05/02/2015 9:25 PM
JACKSONVILLE - The Jacksonville Sharks gave up three touchdowns in the final 2:02 of the first half on Saturday night, and could not recover from that Tampa Bay Storm surge, as the Sharks fell by a 63-28 count at Amalie Arena.
The complexion of the game turned in the final minutes of the second quarter, following a touchdown pass from Tommy Grady to Joe Hills that put Jacksonville (1-5) ahead, 14-7. On the second play of the ensuing Tampa Bay (3-3) drive, T.T. Toliver got behind the Jacksonville defense, pulling in a 38-yard pass from Jason Boltus to tie the game at 14 with just over two minutes remaining in the half. The Sharks were unable to handle the ensuing kickoff, as the Storm’s Rick-J Hill recovered the loose ball in the end zone, giving Tampa Bay a 21-14 lead.
At that point, the Sharks still had a chance to stay in the game, as the offense had nearly a minute to work with before halftime and was set to get the ball to open the third quarter. But with 30 seconds remaining in the half, James Harrell intercepted a Grady pass and returned it into Shark territory. The Jacksonville defense made a stand, forcing Tampa Bay into a fourth and goal situation, but Boltus found Toliver on the final play of the first half to give the Storm a two-score lead at the break.
Beginning the third quarter with the football, Jacksonville had an opportunity to close the gap. But the Sharks were unable to convert in the red zone, as Tampa Bay flushed Grady from the pocket on fourth down, leading to a rushed throw that fell incomplete. The Storm took over and turned that stop into a score, as Boltus and Toliver connected for a third time, as the four-yard touchdown pass helped put Tampa Bay on top, 35-14.
From there, the Sharks were unable to get any closer than that 21-point margin. While Grady connected with Tiger Jones on a short touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter, the Storm forced stops on all but one of the Sharks’ remaining possessions. For the Tampa Bay offense, Boltus continued to find the end zone in the second half, as he scrambled for a three-yard touchdown late in the third quarter and found Toliver and Kendrick Ings for scores in the fourth.
The Sharks were unable to take advantage of a fast defensive start. On the game’s opening possession, pressure from Joe Sykes forced a rushed fourth-down throw, leading to a turnover on downs. After Grady hit Jones for a 40-yard touchdown on the Sharks’ first offensive snap, Demarcus Robinson gave his team the ball back by undercutting a route and hauling in his first interception in a Jacksonville uniform. But the Sharks did not take advantage, as Jacksonville never led by more than seven points before Tampa Bay went on its second-quarter run.
For the Sharks, Grady completed 20 of his 36 pass attempts, throwing for 235 yards and three touchdowns against two interceptions. In a losing effort, Jones led Jacksonville with 122 yards and two scores on his eight receptions, extending his season-opening streak to six consecutive 100-yard games. Jeron Harvey totaled 10 catches for 104 yards, while Hills caught two passes for 17 yards before being ejected in the second quarter. On the ground, Derrick Ross carried the ball five times for 24 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, Joe Sykes totaled two tackles for loss and a sack. Entering the game as the AFL leader in both categories, Sykes has now taken down the opposing quarterback in five straight games. Robinson totaled 5.5 tackles (five solo) in addition to his interception.
For Tampa Bay, Boltus went 22-of-41 for 240 yards and six touchdowns against one pick, adding three carries for two yards and a score. Toliver led Tampa Bay with nine receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown, while Ings, Julius Gregory and Jarvis Williams each caught one scoring pass. Alfred Phillips led all players with 6.5 tackles and added an interception, while Dexter Jackson recorded a sack for Tampa Bay.
The Sharks will head back out on the road next week, as the team travels to face the Cleveland Gladiators on Saturday, May 9. Kickoff from Quicken Loans Arena is set for 7:00 p.m.
Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game – Tampa Bay WR T.T. Toliver
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game – Tampa Bay DB James Harrell
J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game – Tampa Bay DB James Harrell
Cutters Catch of the Game – Tampa Bay DB Alfred Phillips’ interception with 13:12 remaining in the second quarter
AFL Highlight of the Game – Tampa Bay DB Rick-J Hill’s net recovery touchdown with 1:00 remaining in the second quarter.
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 2015 season are now available, two tickets as low as $99. 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 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 2015 season. The AFL schedule culminates with ArenaBowl XXVIII Saturday, August 29, 2015 on ESPN.