PHILADELPHIA – Tommy Grady fired seven touchdown passes and the Jacksonville Sharks’ defense forced four turnovers, carrying the team to a 59-41 victory over the Philadelphia Soul on Monday night.
The Sharks never trailed in Monday’s game, and took command of the contest in the second half thanks to a combination of efficient offense and defensive stops. Coming out of the locker room with a one-point lead, Grady piloted the offense down the field, hitting Tiger Jones for a 28-yard touchdown strike that gave Jacksonville (1-1) a 35-27 lead.
Philadelphia (1-1) responded with a quick score, as Dan Raudabaugh connected with Darius Reynolds from 11 yards out to cut the Sharks’ lead to one. But from there, the Sharks embarked on a game-changing 24-point run that started with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Grady to Joe Hills.
On the ensuing possession, Jacksonville defensive back Greg Reid undercut Reynolds’ route, snaring his second interception of the night. Though Reid was ruled to have contacted the wall after it initially appeared that he had returned the pick for a score, the Sharks still took advantage of the turnover. Marco Capozzoli knocked home a 26-yarder on the first play of the fourth quarter, as his first field goal of the season put the Sharks ahead, 45-34.
Even with a two-score lead in hand, Shark defense was far from finished. On Philadelphia’s next drive, Reid and LaRoche Jackson converged on Soul receiver Ryan McDaniel, as Reid ultimately forced a fumble that David Hyland recovered, giving the Sharks’ offense the football back. Grady marched his team down the field again, hitting Hills from four yards out to give Jacksonville a 52-34 edge – their first three-score lead of the season.
Jackson stepped up with another turnover on the Soul’s next possession, as he trapped a deflected pass against the wall to secure an interception. Though an early whistle prevented Jackson from returning his first pick of the year, Grady and Hills made up for it with their fourth touchdown connection of the night, this one from 23 yards out. That score put the Sharks on top by a 59-34 count with just one minute remaining. Reynolds hauled in another touchdown for Philadelphia with 20 seconds left in the contest, but the Sharks burned off the remaining time on the following drive to secure the victory.
Before the Sharks turned the tide in the second half, the teams nearly matched one another throughout the first half. Each team scored on its first three drives before trading turnovers on downs in the second quarter. Jacksonville fullback Derrick Ross powered in from a yard out with 12 seconds left in the half, but the Soul were able to score on the final play before halftime. A missed extra point following that Philadelphia touchdown allowed the Sharks to take a 28-27 lead into the locker room.
Including last year’s American Conference Championship, Jacksonville has now won each of its last four meetings with Philadelphia, and has four wins over the Soul in five matchups since the start of the 2015 season.
In Monday’s victory, Grady completed 21 of his 35 pass attempts for 326 yards and seven touchdowns without an interception. The Jacksonville offensive line did an outstanding job in pass protection, as Grady was not sacked for the second straight week.
At receiver, Hills led the way with nine catches for 154 yards and four scores, extending his personal streak of 54 consecutive regular-season games with at least one touchdown reception. Jones crossed the 100-yard mark for the first time this season, totaling seven catches for 126 yards and two scores, while Roger Jackson caught his second touchdown in as many weeks. On the ground, Ross carried the ball six times for four yards and a score.
On defense, Reid racked up 10 tackles to go along with his two interceptions and forced fumble, while LaRoche Jackson made four stops in addition to his pick. Hyland totaled five tackles and a fumble recovery.
For Philadelphia, Raudabaugh went 24-of-36 for 306 yards and three touchdowns against three interceptions. Jeramie Richardson racked up 49 yards and a touchdown on just five rushing attempts, while Reynolds totaled 10 receptions for 129 yards and three touchdowns, adding a score on the ground. Joe Goosby led Philadelphia with 7.5 total tackles.
The Sharks will return to Jacksonville to prepare for their home opener, as the team hosts the Orlando Predators on Monday, April 18. Kickoff from the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena is set for 7:00 p.m