04/30/2011 11:12 PM -
Jacksonville, Fla - Saturdays game featured one of the most dynamic rivalries in the AFL, as the Jacksonville Sharks hosted their in-state division rival, the Orlando Predators. The game was preceded by weeks of talk and speculation from both teams. Saturdays game was also featured as the NFL Network Game of the Week, and will be broadcasted on the NFL Network Sunday at 3pm. The night guaranteed fireworks for fans in Jacksonville thanks to both the explosive rivalry, and Aaron Garcia being just 3 touchdown passes shy of reaching the 1000 passing touchdown milestone, something never done before in professional football.
Jacksonville started the game off, riding the crowds energy into the end-zone for the first touchdown of the day, a 9 yard rush by Jeron Harvey. Orlando fought back with a 6 yard touchdown pass from Nick Hill to Bobby Sippio. The Sharks next possession resulted in Aaron Garcias fourth interception of the season, giving Orlando possession on the Jacksonville 5 yard line. Bobby Sippio jolted the Sharks a few plays later with his second touchdown reception of the night, taking the lead 14-7. Jeron Harvey helped revitalize both the Sharks offense and the crowd at the end of the quarter with a 41 yard reception over the league leader in interceptions, Orlandos Rayshaun Kizer.
The Sharks began the second quarter with possession on the Orlando 4 yard line. The drive lasted until fourth down, when Garcia completed his first touchdown pass of the night to Jeron Harvey. The Predators scored on their third straight possession with a 26 yard touchdown reception to receiver Josh Bush. Jomo Wilson kept the Sharks alive with a 31 yard touchdown reception, to put Garcia just one away from reaching his milestone. A big defensive stop by Terrance Smith on fourth down gave the Sharks excellent field position on the next series. Garcia made quick work of the Predators in the next exchange with a 9 yard pass to Jeron Harvey, which resulted in Garcias 1000th career passing touchdown. The professional football legend walked back out to an arena full of praise and cheers, where he was officially recognized by the league commissioner, Jerry Kurtz. The Jacksonville defense came alive in the next series, when Charlie Hunt intercepted Nick Hills pass and returned it 26 yards for the Sharks first interception return of the season. A failed Jacksonville onside kick setup an easy score for Orlando on the next possession. Sale Key helped Garcia surpass his milestone by catching his first touchdown pass of the night, which had to be reviewed by the officials. Orlando ended the first half with Bobby Sippios third touchdown reception of the night, making the score Jacksonville 40, Orlando 35.
Orlando offense took the field to begin a fresh half of football. Derrick Summer bulldozed through the Predator defense for his first sack of the night. On their fourth down attempt, Orlando managed to score on a pass from Nick Hill to Josh Bush to take the lead from the Sharks, 42-40. The Sharks managed to carry the momentum into the second half, with Garcias fifth touchdown pass of the night, and Jomo Wilsons second touchdown reception of the night. On the Predators next offensive possession, Sharks Nose Tackle Jason Holman, forced a fumble which was recovered by Sharks Defensive End Ventrell Jenkins. The two switched from their normal positions for Saturdays game, which proved to be a successful change. Quickly after, Jomo Wilson brought down his third touchdown reception of the night. The increased defensive effort from Jacksonville helped keep the Sharks on top at the end of the third quarter, 54- 42.
Jacksonville managed to crush a fourth down conversion for Orlando on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Sharks took advantage of the immediate possession by scoring on a 3 yard rush by Kirby Griffin. The Jacksonville defense kept pouring on the punishment in the fourth quarter with an interception by Terrance Smith on the Jacksonville 1 yard line. The Sharks continued capitalizing on the damaged Orlando defense, when Jeff Hughley picked up a Kirby Griffin fumble off of a 23 yard run, and carried the ball the rest of the way for the Sharks third rushing touchdown of the night. The domination continued with a JaVonte Holmes safety on Orlando Quarterback Nick Hill. On the next offensive series for Jacksonville, Aaron Garcias pass off of the net resulted in his second interception of the night. Orlando showed signs of life with four minutes left in the fourth quarter on a 19 yard touchdown reception from Josh Bush, his third of the night. Jacksonville managed to seal the game up with a second rushing touchdown from Kirby Griffin, to put the Sharks ahead 76-49, which set a new franchise record for points in a game for Jacksonville. Kirby Griffin also managed to break the Sharks single season record for rushing yards, by passing 127 yards in the game. Orlando put points on the board in the last seconds of the game on a Nick Hill rushing touchdown, but the Sharks had the game by that point. The Sharks let time run down and sealed up their sixth consecutive victory by a score of 76- 55.
Saturday nights game proved to be more than memorable for Jacksonville, with four record being set inside Veterans Memorial Arena throughout the night. The victory made it the sixth consecutive win for the Sharks, which is the first time the Sharks have done this in franchise history. The call out from the Predators was surely answered by the Sharks in the game. The AFL experience was felt in its entirety on a night where Garcia stands alone in history, and the Sharks score more points than they ever have before. Garcia now has 1003 touchdown passes, which makes him two shy of both Dan Marino and Brett Favre combined. The Sharks improve to 6-1 and remain undefeated in division play. The Sharks also remain unbeaten at home in the 2011 season. The next game for the Sharks will be on the road against the Philadelphia Soul on Friday, May 6th. The next home game for the Sharks will be on Friday, May 13th at 8:00pm against the Iowa Barnstormers, and the theme will be Military Appreciation Night.
Offensive Player of the Game: Aaron Garcia, Jacksonville Sharks