The Jacksonville Sharks opened their 2013 home schedule in style on Friday night, racing out to a 28-0 lead en route to a 76-30 victory over the New Orleans VooDoo in front of 8,330 at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
With the win, Jacksonville (4-0) extended what already stood the best start to a season in franchise history. The Sharks have now won two South Division games in as many tries, and fell just three points short of tying the franchise record for most points in a single game.
The Sharks broke the game open early with a dominant first quarter. Mac linebacker Aaron Robbins set the tone on the second play of the game, when he sacked New Orleans (1-2) starting quarterback Kurt Rocco for a five-yard loss. After the Shark defense forced a turnover on downs later in that series, Bernard Morris hit Jeff Hughley for the game’s first touchdown on the Sharks’ second offensive snap.
Hughley struck again at the end of New Orleans’ next possession. When a Gary Cismesia field goal attempt missed, Hughley picked up the loose ball, cut past several would-be-tacklers and raced to the end zone for the first missed field goal return touchdown in Jacksonville franchise history. Hughley added another receiving touchdown on his team’s next drive, giving Jacksonville a 21-0 lead.
With a three-score lead in hand, the Shark defense helped break the game open even further, as Terrance Smith and Bill Alford intercepted Rocco on back-to-back possessions. Rendrick Taylor capped each ensuing drive with a short touchdown run, extending the Sharks’ advantage to 35-0 early in the second quarter. Taylor finished the game with four scores on the ground, matching a team record last reached by Kirby Griffin during the 2011 season.
After the VooDoo offense got on the board with a pair of second-quarter touchdowns, Smith closed the first half in style. He stepped in front of Zack Eskridge’s pass, grabbing the interception in the end zone and returning it for a touchdown as time expired in the half. Smith’s big play gave the Sharks a 55-12 advantage heading into the locker room.
Smith finished the game as one of several defensive stars, totaling four tackles and a pass breakup to go along with those interceptions, while Micheaux Robinson racked up six solo tackles and a team-high three pass breakups. Robinson has now broken up over 100 passes in his outstanding four-plus-year AFL career. Along the front four, Matt Marcorelle led the way with two sacks, while Robbins totaled two tackles for loss to go along with his first-quarter sack.
The halftime whistle signaled the end of the night for Morris, who attempted just six passes in spite of the Sharks’ prolific first-half output. Morris ended the game five-of-six for 45 yards and a pair of scores, adding two rushing yards. Most importantly, Morris extended his string of turnover-free play, as the Shark signal-caller has now accounted for 23 total touchdowns (20 passing, three rushing) without throwing an interception or losing a fumble this season. R.J. Archer replaced Morris at the beginning of the third quarter, completing 11 of his 16 passes for 132 yards and two scores in his first game action of the regular season.
At receiver, Markee White led the offense with five catches for 75 yards and a score, while Jeron Harvey caught 6 passes for 68 yards. Smith and Dusty Bear saw time on offense in the second half and each recorded a reception.
For the VooDoo, Courtney Smith led all receivers with eight catches for 150 yards and a touchdown in a losing effort. Donovan Morgan recorded a game-high three touchdown catches, while defensive back Eddie Moten logged seven total tackles (five solo) and a pass breakup. Rocco completed 13 of his 28 passes for 172 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, while Eskridge went 6-for-9 for 71 yards, two scores and a pick.
The win combined with a Tampa Bay Storm loss gives the Sharks a one-and-a-half-game lead in the South Division, as each of Jacksonville’s divisional foes has lost at least two games through the season’s first four weeks.
The Sharks return to Sea Best Field next Friday night, hosting the Central Division’s Iowa Barnstormers. Kickoff on “Faith and Family Night” is set for 8 p.m. as local performer Austin Adamec will play a live set following the conclusion of the game.