05/11/2012 6:30 AM - JACKSONVILLE – The ArenaBowl XXIV Champion Jacksonville Sharks travel to the Northeast this weekend for a road test against the Philadelphia Soul at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night. The game is scheduled to kick off at 7:05 p.m. and will air live locally on CW17.
The Sharks enter this game riding the momentum of last weekend’s nationally televised comeback against the New Orleans VooDoo. Down 37-14 in the second half, the Sharks scored the final 27 points of the game to emerge with a 41-37 victory.
In that game, Jacksonville’s defense turned the tide with a relentless pass rush. Early in the fourth quarter, Scooter Berry pounced on a fumble by VooDoo quarterback Kurt Rocco for a Jacksonville touchdown. In his first season in the AFL, Berry has emerged as one of the Sharks’ top pass rushers, leading the team with four sacks in 2012.
Later in the second half, Aaron Robbins and Jeff Littlejohn combined on two sacks in the same series to force a key turnover on downs. The Sharks also benefitted from an onside kick recovery and a key fourth-down scramble by quarterback Bernard Morris.
Morris had entered the game in the beginning of the third quarter, replacing injured starter Omar Jacobs. Though Morris’ first pass of the game was intercepted and returned for a touchdown, the third-year veteran rebounded to lead the Jacksonville comeback. Should Jacobs be unable to play on Saturday, Morris is ready to step into the starting role.
For his part, Morris said that he prepares the same for each game regardless of the situation.
“I look at every game the same,” Morris said. “You know, I’ve gotta go in and do my job, and as long as I do my job everything will take care of itself.”
Against the VooDoo, Morris got plenty of help from receivers Jamarko Simmons – who accounted for a team-high three touchdowns last Friday night – and Bobby Sewall, who leads the team with 13.1 yards per reception. Alongside the consistent excellence of Terrance Smith, Simmons and Sewall have stepped up in the absence of Jeron Harvey, who will miss a third straight game after being placed on injured reserve in April.
The Shark receiving corps got a little deeper this week, as V’Keon Lacey was activated from injured reserve on Wednesday. On the flip side, the Jacksonville secondary must overcome the loss of JaVonte Holmes, placed on injured reserve after being injured in the first half against the VooDoo.
Jacksonville’s defense must contend with a Soul team that has scored 60 or more points in each of their last six games. Philadelphia leads the AFL in points (577), points per game (73.2) and rushing yards per game (36.2), ranking third overall in total offense (325.4 yards per game). Morris feels that his team is prepared to meet this challenge.
“I think we got better as a team,” Morris said of the Sharks’ week of practice. “There was a lot of intensity and enthusiasm out here this week. We’re really close to getting to where we want to be as a team, and it’s going to be a challenge to go up there and play Philly.”
Know Your Foe
Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh is in his first year at the helm of the high-powered Philadelphia offense. Joining the team after spending 2011 with the Dallas Vigilantes, Raudabaugh has 53 touchdown passes and a 124.0 pass efficiency rating, ranking second in the League in both categories. He has only thrown five interceptions to this point in the season and has five separate games in which he has not been picked off.
The Soul’s top downfield threat is one of Raudabaugh’s former Dallas teammates in Tiger Jones, who has 24 touchdown receptions and has already eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark. Philadelphia also boasts the league’s leading rusher, as Derrick Ross has ran for 229 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The Sharks will also line up against a pair of familiar faces on Saturday, as receiver Jeff Hughley and defensive back Micheaux Robinson were key contributors to Jacksonville’s championship team in 2011. This year, Hughley has emerged as the Soul’s second-leading receiver and has a pair of kickoff returns for touchdowns, while Robinson has recorded one interception and three fumble recoveries.
Next Home Game
Following this weekend’s contest, the Sharks will return to Jacksonville to prepare for a home tilt with the Iowa Barnstormers on Saturday, May 19. That game will be Military Appreciation Night, as the Sharks offer Buy One, Get One Free tickets to all active military members, veterans and their families.
In addition, the Sharks will wear unique camouflage jerseys, which will be auctioned after the game with proceeds going to the Armed Forces Families Foundation. Fans are encouraged to visit jaxsharks.com to find more information about the many charitable aspects of Military Appreciation Night.
About the Jacksonville Sharks
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.