06/10/2011 1:48 PM -
The Jacksonville Sharks (10-1) prepare to battle the Orlando (8-3) in a game that could ultimately decide the winner of the South division. The second of two scheduled games this season will take place at the Amway Center in Orlando on Saturday, June 11, 2011. The game will be broadcast live on 1010 XL, hosted by Terry Norvelle doing play-by-play and Joshua Jackson assisting with color commentary.
In reaction to Orlando taunting Jacksonville during the the first game in April, Jacksonville fueled the flames of the budding rivalry by purchasing five billboards around the Orlando area. Rather than displaying a message from the franchise, the Sharks left it up to the fans to tweet their messages to the Predators.
This is the fifth game between the two teams and Jacksonville holds a 2-2 record against the Predators. The Predators are one of only two teams that the Sharks have lost twice to, the other being the Arizona Rattlers. In the last head-to-head matchup, Jacksonville won handily 76-55 and set a then-franchise record for points in a game.
The Predators come into the game against the Sharks fresh off a 77-61 victory over the Iowa Barnstormers. The 77 points is the most that the Predators have ever scored in a game in their storied 20-year history. The Predators, led by AFL offensive yards leader, Nick Hill will look to continue their scoring frenzy versus the Sharks. The Predators have an array of offensive weapons, led by one of the best wide receiver trios in the league, that seems to grow more dangerous over time. T.T Toliver, Robert Quiroga and Bobby Sippio all have over 800 yards receiving. During their game vs. the Barnstormers, wide receiver Bobby Sippio caught 6 Touchdowns, tied for the second highest single game total in the AFL this season. Sippio has scored 8 touchdowns against the Sharks in the last two games. Defensively, the Predators are just as dangerous. Defensive Back Rayshaun Kizer is second in the AFL with 12 interceptions and returned one for a touchdown last week against the Barnstomers. The Predators have intercepted 28 passes on the season while the Sharks have intercepted 21. Defensive Lineman Mark Robinson leads the Predators with has 5.5 sacks on the season.
The Jacksonville Sharks have looked a little more vulnerable in the past two games versus the Georgia Force and the New Orleans Voodoo as compared to earlier in the season, winning these games by a combined 14 points. Even giving up 55 points in both games, the Sharks are second in the AFL in scoring defense, allowing 44.6 points per game. Led by quarterback Aaron Garcia, the Sharks are a model of consistency and Garcia has grown confident in his wide receiver core. Receiver Jomo Wilson is only 31 yards from setting the franchise record for receiving yards in a season with 1121. While Wilson and fellow receiver Jeron Harvey are battling it out with 28 and 27 receiving touchdowns, respectively.
During the last game against the Predators, Harvey led the receivers with 105 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Wilson had an additional three touchdowns. Another growing weapon has been the emergence of kick returner/wide receiver Jeff Hughley. Hughley had a huge game last week vs. the VooDoo returning 5 kicks for 175 yards. He is averaging over 130 kick return yards per game over the last three games. Defensively, the Sharks will have defensive back LaRoche Jackson return after missing last week with an injury. The Sharks will also have another game of continuity among the defensive front amid the reshuffling that occurred after Jason Holman took over for Ventrell Jenkins at Nose Guard. Last week,Linebacker Aaron Robbins got a lot of pressure on the VooDoo Quarterbacks. He will look to turn that pressure into sacks against Predators Quarterback Nick Hill.
This is a big game for the Sharks for a variety of reasons. If the Sharks get a victory against the Predators, they will have a three game lead on the Predators in the division standings. Also with a victory the Sharks will only have to win three more games to clinch the division,barring that Orlando does not lose again. If the Sharks lose however, they will need to win an additional five games barring that Orlando wins out. Also this is the last game of a three road game stretch for the Sharks before finally returning to Sea Best Field on June 18.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Will Aaron Garcia keep the ball away from Orlando's ball-hawking secondary? Orlando's deadly secondary has 28 interceptions on the season and Defensive Back Rayshaun Kizer has 12 of those. Defensive back Travis Coleman had an additional 3 last week as well.
Can the Sharks get turnovers? The Sharks are +18 in turnovers while the Predators are +10. Whichever team wins the turnover battle will most likely win the game.
Can Sharks return man Jeff Hughley duplicate last week's success on kickoff returns? He had 175 yards last week and gave the Sharks superior field position all game.
Is the pressure to big? The Sharks are still a young team with 8 rookie starters while the Predators have one of the more experienced roster in the AFL. This is the biggest game that the Sharks have played in this season. Will the inexperience have an effect?