The Alabama Vipers opened up division play in the friendly confines of the Von Braun Center against the Jacksonville Sharks last Friday night and were able to use 35 unanswered points to secure a 63-49 win in the home opener.
Vipers' fullback Dan Alexander was once again the man of the hour. Alexander rushed for 40 yards and four scores on the night.
But it was the Vipers' superior defense and gameplanning that ultimately put the Vipers ahead.
After falling behind 28-14 behind a Jomo Wilson kick return for a touchdown and a Sale Key touchdown catch, the Vipers were forced to kick to the Sharks to open the second half and gave up a three-yard touchdown run to Kirby Griffin.
But the Vipers answered quickly. One play later, Kevin Eakin found C.J. Johnson for a touchdown.
It was then that the gameplanning became apparent. The Vipers used an onside kick to obtain possession, but fuor plays later the Vipers turned the ball over on downs.
Following the turnover, Alabama's defense turned up the heat and forced the Sharks into a turnover on downs as well.
Eakin then found Johnson again for a touchdown, cutting into the Sharks lead to 35-28.
Jacksonville recovered the ensuing onside kick, but Alabama regained possession on a forced fumble by Eric Crosby.
Eakin then led the Vipers down the field and hit Larry Shipp for the game tying touchdown.
The Vipers defense continued their assault on Garcia as Crosby tipped a pass and Ahmad Hawkins came up with it and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown.
The Vipers led then for the first time since Alexander opened up the game with a touchdown run.
Travis Coleman then got in on the action with an interception of his own. The turnover led to another Alexander score and a 14-point lead for the Vipers, completing the 35-point turnaround.
James Clark then hauled in a tight end screen for a touchdown, cutting the Vipers lead to 49-42.
But Eakin and Shipp hooked up for the second time and pushed the lead back to 14 points. Shipp finished his night with six grabs for 54 yards.
After another touchdown pass from Garcia to Wilson, the Vipers answered with two consecutive touchsdowns and a 63-42 lead.
Wilson and Garcia hooked up again, but it was too little, too late for the Sharks as the Vipers ran out the clock with Alexander.
The Wilson-Garcia combo was lethal for most of the game as the two combined for seven hook ups and three scores.
Michael Johnson was Eakin's favorite target once again for the Vipers, but for the second week in a row, the two failed to hook up on a touchdown pass. The two found each other eight times for 83 yards.
Next week the Vipers will travel west to face the Utah Blaze, who were 68-34 losers to Spokane in week two.