to Joe Hills to bring the Sharks to within a 41-38 margin. But the Sharks did not get a chance to make a defensive stop, as San Jose (4-0) kick returner brought back the ensuing kickoff the length of the field for a touchdown.

After the two sides again traded scores – on a pass from Grady to Harvey followed by a 39-yard bomb from Erik Meyer to D.J. Stephens, Nich Pertuit sent the ensuing kickoff careening off the iron. Jacksonville returner Terrance Smith was unable to secure the carom, and San Jose recovered the loose ball at the Sharks’ eight-yard line. The short field led to a quick score, as Meyer found Gray from seven yards out to give the SaberCats a three-score lead, 62-45. 

From that point, the Sharks were not able to come closer than 14 points, as Julian Rauch kocked home his second field goal of the game with 57 seconds remaining. After San Jose recovered the ensuing onside kick attempt, Meyer hit Tennell on a 11-yard pass for the game’s final score.

In what was largely a close game in the first half, San Jose gained the early edge with a pair of defensive stops. David Hyland intercepted Grady on the Sharks’ second offensive possession, and the SaberCats forced a turnover on downs on Jacksonville’s next drive. The SaberCats cashed in on both stops, as Odie Armstrong opened the second quarter with a four-yard touchdown run to give San Jose a 21-7 lead.

The Sharks did close the margin with a defensive stop of their own, as Jimmy Gordon pounced on a loose ball when San Jose was in a goal-to-go situation. Two plays later, Tiger Jones made a spectacular diving catch over the wall to bring the Sharks all the way down to the two, and Derrick Ross hammered home the third of his four rushing touchdowns to tie the game at 21.

Jacksonville had chances to come up with key defensive stops, forcing San Jose into several fourth down situations. But three different times, Meyer responded with three fourth-down touchdown passes to prevent the Sharks from getting off the field without allowing points.

In the loss, Grady completed 26 of his 39 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns against two interceptions. Ross carried the ball 11 times for 35 yards and four scores, becoming the first player in Arena Football League history with 150 career rushing touchdowns. At receiver, Hills led the Sharks with 14 receptions for 155 yards and a touchdown, while Jones caught seven passes for 109 yards and Jeron Harvey added four receptions for 44 yards and a score.

On defense, Joe Sykes recorded a sack for the third consecutive game, while Gordon has now recovered a fumble in each of his first two AFL contests. Terrance Smith led the Sharks with four solo tackles.

For the SaberCats, Meyer completed 19 of his 30 passes for 246 yards and eight touchdowns, while Gray recorded nine receptions for 80 yards and three touchdowns and Tennell found the end zone four times. David Hyland led all players with 13 total tackles to go along with his interception. Eric Crocker also recorded a pick, while Francis Maka notched the SaberCats’ lone sack.

The Sharks now toward their attention to next week’s game, as the Las Vegas Outlaws come to town on Friday, April 24. Kickoff from Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena is set for 8 p.m.

Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game – San Jose QB Erik Meyer

Riddell Defensive Player of the Game – San Jose DB David Hyland

J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game – San Jose WR/KR Reggie Gray

Cutters Catch of the Game – Jacksonville WR Tiger Jones’ over-the-wall diving catch late in the second quarter

AFL Highlight of the Game – San Jose KR Reggie Gray’s 58-yard kickoff return touchdown in the fourth quarter

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