Sharks fall to Predators at home; 44-34
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Orlando Predators played with a purpose Saturday night, beating the Jacksonville Sharks 44-34 seven nights after a gunman killed 49 people in an Orlando nightclub.
Jacksonville (5-6) scored just two touchdowns in the second half – the second one coming with only 1:00 remaining. Counting the final drive of the first half, the Sharks were held scoreless on five of their final seven possessions.
The loss kept the Sharks from getting over the .500 mark for the first time this season. It also went a long way to locking up homefield advantage for the Predators (10-2) in the playoffs.
The Sharks also dropped to 1-4 on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
Jacksonville players and fans joined with Orlando in a moment of silence for the victims before the game. The Predators also replaced player names with #ORLANDOUNITED on their jerseys.
Greg Carr caught four passes for 75 yards, but all were touchdowns for Orlando.
Jacksonville’s Tommy Grady completed 29 of 40 passes for 303 yards and four TDs, but he also lost a fumble that resulted on a safety, and he was intercepted on the Sharks’ final drive.
Both teams scored on their first three possessions – Orlando with a 4-yard pass from Randy Hippeard to Greg Carr, a 5-yard pass to Brandon Thompkins and a 7-yard pass to Carr; Jacksonville with a 16-yard pass from Tommy Grady to Tiger Jones, a 16-yard pass to Joe Hills and a 3-yard run by Derrick Ross.
While both teams scored with ease in the first quarter, defense dominated the second quarter. LaRoche Jackson intercepted Hippeard at the Sharks’ 15 with 7:10 remaining before halftime.
The Predators, however, got the ball back on downs and Jacksonville ended the half with a goal line stand.
The Sharks opened the second half with a six-play, 45-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard Grady-to-Hills TD pass. Lindsey Wolfe’s point after touchdown kick sailed wide left, leaving Jacksonville with a 27-21 advantage.
Hippeard then threw a 2-yard touchdown to Brandon Thompkins on the Predators’ next possession. Mark Lewis’ PAT was good, lifting Orlando to a 28-27 lead midway in the third quarter.
The Predators were in good position to seize control by forcing a turnover on Jacksonville’s next possession. Moqut Ruffins caught a tight end screen from Grady and got within inches of the goal line when defensive end Logan Harrell punched the ball out and into the stands for a touchback.
But the Sharks defense made another red zone stand, ending with a fourth-down throw to Paul Browning that was broken up by Greg Reid and Alvin Ray Jackson on the second play of the fourth quarter.
The Sharks offense still couldn’t take advantage. Grady was had the ball stripped while he was being sacked in the end zone on a fourth-and-15. The safety not only gave the Predators a 30-27 lead; it also gave them the ball with 11:37 remaining.
Jacksonville was in position to steal back a possession on Orlando’s next possession. David Hyland dropped an easy interception and the Predators recovered two fumbles on the next drive. Also, Greg Reid was flagged for pass interference on an incomplete pass on fourth-and-12 in the Sharks’ end zone.
Hippeard left the game on the second fumble with an apparent injury to his left leg. Bernard Morris replaced him and immediately threw a 13-yard TD pass to Carr. Lewis’ PAT put Orlando out front 37-27 with 3:06 to play.
Grady finally broke a run of four consecutive scoreless possessions with a 9-yard pass to Hills, but the Predators answered with a 9-yard TD from Morris-to-Carr with 47 seconds remaining.
Orlando wrapped up the victory when Paul Stephens intercepted Grady with 20 seconds to play.
The Sharks will entertain the Cleveland Gladiators next Saturday at 7 p.m.
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