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Sharks begin new era with new look, same expectations

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It would be pretty hard to top the start the Jacksonville Sharks had in their season opener. On their very first play from scrimmage Tommy Grady found Mo Williams for 30-yard touchdown. The Sharks would go on to beat the Columbus Lions 56-41 and having that type of instant success can do a lot for teams confidence in a brand new coach.

“This was a big opening night and an opportunity for them to gel as team,” said Sharks head coach Mark Stoute. “We’ve been in practice for two weeks and the week leading up to the game. You’re not exactly sure about what you have until you can get out there go through the live bullets of a game.”

Not only do the Sharks have a new coach in Stoute. Last Saturday was their first game as members of the newly created National Arena League. The Sharks have also added a red helmet to go along with the red tops and bottoms they will wear during home games.

Saturday’s game against the Georgia Firebirds will be the Sharks first home game of the season. It will also be a homecoming for Marvin Skip Ross, who played his high school football at Trinity Christian.

“No place like home so it’s definitely great to be home,” said Ross during Wednesday’s media day. “I’m just happy to be able to play in front of friends and family.”

Last season, as a member of the Cleveland Gladiators, Ross was named the Arena Football League rookie of the year. In his first game with the Sharks, Ross returned an interception for a touchdown. He admitted that there is added pressure when playing at home and that he’ll have butterflies going into Saturday’s home opener. But all of that will change once the ball is snapped.

“The only thing on my mind will be going out there and making plays," said Ross.

Saturday will be the second of 12 games for the Sharks, in their inaugural season of the NAL. However, Sharks operating manager Jeff Bouchy isn’t interested in slow starts or building for the future.

“Even though we're in a new league the expectation is still that we'll compete for championships.”