Jacksonville Sports Day

AFL: Sharks Return From Bye in Search of Home Win

The Jacksonville Sharks have returned from their bye week and are preparing to host the Portland Steel on Sea Best Field this Saturday, May 21. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Saturday’s game will be the first of two meetings between Jacksonville (2-4) and Portland (0-6), as the Sharks will make their way to the Pacific Northwest in Week 6. Each of these teams lost a road game to the Cleveland Gladiators last time out, as the Sharks fell by a 41-40 count while the Steel dropped a 55-48 decision in overtime this past Monday.

Before the bye, the Sharks built a 19-point lead in the second half, but ultimately came up short. Late in the third quarter, the Sharks led 40-21 and were on fire, as the offense had scored on each of its six possession and the defense had forced three stops. Tommy Grady had hit Joe Hills for four of his five touchdown passes and did not turn the ball over, but the offense faltered at the game’s most critical stage. Multiple penalties and other miscues led to three consecutive scoreless possessions in the fourth quarter.

Much like, the offense, Jacksonville’s defense is looking to put together a full 60 minutes this week. The Sharks held the Gladiators to just 21 points with time winding down in the third, but then yielded three touchdowns in the game’s final 18 minutes. The Sharks were not able to consistently contain the versatile Arvell Nelson, who tossed three touchdown passes, did not turn the ball over, and scored three times on the ground as well.

Despite the late-game mistakes, the Sharks still had the ball in the final seconds. But a pair of passes fell incomplete before a field goal attempt missed wide left as Cleveland ultimately defended its home turf. Now back in the friendly confines of the Shark Tank, Jacksonville will aim to consistently execute over the course of the entire game.

The Steel travel to Jacksonville in search of their first win, but have had a few close calls this season. Portland fell to the still-undefeated Orlando Predators by just three points in Week 2 before taking the Gladiators to overtime just a few days ago. On the flip side, Portland has lost each of its other four games by at least 36 points.

Portland got a boost this week when All-Arena-caliber quarterback Shane Austin made his season debut. Shaking off the rust, Austin went 36-for-56 and for 363 yards and six touchdowns, but also threw four interceptions, one of which led to a Cleveland score. Tom Gilson (6’2”) and Tyrone Goard (6’4”) bring impressive size, and each player had over 130 yards and at least two scores. The Sharks will need to contain Portland’s big receivers in order to keep Austin and the Steel at bay.

On the other side of the ball, Portland’s defense was able to record three turnovers in last week’s matchup (two interceptions and a forced fumble). But much like the Sharks, the Steel could not contain, Nelson who found the end zone five times through the air and twice on the ground.

The Sharks look to send the Steel back winless and turn their own season around. The Sharks main concern will be limiting their penalties and maintaining a consistently high level of play throughout the game to come up with a victory.

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