JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jacksonville Sharks will welcome the Iowa Barnstormers to town on Friday, April 19. Kickoff from Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena is set for 8:00 as the Sharks aim to improve to 5-0 for the first time in franchise history. On Faith and Family Night, fans are asked to bring a donation of canned food that will be collected on behalf of Second Harvest North Florida.
Jacksonville (4-0) returns to the field one week after shutting down the New Orleans VooDoo to the tune of a 76-30 final last Friday night. The undefeated Sharks sit atop a South Division in which every other team has at least two losses, and the team stands a game and a half above the Philadelphia Soul in the American Conference.
In addition to their success this season, the Sharks bring a strong history in the head-to-head matchup against Iowa (2-2), as the team handled the Barnstormers in each of the two teams' previous matchups. In the teams' only meeting in 2012, the Sharks took a 31-7 halftime lead and cruised to a 55-19 win that was their second victory in as many tries against this week's opponent. Worth noting is that the Sharks have never played the Barnstormers on the road – both previous meetings were held on Sea Best Field.
The victory over New Orleans highlighted the Sharks' playmaking defense, a unit that has been a tremendous part of the team's 4-0 start. The Sharks forced four turnovers last week, including Terrance Smith's interception return for a touchdown on the final play of the first half. Entering this week, the Sharks rank tied for third in the league with a plus-six turnover margin.
Along with the turnovers, the Sharks' front four continued to dominate the opposition. The Sharks racked up another four sacks in Week 4 and now lead the league with 16 quarterback takedowns this season. Each of the Sharks' starting defensive linemen – Rashaad Duncan, Jerry Turner and Matt Marcorelle – has already recorded two or more sacks in a single game this year, while Mac linebacker Aaron Robbins leads the entire League with 5.0 tackles for loss.
What already is a major advantage for the Sharks is amplified by the fact that Iowa has given up more sacks (12) than all but one team in the league to this point in the year. One week after yielding six sacks against the Philadelphia Soul, the Iowa offensive line will need to be on point if it hopes to slow down the Jacksonville pass rush.
On the other side, this week's game features a matchup of strength against strength. The Shark offense has been on point to this point in the year, as the team has crossed the 60-point mark in every game this season. With that said, the Barnstormer defense has given up 55 or more points just once in 2013, a 66-43 loss to Spokane in Week 3.
Iowa brings a potent secondary to the field, as each of the team's starting defensive backs has recorded two interceptions this season. But Shark quarterback Bernard Morris has not found a defense that he couldn't pick apart. One of just two AFL quarterbacks without a turnover this season, Morris will look to extend his run of 24 total touchdowns without a turnover.
Two of Morris' top targets have streaks on the line as well. The reigning Playmaker of the Week, Jeff Hughley, has caught two touchdown passes in every game this season, while fellow wideout Markee White has found the end zone in each of the Sharks' first four contests.
An area of concern for Jacksonville can be found on special teams, where Barnstormer kick returner Jason Simpson has racked up an average of 22.4 yards per kickoff return without the benefit of a long touchdown. He will look to expose a Shark kickoff coverage unit that is working to improve on its No. 11 ranking among the League's 14 teams.
The Sharks and Barnstormers will square of at 8:00 on Friday.
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