05/04/2012 11:04 PM - JACKSONVILLE - On the night of their first national television appearance of the season, the ArenaBowl XXIV champion Jacksonville Sharks sent the home crowd happy, charging from 23 points down to emerge with a 41-37 win over the New Orleans VooDoo in front of 9,064 on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena on Friday night.
Down 37-21 to start the fourth quarter, the Sharks (3-4) scored on an 11-yard catch and run by Jamarko Simmons for what was his second score of the night. With the deficit cut to 10, the Sharks forced a VooDoo (3-4) fumble that was recovered in the end zone, bringing Jacksonville within three following the extra point.
The Sharks defense then stepped up again, as Aaron Robbins sacked VooDoo quarterback Kurt Rocco twice in one series. The second of those two sacks forced a turnover on downs, and from there, Jacksonville's Bernard Morris connected with Simmons to get inside the five yard line. Three plays later, Simmons recorded his second rushing score and third touchdown of the night, putting the Sharks ahead 41-37 with 3:43 to play.
New Orleans had a chance, getting to the Jacksonville 15 before the Shark defense made another stand to force yet another turnover on downs. New Orleans then used its final two timeouts to try to stop the clock, but Simmons moved the ball forward with 31 seconds left, allowing the Sharks to run out the clock secure the dramatic victory.
The VooDoo scored just six points in the entire second half, as Jacksonville's defensive front created sustained pressure throughout the comeback. Jacksonville also forced four fumbles but recovered just one.
Morris replaced an injured Omar Jacobs to start the third quarter. His first pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by New Orleans' Demarcus Robinson, putting the VooDoo ahead 37-14. But after that, Morris bounced back to protect the football for the rest of the game.
Morris finished 8-for-20 passing for 66 yards and two touchdowns. He also made several plays with his feet, at one point rushing for 14 yards to convert a 4th-and-10. Morris ended the game with five carries for 23 rushing yards. Before departing, Jacobs was 9-for-17 for 129 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Bobby Sewall led all Jacksonville receivers with 92 yards, including a 37-yard catch along the boards that was judged to be the Cutters Catch of the Game. Terrance Smith led the Sharks with seven catches for 61 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Simmons grabbed four passes for 42 yards and a score.
On the flip side, Quorey Payne enjoyed a dominant first half, scoring three receiving touchdowns on three separate fourth down situations. Rocco ended the game 16-for-26 for 198 yards and four touchdowns.
The Sharks will return to action next Saturday as the team hits the road to battle the first-place Philadelphia Soul at Wells Fargo Center. Kickoff for Saturday's game is set for 7:05 p.m.
Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game - Jacksonville QB Bernard Morris
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game - Jacksonvile DL Scooter Berry / Jacksonville MLB Aaron Robbins (tie)
JLS Ironman of the Game - Jacksonville WR/KR Terrance Smith
AFL Playmaker of the Game - New Orleans WR Quorey Payne
Cutters Catch of the Game - Jacksonville WR Bobby Sewall's 37-yd reception
Spalding Highlight of the Game - Sack/fumble recovered in the end zone by Jacksonville DL Scooter Berry
National Guard MVP of the Game - Jacksonville QB Bernard Morris
The Jacksonville Sharks are members of the Arena Football League (AFL). The ArenaBowl XXIV and back-to-back South Division Champions are presented by Sea Best Seafood and play all home games on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Season Tickets for the 2012 season are now available, two tickets as low as $87. To reserve your season tickets or for more information, please call (904) 621-0700. Follow the Sharks on facebook at facebook.com/jaxsharks and on Twitter @jaxsharks, as well as the Attack Dance Team at facebook.com/sharkattackdance.