For the second time in as many weeks, a failed two-point conversion in the final seconds proved costly for the Jacksonville Sharks, as the team fell to the Portland Steel by a 55-53 count at Moda Center on Saturday night.
Following a 19-yard field goal by Portland (2-12) kicker Ernesto Lacayo, the Sharks trailed 55-47 with 54 seconds remaining. Beginning their final possession at the nine, the Jacksonville (5-9) offense moved down the field efficiently, working the clock to set up a first-and-goal from the one-yard line with 10 seconds remaining. On that first-down snap, Derrick Ross took a handoff from Tommy Grady and powered in for his second rushing touchdown of the night, bringing the Sharks to within two points with eight seconds remaining.
Needing a two-point conversion to tie the game and potentially force overtime, Grady dropped back to pass and hit Tiger Jones on a short pass over the middle. But the Steel defense swarmed Jones after the catch, keeping the Jacksonville receiver out of the end zone. Following the failed two-pointer, the Portland offense moved the ball forward twice, forcing Jacksonville to use its final timeout before running down the remainder of the clock to end the game.
This marked the second consecutive week in which the Sharks needed a two-point conversion to tie in the final 10 seconds and came up empty, as the team suffered a similar fate against the Arizona Rattlers two weeks ago.
Earlier in the fourth quarter, the Sharks had an opportunity to make a game-changing turnover. With the Steel ahead by five and in the red zone, Portland quarterback Shane Austin hit Jared Perry on a quick pass to the right. As Perry turned the corner and stretched for the end zone, he lost control of the football, fumbling it into the end zone before recovering it himself. The initial call on the field gave the Sharks the ball following a touchback, but after review it was ruled that the loose ball hit the side wall and therefore remained live until Perry snagged it for a Steel touchdown. That play allowed the Steel to regain a two- score lead, 52-40, with 6:34 to play.
The Jacksonville offense was stopped just one time, on Saturday night as the Sharks opened the third quarter with a turnover on downs. At the time, the Sharks trailed by four points and an empty possession prevented Jacksonville from taking its first lead of the game. Instead, Portland turned that stop into a score, as Austin found Nick Truesdell for a nine-yard touchdown that put the Steel on top, 37-28.
In the first half, each team scored on each of its drives, as the Sharks’ offense put up four touchdowns in four possessions. Portland found the end zone on each of its first four drives as well before Lacayo drilled a 19-yarder to give the Steel a 31-27 halftime advantage.
In the loss, Grady completed 25 of his 35 pass attempts and threw for 293 yards and four touchdowns against an interception. Joe Hills led the Sharks with eight catches for 96 yards and three touchdowns, while Jones recorded seven catches for 88 yards and a score and Reggie Gray added 70 yards on eight receptions. Derrick Ross ran effectively, totaling 23 yards and two touchdown on eight carries, while Dexter Jackson scored a short touchdown on each of his two rushing attempts. On defense, David Hyland led the Sharks with 6.5 total tackles (six solo).
On the other side, Austin went 17-of-27 for 120 yards and two touchdowns without throwing a pick. Perry proved to be Austin’s favorite target, totaling six receptions for 63 yards and a score. The Steel racked up four rushing touchdowns, as Kevin Myers scored twice, Austin found the end zone on a quarterback sneak and Truesdell added a rushing touchdown of his own. Mike McMillan led all players with 7.5 tackles (seven solo), while Bryson Kelly and Robert Hayes each recorded a sack.
Jacksonville will now return home for the final two games of the regular season, as the Sharks host the Los Angeles KISS on Saturday, July 23. Kickoff from Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena is set for 7:00 p.m.