07/12/2015 1:30 AM
PORTLAND, OR – The Jacksonville Sharks trailed by just five points at halftime on Saturday night, but mistakes put the team in a third-quarter hole from which it could not recover, as the Sharks fell to the Portland Thunder by a 72-48 count at Moda Center.
Jacksonville (7-7) entered the second half with a chance to take the lead, as the team received the opening kicoff of the third quarter trailing Portland (4-10) by a 33-28 count. But on the ensuing drive, Joe Hills lost the handle after making a catch along the wall, resulting in a fumble that Portland recovered in Shark territory. Five plays later, Thunder quarterback Kyle Rowley hit fullback John Martinez for a 12-yard touchdown pass, pulling Portland ahead by two scores.
From that point forward, Jacksonville never had the ball with a one-score deficit for the remainder of the game. Though the Sharks got back on the board midway through the third quarter on Derrick Ross’ second rushing touchdown of the night, Portland responded with a five-yard pass from Rowley to V’Keon Lacey, putting the Thunder ahead by a 46-35 margin.
On the ensuing kickoff, Greg Reid gave his team a lift by fielding the ball off the net and sprinting up the right sideline for a 54-yard touchdown, the first of his Arena Football League career. But again, Jacksonville’s defense was not able to follow the score with a stop, as Rowley found Jared Perry for an eight-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
With that score, Portland regained a two-score advantage, though Jacksonville remained one defensive stop away from potentially turning the tide. But on the Sharks’ first possession of the fourth quarter, a series of offensive penalties backed the team up to a third and 25 situation. After Portland’s Marquis Jackson got to Tommy Grady for a third-down sack, Grady’s fourth-and-long pass fell incomplete, resulting in a turnover on downs. Penalties plagued Jacksonville throughout the game, as the Sharks were flagged 17 times for a total of 91 yards. On the flip side, Portland committed just six fouls for 19 yards.
From there, Rowley hit Lacey for another short touchdown pass, putting the Thunder on top by three scores for the first time in the game, 59-24. On the ensuing kickoff, Andre’ Martin stripped Reid of the ball and chased down the fumble in the end zone for a Thunder touchdown. That score gave Portland a 65-42 lead, essentially sealing Jacksonville’s fate with five minutes remaining.
Earlier, Jacksonville appeared to generate a momentum shift in the final stages of the first half. With his team down by a 27-21 count, Joe Sykes hammered Rowley from the blind side, forcing a fumble that Alvin Ray Jackson pounced on in the end zone. With that play, Sykes tied his own single-season AFL record with 16.0 sacks, and set a new single-season League mark of 10 forced fumbles.
But the Sharks were unable to maintain that lead into halftime, as Rowley hit Perry for a 22-yard touchdown with 26 seconds left in the half and the Jacksonville offense was stopped on its final drive of the second quarter.
In defeat, Grady completed 20 of his 31 pass attempts for 215 yards and three touchdowns against one interception. Hills led Jacksonville with 10 receptions for 112 yards and two scores, while London Crawford added four catches for 30 yards and a score of his own. Tiger Jones caught four passes for 58 yards, and Moqut Ruffins hauled in a pair of screen passes, gaining 15 yards on those two receptions. On the ground, Ross totaled 29 yards and two touchdowns on his six carries.
Defensively, Terrance Smith led Jacksonville with 5.5 total tackles and three pass breakups, while Alvin Ray Jackson totaled four tackles and a pass breakup to go along with his defensive touchdown. Sykes racked up 3.5 tackles in addition to his strip-sack.
For Portland, Rowley went 22-of-29 for 235 yards and six touchdowns without an interception. He also scored a rushing touchdown, while Martinez carried the ball eight times for 15 yards and two scores. Lacey led Portland with 10 receptions for 63 yards and two scores, while Perry also caught two touchdowns.
The Sharks will now return to Jacksonville and prepare to face the Philadelphia Soul on Saturday, July 18. Kickoff on Sea Best Field is set for 7:00 p.m.
Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game – Portland QB Kyle Rowley
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game – Portland DB Varmah Sonie
J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game – Portland WR V’Keon Lacey
Cutters Catch of the Game – Portland WR Jared Perry’s one-handed catch in the first quarter
AFL Highlight of the Game – Jacksonville DL Joe Sykes’ strip-sack resulting in an Alvin Ray Jackson touchdown in the second quarter
About the Jacksonville Sharks
The Jacksonville Sharks are members of the Arena Football League (AFL). The ArenaBowl XXIV and four-time South Division Champions are presented by Sea Best Seafood and play all home games on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Shark Nation Memberships for the 2016 season are now available, starting as low as $99. To reserve your membership or for more information, please call (904) 621-0700 and speak to a Membership Activation Specialist. Follow the Sharks on facebook at facebook.com/jaxsharks and on Twitter @jaxsharks, as well as the Attack Dance Team at facebook.com/sharkattackdance and Chum at facebook.com/chumsharks.
About the AFL
Since its inception in 1987, the Arena Football League has showcased a fast-paced and exciting game to millions of fans in a myriad of markets across the country. The ESPN family of networks and CBS Sports Network will nationally broadcast AFL games each week for the entire 2015 season. The AFL schedule culminates with ArenaBowl XXVIII Saturday, August 29, 2015 on ESPN.