JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Sharks forced four stops on defense and scored on their first six offensive possessions, as that combined team effort led to a 46-32 victory in front of 11,840 on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena on Saturday night.
The Jacksonville (6-9) defense changed the tone of the game with back-to-back defensive stops in the first half. With the score tied at seven late in the first quarter, Los Angeles (7-8) faced a fourth-and-10 from the Sharks’ 12-yard line. As the Sharks’ pass rush bore down on the KISS” signal-caller, the Jacksonville secondary maintained tight coverage, forcing a rushed throw that missed wide of its intended receiver. After the turnover on downs, the Sharks marched down the field, as a two-yard rushing touchdown by Derrick Ross gave Jacksonville the lead for good, 13-7.
On the KISS’ ensuing possession, the Sharks’ defense stepped up again. This time, another rushed throw wound up behind Los Angeles receiver Donovan Morgan, as the Sharks forced their second turnover on downs in as many drives. Five plays later, the Jacksonville offense cashed in with another score, as Tommy Grady hit Joe Hills for a four-yard touchdown to extend the Sharks’ lead to 20-7.
After the two teams traded touchdowns, the Sharks came up big in the final seconds of the first half. Khreem Smith tracked down Fred Williams following a long catch-and-run, tackling the KISS receiver as time expired. The stop allowed Jacksonville to maintain a two-score lead at halftime, as the Sharks went into the locker room with a 26-13 lead.
Throughout the course of the first half, the Sharks’ front four provided consistent pressure. Though they did not record a sack in the first half, Jacksonville got to Thomas on several occasions and forced a pair of offensive holding calls as well. That relentless pass rush continued in the second half, as Jordan Miller took down Thomas for his first career sack, and Neefy Moffett and Cornelius Lewis split a sack of their own in the fourth quarter.
The Sharks’ offense did not miss a beat coming out of halftime, as a methodical drive culminated in a six-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Grady to Joe Hills that put the Sharks up by three scores, 33-13. Jacksonville cruised from there, as the KISS never came closer than two touchdowns for the remainder of the contest. Derrick Ross capped the Sharks’ scoring effort with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown runs, as Ross is now tied for the AFL lead with 20 scores on the ground this season.
In the win, Hills continued to etch his name in the Sharks’ record books. Having set the franchise record for receiving touchdowns in a single season two weeks prior, Hills broke his own team mark for catches in a season on Saturday. Through 15 games, Hills has 154 receptions and 54 touchdowns with a chance to add to both totals next week.
Grady completed 25 of his 29 passes, throwing for 180 yards and four touchdowns against one interception. Ross put together his best game of the year, racking up 64 yards and three touchdowns on his 14 rushing attempts. Hills totaled eight receptions for 69 yards and three scores, while Andrew Robustelli caught a touchdown as well. London Crawford totaled nine catches for 45 yards, while Tiger Jones totaled 26 yards on four receptions.
On defense, Reid set a new single-game franchise record with 13.5 total tackles (11 solo) to go along with four pass breakups. David Hyland recorded 9.5 stops, while Miller knocked down a pass to go along with his sack.
Jacksonville returns to Sea Best Field on Saturday, July 30, as the team hosts the Tampa Bay Storm in the regular season finale. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m.