05/08/2014 7:41 AM
JACKSONVILLE – The Jacksonville Sharks (2-5) will hit the road this week for a matchup with the Iowa Barnstormers (4-3) on Saturday, May 10. Kickoff from Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines is set for 8:05 p.m., and the game will air live on AM 600 WBOB, as well as online via ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.
The Sharks enter this week in the midst of a three-game losing streak, as the team fell to the Arizona Rattlers by a 70-61 count last Saturday night. Though the Sharks dropped that decision to the two-time defending champs, Jacksonville was able to tread water in the South Division thanks to Week 8 losses by both the Orlando Predators and Tampa Bay Storm.
With back-to-back games against Orlando and Tampa Bay on the horizon, the Sharks have an opportunity to quickly gain ground in the division. But before turning their attention to those Florida foes, the team must take on an improved Barnstormer squad that enters this week tied for second in the East Division. The Sharks will also be dealing with a new experience this week, as this will be the team’s first trip to Iowa in franchise history. Each of the three previous meetings between the two squads came on Sea Best Field, as the Sharks hold a perfect 3-0 record in the all-time series.
To get back in the win column this week, the Sharks will strive to maintain their offensive efficiency from last week’s game against Arizona. Excluding the final possession before halftime, in which the team only had enough time to run one play and attempt a 35-yard field goal, the Sharks found the end zone on each of their first nine full drives against the Rattlers.
Last week’s game served as a bounce-back for quarterback R.J. Archer, who set a new season high with eight touchdown passes without throwing an interception. Archer had been picked off three times in each of his previous two starts, and this week must keep the ball away from an opportunistic Barnstormer secondary that has racked up 15 interceptions in seven games.
As always, a major factor in the Sharks’ offensive success is the ability to spread the ball around. While London Crawford led the charge with 178 yards and four touchdowns against Arizona, Jomo Wilson notched his second consecutive 100-yard, two-touchdown performance and Jeron Harvey found the end zone twice as well. Jacksonville also found a new threat on the ground in R.J. Bibbs, who ran effectively when called upon against the Rattlers. Bibbs totaled 16 yards on his four carries, scoring the first rushing touchdown of his career in the second quarter.
While the Sharks’ offense continues to develop, the Jacksonville defense is looking to recapture the form it showed in the early part of the season. The Sharks have yielded 69 and 70 points, respectively, in the last two games, as the Rattlers scored a touchdown on every drive up until they ran out the clock at the end of the fourth quarter. While Iowa’s offense is tenth in the league with an average of 47.6 points per game, the Barnstormers feature a pair of talented receivers and an improving young quarterback.
After serving as a part-time starter with the Chicago Rush a year ago, Carson Coffman is in the midst of his first season at the helm of the Iowa offense. Coffman has thrown every pass for the Barnstormers this season, and has put together a solid ratio of 34 touchdown passes against seven interceptions. Coffman benefits from two targets that can stretch the field on a consistent basis. Marco Thomas (18) and Darius Reynolds (12) have combined for 30 of Iowa’s touchdown catches, and each player averages better than 13 yards per catch.
The Sharks must also be wary of the ground game. Iowa fullback Derik Steiner is averaging 17.0 yards per game, while Coffman has shown a propensity to scramble when necessary, totaling 55 yards on 12 carries this season.
On the other side of the ball, the Sharks’ pass-protection unit must contend with one of the league’s best defensive linemen, as Mike Lewis leads the Barnstormers with 7.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. In the secondary, Iowa features three players – Tramain Thomas, De’Mon Glanton and Jason Simpson – who have three or more interceptions this season.
Next week, the Sharks will return to Sea Best Field to host the Orlando Predators on Saturday, May 17. As part of Military Appreciation Night, all military personnel (both active and retired) may obtain Buy One, Get One Free tickets for this game. Tickets for this and all future Sharks home games may be purchased by calling 904-621-0700.
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. Season Tickets for the 2014 season are now available, two tickets for as low as $121. To purchase 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 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 season. The AFL schedule then culminates with the ArenaBowl Championship game live on ESPN.