The Jacksonville Sharks broke open a close game late in the fourth quarter on Saturday night, scoring the final 22 points of the contest en route to a 68-48 victory over the Iowa Barnstormers.
With the win, Jacksonville (3-5) snapped a three-game losing streak and picked up its first road win of the 2014 season. In a game that saw the Sharks jump out to a big early lead but turned into a back-and-forth battle, Jacksonville turned the tide with a number of key defensive plays in the second half.
The Sharks trailed by a 48-46 count late in the third quarter after Iowa (4-4) wide receiver Marco Thomas hauled in a 48-yard touchdown pass from Carson Coffman. But the Jacksonville offense responded with a score, as R.J. Archer led the team down the field and found London Crawford from four yards out to give the Sharks a 53-48 lead as the fourth quarter began.
On their first drive of the final frame, Iowa moved down the field and into the red zone. As Coffman dropped back and fired a pass to his left, Terrance Smith stepped in front of the throw, pulled down a pick and sprinted along the wall for a 48-yard touchdown return to put his team up by two scores. On Iowa’s very next drive, after Brian Reader replaced a banged-up Coffman, Smith sprinted under an overthrown pass to corral his second pick in as many drives, returning it deep into Iowa territory.
Though the Sharks were unable to convert on the ensuing drive, turning the ball over on downs in the red zone, the Jacksonville defense stepped up with another big play. As Iowa faced a fourth-and-goal from its own six, multiple pass rushers broke through the line, forcing emergency quarterback Darius Reynolds to get called for intentional grounding. The safety gave the Sharks a 61-48 edge with just under a minute left.
After the Barnstormers’ onside kick attempt was unsuccessful, the Jacksonville offense then finished the job, as Crawford pulled in his fourth touchdown pass of the game in the final minute to seal the final result.
Though the game was close into the final quarter, the Sharks actually had a three-score lead on multiple occasions in the first half. The game’s first big swing came in the first quarter, as kicker Fabrizio Scaccia put a kickoff off the iron, which bounced away from the Iowa returner and was recovered by Xavier Brewer in the end zone for a Jacksonville touchdown. On Iowa’s very next drive, Smith forced a fumble that was recovered by Charlie Hunt, a turnover that led directly to a touchdown pass from Archer to Harvey.
Those early scores gave the Sharks a 27-7 lead, but Iowa mounted a comeback courtesy of a few defensive stops in the second quarter. The Sharks ultimately led 40-34 heading into halftime, as the Barnstormers scored on the opening drive of the third quarter to take a one-point lead. The two teams then traded touchdowns in the third, setting the situation before Jacksonville’s 22-point run.
In command of the Sharks’ offense, Archer compiled his second consecutive eight-touchdown, zero-interception performance, as he completed 20 of 38 passes for 302 yards. Crawford emerged as the Sharks’ leading receiver, hauling in nine passes for 130 yards and four scores, his second four-touchdown game in as many weeks. Harvey and Wilson each scored two touchdowns on their five receptions, totaling 80 and 66 yards, respectively.
On defense, Smith totaled three tackles to go along with his two interceptions and forced fumble. Brodrick Brown led the Sharks with 4.5 total tackles (four solo).
For Iowa, Coffman went 12 of 22 for 211 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Derik Steiner notched a pair of rushing touchdowns, while Marco Thomas led the Barnstormers with nine receptions for 169 yards and three touchdowns.
Next week, the Sharks return home to face the Orlando Predators on Saturday, May 17. Kickoff from Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena is set for 7:00 p.m and can be seen on the local station.