The Jacksonville Sharks (2-5) put up another good fight, this time against the two-time defending champion Arizona Rattlers (7-0). However, the result was the same. Jacksonville fell to Arizona for the second time this season, this time 70-61, on Saturday night.
Jacksonville got the ball first, and started the game with a good drive that ended with RJ Archer finding London Crawford in the end zone. That was when the tennis match began.
Jacksonville used a slower tempo throughout the game, but Arizona and QB Nick Davila would have none of it, countering with a typical quick strike offense that matched the Sharks score for score.
The Sharks had some big plays of their own, including a 42-yard catch and run by London Crawford to make the score 14-7 with 5:30 left in the first quarter. But Arizona didn’t need long to answer. In fact, the Rattlers had three drives of two plays or less to start the game, and only three of their ten scoring drives lasted longer than four plays. Despite the best efforts of RJ Archer, Crawford, Jomo Wilson, and RJ Bibbs (who ran for a touchdown), Jacksonville could only keep pace with Arizona, and the game was tied 42-42 with ten seconds left in the first half.
Jacksonville had time for three more plays, but the Rattlers defense forced a 35-yard field goal attempt by Fabrizio Scaccia. Scaccia, coming back after missing a week due to injury, recovered from his previous woes to convert his first six extra points. However, he missed what would be his only field goal attempt wide right.
Sharks DB Micheaux Robinson had an even quieter night than last week against Portland, and Arizona made sure of it. The Rattlers offense threw in his direction early and often, and aside from a pass breakup and 1.5 tackles, he had no answers. The two teams continued the back and forth well into the third quarter, but Jacksonville started to fade.
Trailing 56-49 with 7:36 left, Jacksonville lost their momentum on offense. Arizona’s defensive line got pressure on RJ Archer, forcing Archer to scramble out of the pocket. While there were running lanes available, Archer didn’t take advantage, nor could he find his receivers. However, London Crawford cemented his star status on the team with a crucial catch on 4th-and-10 after a near interception, but he paid the price by taking a big hit and leaving the game.
The Rattlers had their issues, committing two defensive pass interference penalties to give Jacksonville a chance to score at the end of the third quarter. WR Jomo Wilson scored in the corner of the end zone, but Fabrizio Scaccia missed the extra point, the only miss of the night, and the most costly.
The communication between RJ Archer and his receivers disappeared as the fourth quarter lingered, and it resulted in a turnover on downs with 3:52 left in the game. The defense stepped up to force a 4th-and-10, but they couldn’t get off the field, and Rattlers QB Nick Davila threw his 10th touchdown pass of the night with just 51 seconds left. The Sharks attempted a comeback, but after Jeron Harvey scored with 25 seconds to go, Arizona’s defense broke up the two-point pass, and the Rattlers recovered the onside kick to end the game.
RJ Archer had another solid performance, despite the late fallout. He completed 22 of 40 passes for 341 yards, throwing eight touchdowns without an interception. He gave both teams credit for their play. “You have to go score for score against Arizona, and we were right on pace. We couldn’t [convert] 4th down, and that’s how it goes.” He took a lot of positives, but he described the loss as a typical Arena Football League game. “There’s no good loss. We have to watch the film and put a game together.” He also noted that the team must step up for the rest of the season, starting next week.
His counterpart, Nick Davila, completed 24 of 31 passes for 389 yards, throwing 10 touchdown passes, also without an interception. He now leads the league with 57 scoring passes, and ended the night one away from 500 for his career.
Three receivers had 100-yard nights, including two Sharks. London Crawford and Jomo Wilson tied with a game-high nine catches, netting 178 and 109 yards, respectively. Crawford scored four times, while Wilson scored twice. Jeron Harvey also got in on the action, catching four passes for 54 yards and two touchdowns.
Rod Wilson and Kerry Reed were the stars for Arizona on the night. Wilson caught eight balls for a game-high 180 yards and three touchdowns, while Reed caught seven passes for 85 yards and four scores of his own.
Terrance Smith had a game-high of his own, netting 7.5 tackles to go with 0.5 for a loss. However, he showed his frustration of the team’s form after the game. “The offense played tremendously, but we left too many plays on the field. Arizona’s play calling is good, but it’s not the best.” He applauded the young players and their dedication, but looked to himself as a leader, and also said that the team can’t keep losing and the effect on team morale.
Jacksonville travels to Iowa to face the Barnstormers next week in what could easily be a must-win game, as division rivals Orlando and Tampa Bay each have bye weeks. Kickoff is set 8:05 p.m. on Saturday, May 10. The game will be broadcast over the air on WBOB AM 600, and can also be seen live online through ESPN 3 and through 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.