Despite a big push in the last minute of the game, the Jacksonville Sharks (2-3) couldn’t muster the effort to take down the Philadelphia Soul (2-3), losing 54-41 on Saturday night, falling to 0-3 on the road this season.
The Sharks were in position for a miracle with a minute to go. WR Jomo Wilson in his first game as a Shark since 2011, had a quick catch and run to set up first and goal at the one-minute warning.
London Crawford then got the call the next three plays. First on a pass, but he couldn’t make the catch. Then on two runs, but the Philadelphia defense stopped him at the one-yard line both times. Finally, FB Jared McGriff-Culver found the teeth of the Soul defense on fourth down to seal the game.
Things actually started out well for Jacksonville, as DB Micheaux Robinson intercepted Philadelphia Soul QB Dan Raudabaugh on just the third play of the game. However, Sharks QB Aaron Garcia, in his first game of his second stint in Jacksonville, got intercepted just two plays later to even the playing field.
After a quick score, things went from bad to worse. WR Jeron Harvey fumbled the ball, and Soul DB James Romain recovered it and took it to the end zone to make the deficit 14-0.
It didn’t take long for Jacksonville to answer. Garcia, despite playing behind an offensive line that could not get any blocking rhythm, started to get in sync with his receivers, and Harvey made amends for the fumble by getting the Sharks on the board thanks to a four-yard touchdown catch one play after nearly giving up another interception on a seven-minute long drive.
Philly nearly scored again on the kickoff, and did when FB Derrick Ross scored his first touchdown of the night. The Sharks kept the scoring going, first with a touchdown pass from Aaron Garcia to WR London Crawford, and then when Charlie Hunt intercepted Dan Raudabaugh and returned the ball 40 yards to the end zone to bring Jacksonville within a single point thanks to another Fabrizio Scaccia missed extra point.
Hunt gave the Sharks a chance to take the lead going into the locker room with another pick, but
Philadelphia’s defense stood strong, ending the drive with a sack on Garcia. It proved costly, as Derrick Ross scored again to make the halftime score 27-20 in favor of the Soul, giving Jacksonville some work to do.
Aaron Garcia’s protection broke down in the second half, as he got sacked twice on the first offensive possession, leading to a missed 64-yard field goal attempt that Scaccia treated as a pseudopunt. The Soul tried to start to put the game out of reach, but Charlie Hunt stepped up yet again, this time forcing a fumble that Aaron Robbins recovered; setting up a 10-yard catch by Jeron Harvey to tie the game at 27 late in the third quarter.
The Soul again tried to take charge, first with a 49-yard pass from Dan Raudabaugh to WR Ryan McDaniel, then recovering the onside kick (which Jacksonville touched, bringing on a lengthy review), and ending with Raudabaugh finding Anthony “Tiger” Jones in the end zone to extend the lead to two scores.
Jacksonville kept fighting, but could do no better than trade scores for the rest of the game, leading to the final drive.
Aaron Garcia had a somewhat productive first game back, completing 26 of 41 passes for 253 yards, five touchdowns, and one interception. London Crawford finished with game highs in catches (13) and yards (120) while finding the end zone twice. Charlie Hunt was the defensive star, finishing with two interceptions, a forced fumble, and a touchdown.
Dan Raudabaugh, on the other hand, was more efficient to a point, completing 15 of 25 passes for 197 yards and four scores, but the three interceptions gave the Sharks a chance. The Soul defensive line gave Garcia fits. Jacksonville allowed four sacks, with DL Ted Jennings leading the way with 2.5, he also forced a fumble, as well as Rayshaun Kizer.
Jacksonville returns to the friendly confines of Veterans Memorial Arena to face the Portland Thunder and former Shark QB Kyle Rowley next week. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 26. The game will be broadcast locally on WBOB AM 600 and televised on WJXT Channel 4. The game will also be available online through ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.
For more on the Jacksonville Sharks, including the latest news, updates, and transactions, log on to www.jaxsharks.com. For more on the rest of the Arena Football League, log on to www.arenafan.com and www.arenafootball.com.