Jacksonville Sports Day

AFL: Sharks Fall to Rattlers in Desert Duel, 69-67

Trailing by eight points in the final seconds, the Jacksonville Sharks had a chance to send Saturday’s game against the Arizona Rattlers to overtime.

But after scoring a touchdown, the Sharks were unable to convert the two-point attempt, as an incomplete pass kept Jacksonville from forcing overtime and sealed a 69-67 defeat at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

The Jacksonville (5-8) offense faced a 69-61 deficit coming out of the one-minute timeout. After working the ball down the field and using the majority of the clock, Tommy Grady found an open Joe Hills from 19 yards out, as Hills’ fifth touchdown catch of the game pulled the Sharks to within two points with less than 10 seconds remaining.

But on the ensuing two-point attempt, tight coverage from the Arizona (11-3) secondary prevented Grady from throwing to his first read. Grady bided his time in the pocket and eventually fired a pass in the direction of Tiger Jones, but the throw missed to the outside and sailed into the stands. Following the failed conversion, the Rattlers’ offense burned down the final seconds to clinch the game.

Though the Sharks never led on Saturday, the game remained close throughout, as each team scored a touchdown on 10 of 11 offensive possessions. Arizona took the initial advantage early in the second quarter when Rodney Fritz tracked down Grady from behind, forcing a fumble that Dimetrio Tyson recovered. The Rattler offense used that extra possession well, as Nick Davila hit Rod Windsor for an eight-yard touchdown that gave Arizona a 21-6 lead.

But the Sharks quickly rebounded from that two-score deficit. After a 20-yard strike from Grady to Hills pulled Jacksonville back within eight, Alvin Ray Jackson intercepted Davila for the Sharks’ first and only defensive stop of the game. That turnover turned into a score, as Grady found Reggie Gray from six yards out to pull the Sharks back within a point, 21-20.

In the closing seconds of the first half, the Rattler offense made a play that arguably proved to be the difference in the game. With just a few ticks left on the clock in a 34-34 game, Davila hit Windsor over the middle, and the Arizona receiver powered through a would-be tackler to cross the goal line as time expired. That touchdown allowed the Rattlers to take a 41-34 lead into the locker room and forced the Sharks to chase the game in the second half.

In the second half, both offenses operated efficiently as each team scored on every one of its drives. A special teams miscue proved costly, as early in the fourth quarter, the Sharks were called for holding on a

point-after attempt. Backed up to a 28-yard try, Lindsey Wolfe’s kick missed wide left. That failed conversion later forced Jacksonville into the two-point conversion attempt in the final seconds.

In the loss, a pair of Sharks made franchise history. With his five touchdown catches, Hills became the franchise’s single-season leader in touchdown receptions, passing Jomo Wilson’s total of 44 set in 2011. Hills has 48 scores to this point in the campaign and has three weeks to add to that total. Under center, Grady became the first Shark to throw 10 touchdown passes in a single game.

Overall, Grady completed 29 of his 47 pass attempts for 344 yards and those 10 scores. Hills led Jacksonville with 11 receptions for 170 yards and five touchdowns, while both Jones and Gray scored twice each. Andrew Robustelli caught two passes for 23 yards and scored the first touchdown of his AFL career. On the ground, Derrick Ross racked up 42 yards on seven carries. Defensively, Jackson totaled four tackles (three solo) to go along with his interception.

For Arizona, Davila went 25-of-34 for 255 yards and nine touchdowns against one interception. Windsor scored a game-high six touchdowns while leading Arizona with 10 receptions for 108 yards. Maurice Purify caught seven passes for 82 yards and two scores, while Mykel Benson collected both a rushing and a receiving touchdown. Jeremy Kellem led all players with 12 total tackles (11 solo).

The Sharks will head back out west next week, as the team travels to face the Portland Steel on Saturday, July 16. Kickoff from Portland’s Moda Center is set for 10 p.m. ET.

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