Jacksonville Sports Day

AFL: Jacksonville Sharks Host Orlando Predators

Photo by Nancy Beecher

The Jacksonville Sharks look to follow up last week’s dominant win over the Tampa Bay Storm this week, as the team takes on the Orlando Predators on Sea Best Field this Saturday, June 18. Kickoff is set at 7:00 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live to a national audience on CBS Sports Network.

Saturday’s game will be the third and final contest between Jacksonville (5-5) and Orlando (9-2) in the regular season. Though the Predators emerged with win in Week 3, the Sharks tied up the series in Week 9 and handed Orlando their second loss of the season. The road team won each previous matchup by just one score, so this heated in-state rivalry will be one to witness this weekend.

Last week, the Sharks slammed the Storm after four straight scores in the first half, including a pair of game-changing defensive touchdowns. The Sharks would not lose control of the game outscoring or matching the Storm in every quarter.

In the win, Tommy Grady bounced back to his usual standard and threw six touchdowns on an efficient 16-for-23 for 188 yards. Four of Grady’s six touchdowns went to league-leading wide receiver Joe Hills, who is now 50 yards and three scores ahead of Arizona’s Rod Windsor, even though the Sharks have played one fewer game to this point. Hills also got some help from Tiger Jones, whose five receptions pushed him ahead of Chris Jackson and into fourth place all-time in career receptions.

Beyond Hills, Jones and Reggie Gray – who each scored at least once – the offense showed depth. Dexter Jackson found the end zone at fullback with league leader Derrick Ross on inactive reserve, and Andrew Robustelli contributed two receptions and a huge onside kick recovery to give the Sharks an extra possession before halftime.

Jacksonville’s defense was a terror for the Storm offense, holding Tampa Bay to just 34 points while forcing three turnovers. In the first half, the defense swung the game with three straight defensive stops. Playing in the first game of his career, defensive lineman Jordan Miller recorded an interception return touchdown, the first of the season for the Sharks’ defense. The Sharks defense received a lift with the return of Greg Reid, who leads the league in interceptions (8) and is tied for first in tackles (67) despite missing Week 10. Reid put on a clinic, recovering a fumble and bringing back an interception for a touchdown of his own.

Up front, the Sharks’ pass rush was able to get consistent pressure on Storm quarterback Jason Boltus. While Dexter Jackson recorded the game’s lone sack, the Jacksonville front four was relentless, affecting the quarterback’s timing on a regular basis. The Sharks will need another strong defensive performance entering Week 12.

On Saturday, the Sharks rekindle the rivalry against the Predators, who are tied with the Philadelphia Soul for the best record in the Arena Football League.. In last week’s game against Cleveland, Orlando kicked a 23-yard field with two seconds left on the clock to carry the Predators to a three-point win..

The Sharks have to deal with another mobile quarterback this week with Randy Hippeard under center for the Predators. Hippeard leads his team in rushing, ranks third in the league in quarterback rushing yards and second in rushing scores among signal-callers. Orlando also has it’s own one-two punch in Brandon Thompkins and Greg Carr who bring a potent blend of speed and size.. The two have combined for 46 Orlando scores and recorded 1,996 receiving yards off of 153 receptions so far this season. The Sharks will also need to contain Thompkins on special teams, as he has scored six return touchdowns in 2016, including one in each of the Orlando’s previous two matchups with Jacksonville.

Varmah Sonie is one to look out for coming into Saturday’s contest, as he is tied for the league lead with 67 tackles and tied for second with six interceptions. Overall, the Predators rank in the middle of the pack with an average of 49.5 points allowed per game, but Orlando does enter this week with the second-best turnover margin in the league. Their plus-nine mark only trails the Sharks, who check in at plus-10.

As they take the field on Saturday, the Sharks look close out the seat series and shut down Orlando in front of the home crowd Sea Best Field. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. and tickets are still available on www.jaxsharks.com. The Family 4 Pack is available for this week’s Halloween in June game offering four tickets, four hot dogs, four Cokes and four bags of chips for just $80 ($140 value).

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