JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jacksonville Sharks travel to Orlando to face off against the in-state rival Predators at Amway Center on Friday, May 27. Kickoff in this Week 9 matchup is set for 7:30 p.m.
Friday’s contest will be the second time the Jacksonville Sharks (3-4) square off against the Orlando Predators (7-1). In the first meeting, the Sharks had a late lead but faltered in the final minute, as a critical turnover allowed the Predators to score the decisive touchdown and hand Jacksonville a 63-56 loss.
Last week, the Sharks put together perhaps their most complete performance of the season in a 65-34 victory over the Portland Steel. Jacksonville’s offense fired on all cylinders, scoring a touchdown on all 10 possessions while starting quarterback Tommy Grady was in the game. Grady played essentially flawless football, throwing more touchdown passes (eight) than incompletions (five).
The Sharks’ offense is at its best when Grady is able to distribute the ball to all of his targets, and that was most certainly the case last week. Joe Hills caught a game-high four touchdown passes, while Tiger Jones and London Crawford each scored twice. The Sharks also effectively mixed in the run, as Derrick Ross took his first carry for a 23-yard touchdown and finished with 40 yards and two scores on just five touches.
Jacksonville’s defense looks for another stellar performance this week after the Sharks held Portland to just 34 points, yielding only seven in the second half and none in the fourth quarter. Jacksonville’s secondary showed ball-hawking flair, recording four interceptions (two from LaRoche Jackson, one from Greg Reid and one from David Hyland). Both Jackson and Reid recorded 7.5 tackles, while Reid led the way with five pass breakups and Hyland’s fourth-down pass breakup forced a turnover on downs on the second drive of the game.
This week, the Sharks will face an Orlando team that looks to rebound from its first loss of the season, as the Predators fell to the Philadelphia Soul on the road, 62-54.
Led by quarterback Randy Hippeard, who has tossed 50 touchdowns against just five picks, Orlando’s offense ranks second in the league with an average of 60.5 points per game. The Predators’ attack is highlighted by a combination of speed and size, as the elusive Brandon Thompkins and the 6-foot-6 Greg Carr have combined to catch 36 touchdown passes. Thompkins is also one of the AFL’s most dangerous kick returners, as he leads the League with an average of 221.1 all-purpose yards per game.
On the other side of the ball, Orlando’s defense ranks fourth in the League, allowing an average of 48.5 points per game. Grady and the rest of the Sharks offense must be aware of Varmah Sonie, as the third-year defensive back is tied for second among all AFL defenders with five interceptions.
Already extremely familiar with one another, the Sharks and Predators will take that to another level over the next few weeks, as Orlando will return to Sea Best Field in just three weeks for the third and final meeting in the regular-season series. The Sharks will look to once again combine efficient offense with playmaking defense in order to gain ground on Orlando in the American Conference race.
Friday’s kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m.
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