The Jacksonville Sharks (6-1) fell behind by three scores in the second quarter and ultimately could not complete a second-half comeback, as the Sharks dropped a 58-48 decision to the Arizona Rattlers in front of a season-high total of 11,076 fans on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena on Saturday night.
The loss ended Jacksonville’s season-opening six-game win streak. Arizona used a pair of first-half defensive stops to build a 34-19 halftime advantage, and though the Shark scored first in the second half to make it a one-sore contest, the Rattlers responded immediately and never trailed by fewer than two scores for the rest of the game. Though the Sharks totaled 22 points in the fourth quarter, the team was not able to convert a would-be game-changing onside kick.
The Sharks’ offensive star in defeat was wide receiver Jeron Harvey, whose 16 receptions were the most by any Shark receiver in a single game this season. Harvey also racked up 143 yards and three touchdowns, his third consecutive game with at least three scores. It was Harvey who helped put the Sharks on the board in the early stages of Saturday’s contest.
After Arizona received the opening kickoff, the Shark defense began the game with a strong stand. The Rattlers moved the ball into a first-and-goal situation before a holding penalty backed Arizona up to the 18. On second and long, Rashaad Duncan collapsed the pocket and brought down Rattler quarterback Nick Davila for his fourth sack of the season. Two plays later, Duncan swatted away Garrett Lindholm’s long field goal attempt to give the Sharks the ball at the Arizona 13.
It took just two plays for the Sharks to draw first blood, as quarterback Bernard Morris found Harvey for a one-yard touchdown to open the scoring. Harvey’s team-leading 14th touchdown of the year gave the Sharks the game’s first lead, 7-0.
But after that early score, Arizona responded with a long drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown run by Davila. The Rattler defense then asserted itself as the first half progressed, forcing the Sharks to go four-and-out on Jacksonville’s second possession. Two quick scores by the Arizona offense gave the visitors a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Sharks again had a tough time on offense as the second quarter got underway. On Jacksonville’s first possession of the frame, Morris threw three straight incompletions before the Rattlers blocked Marco Capozzoli’s 42-yard field goal try. On the very next play, Davila connected with Rod Windsor for a 23-yard touchdown, making it a two-score game.
After Morris and Harvey hooked up for their second touchdown of the game – this one a three-yard pass - Arizona extended its lead to 34-13 late in the second quarter. Davila found Trandon Harvey and Windsor in the end zone on back-to-back possessions to give the Rattlers that three score lead.
Needing a score to keep the game close at the half, the Jacksonville offense answered the call in the final minute of the second quarter. Morris led the Sharks down the field with a first-down throw to Markee White, and Harvey then found White on a timing pattern for a 14-yard touchdown with 20 seconds left in the half. The score cut the Jacksonville deficit to 34-19 as the teams entered the locker room.
For the Shark offense, the second half started in much the same way as the first half ended, as a sustained drive ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Morris to fullback Rendrick Taylor – his first touchdown grab of the year. Capozzoli’s extra point cut the Sharks’ deficit to 34-28, but Arizona answered with a touchdown run by Odie Armstrong.
The Sharks’ next possession proved pivotal, as Jacksonville had moved the ball into Arizona territory when Arkeith Brown stripped the ball from receiver Jarvis Williams. Tyre Glasper hopped on the fumble to force a turnover, and Davila found Windsor on the ensuing possession to put the Rattlers up by three scores.
From that point on, the Sharks could not cut the deficit closer than 10 points. The Sharks did put up 22 points in the final frame fired two fourth-quarter touchdowns, one each to Harvey and Williams, and Taylor added a rushing score. But Arizona also converted on every drive to sustain its lead. Trailing 58-48 in the final minute, the Sharks elected to kick deep, allowing the Rattlers to run out the clock.
To go along with Harvey’s monster day, Williams added 60 yards and a touchdown on his six catches. Williams’ score was a highlight-reel, one-handed grab to finish a 21-yard pass from Morris. White totaled 40 yards and a touchdown on his four grabs. Morris finished the game 27-of-41 for 255 yards and six scores. Though he did not thrown an interception, Morris was brought down twice by a Rattler pass rush that was a constant presence in the defensive backfield.
For Arizona, Windor racked up 145 yards and five touchdowns on his 14 catches, while Trandon Harvey added two grabs for 45 yards and a score. Davila was efficient in the Rattler victory, going 21-of-30 for 251 yards and six touchdowns.
On defense, Jamaal Fudge led the Sharks with seven tackles (six solo) and Terrance Smith recorded a pass breakup. Duncan recorded the team’s lone sack, while Matt Marcorelle was also a factor on the defensive line, batting down a pair of passes and blowing up a run play in the backfield.
Arizona defensive back Marquis Floyd led all players with seven solo tackles and three pass breakups, while Jeremy Kellem added six total tackles (four solo) and two breakups of his own. Antron Dillon and Marcus Pittman each recorded a sack for Arizona.
The Sharks return to the field next weekend, heading to San Antonio for a road test against the Talons on Saturday, May 11. This will be the Sharks’ first appearance on “Net10 Wireless Arena Football Saturday,” as the game will air live nationally on CBS Sports Network. Kickoff is set for 9:30 p.m. Eastern. ??