Jacksonville Sports Day

AFL: Jacksonville Sharks Return Home for Revenge Against KISS

The Jacksonville Sharks will return home for the final two games of the regular season, beginning with a matchup against the Los Angeles KISS on Saturday. The game is set for 7 p.m. at Sea Best Field.

Saturday’s game will be the second and final contest between Jacksonville (5-9) and Los Angeles (7-7) in the regular season. Jacksonville last saw the KISS back in Week 1, where a series of mistakes turned what was a tie game at halftime into a 64-39 loss at Anaheim’s Honda Center. In addition to trying to even the season series, the Sharks take the field looking to snap a four-game losing streak.

While the Sharks missed an opportunity to remain in contention to host a first-round playoff game, the team has a chance to build momentum heading into the postseason. The Sharks have also ventured into uncharted waters with the release of Les Moss, the only head coach the team had ever known since Jacksonville’s inaugural 2010 season.

In each of the last two weeks, the Sharks have come up two points short, failing to send each game to overtime with a two-point conversion. Against the Portland Steel last Saturday night, the Sharks nearly erased a two-score fourth-quarter deficit after holding Portland to a field goal in the final minute and scoring on a short touchdown run by Derrick Ross with one minute left. But the Steel kept Tiger Jones out of the end zone on the ensuing two-point try, sealing the Sharks’ fate in a 55-53 defeat.

In the loss, Tommy Grady played turnover-free football, completing 25 of his 35 passes for 293 yards and four scores. But despite those efficient numbers, he was under duress for the majority of the game, as Portland’s defense sacked him twice and brought him to the ground on several other occasions. Jacksonville’s offensive line will be looking for consistent pass protection this week.

The Sharks offense scored on all but one possession in the contest against Portland. Derrick Ross and Dexter Jackson notched two rushing touchdowns apiece, while Grady was able to distribute the ball evenly between Joe Hills, Tiger Jones and Reggie Gray. Each of those receivers snagged at least seven passes and totaled 70 or more yards.

One key for the Sharks this week is the ability to generate stops on defense. Jacksonville left Portland with no sacks or turnovers and allowed the Steel to score on every possession. Though the Sharks were able to force a fumble in the fourth quarter, Portland’s Jared Perry fell on the ball in the end zone for a Steel touchdown. Against a Los Angeles team that has served up 18 interceptions this season, the Sharks will be on the lookout for a game-changing play.

KISS quarter Nathan Stanley is set to lead his team into Jacksonville after firing eight passing touchdowns and running for another score last week. While Stanley missed time with a mid-season injury after going down in Week 8, he has lead the KISS to a win in each of his starts since returning to action. Stanley is the team’s second-leading rusher as well, so the Sharks will look to break their three-week streak without a sack while also neutralizing Stanley’s scrambling ability by forcing him to stand in the pocket under pressure.

On the other side, Los Angeles leads the league in scoring defense (46.7 points per game). The KISS’ defensive performance is the result of an impressive team effort, as no player has more than five interceptions or 3.5 sacks to this point in the year. The Sharks will see a few familiar faces on the other side, as Terrance Smith (19.0 tackles, one interception) and Derrick Summers (3.5 sacks) return to their former home turf.

The Sharks must put it all together for 60 minutes this week to get back in the win column and get a rhythm going.

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