Sharks ready for home opener
After beginning the 2013 season with three consecutive road wins, the Jacksonville Sharks are set to put an undefeated record on the line on Friday when the New Orleans VooDoo come to town for a divisional matchup.
Kickoff in this Week 4 contest is set for 8 p.m. on Sea Best Field at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. The game will air live on WJXT.
The Sharks have enjoyed success against the VooDoo in the past, winning three of the teams’ previous four matchups. The squads split the season series in 2012, as Jacksonville won the first matchup with an incredible comeback. In that game, the Sharks trailed 37-14 in the third quarter before scoring the game’s final 27 points en route to a 41-37 victory. The VooDoo returned the favor with a late-season victory in New Orleans.
Moving back to 2013, Jacksonville (3-0) enters this week fresh off a 66-49 victory over the Cleveland Gladiators last Saturday night. Last week’s game showcased the early-season effectiveness of the Sharks’ offense, as Jacksonville currently ranks fourth in the league with an average of 63.7 points per game. In fact, the Sharks have crossed the 60-point threshold in every game this season.
Perhaps the biggest reason for the offense’s success is that the team has protected the football. Jacksonville has turned the ball over just twice in three games, fumbling once in the season opener against Tampa Bay and once last Saturday. In his second year as the team’s starting quarterback Bernard Morris has opened the year by accounting for 21 total touchdowns (18 passing, three rushing) without a single turnover. As a result, Morris currently ranks as the second-most efficient passer in the league, behind only Spokane’s Erik Meyer.
The Shark offense will face a tall task on Friday, however, as the VooDoo make their way to Jacksonville with the league’s second-ranked scoring defense (46.5 points per game). The Sharks must be especially careful when backed up deep in their own end, as the VooDoo have forced a pair of safeties this season.
One advantage that New Orleans (1-1) brings is size in the secondary, as defensive backs Demarcus Robinson and Delvin Breaux stand at 6’2” and 6’1”, respectively. Though playmaking Shark receiver Jeff Hughley stands at just 5’8”, head coach Les Moss has the ability to send out a receiver group of Jeron Harvey, Jarvis Williams and Markee White, all of whom check in at 6’5” or taller.
On the flip site, VooDoo quarterback Kurt Rocco and his offensive line will have to contend with a Shark front four that has proven to be absolutely lethal in 2013. After recording just one sack in the season opener, the Sharks racked up a team-record seven sacks in Week 2, and four more last time out. Not only does Jacksonville’s total of 12 sacks lead the league, but it is equal to the totals of the second- and third-ranked teams combined, as Utah and Spokane have six apiece.
In each of the last two weeks, a Shark has tied the all-time team record with three sacks in a single game. First, Jerry Turner was named Riddell Defensive Player of the Week for his three-sack performance against Pittsburgh, then Rashaad Duncan matched the feat one week later. In fact, Turner (4.0), Duncan (3.5) and Aaron Robbins (3.0) rank first, second and third in the league in tackles for loss.
For their part, the VooDoo offense features an impressive amount of experience at receiver. Traded to New Orleans in the offseason, Louisiana native Donovan Morgan saw his first action of the season in Week 2. In his fifth AFL season, Morgan joins a receiving corps that includes eighth-year pro Derek Lee and fifth-year pro Brent Holmes.
With that said, the Shark secondary is itself full of AFL veterans, as each of the Sharks’ four defensive backs has at least two full seasons of AFL experience. In his fourth season as a Shark, Micheaux Robinson is off to a torrid start, as he has pulled in two of the Sharks’ three interceptions and leads the league with eight pass breakups. Robinson is just two shy of totaling 100 pass breakups in his impressive AFL career.
Friday’s game will be “College Night” on Sea Best Field, as all students, professors and administrators from any college, university, trade school or other post-secondary institution can obtain Buy One, Get One Free tickets for this game only. To take advantage of this promotion, fans must simply bring their college ID to the arena box office.
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