JACKSONVILLE – The ArenaBowl XXIV Champion Jacksonville Sharks will host the West Division’s Spokane Shock on Saturday, April 28 on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Kickoff for Saturday’s game is set for 7 p.m.
This weekend’s game gives the Sharks (2-3) a chance to earn their second consecutive victory, as Jacksonville took down the Cleveland Gladiators, 54-49, in a road test last Saturday night.
Seven weeks into 2012, the South Division standings remain remarkably close, as not one team has separated itself from the pack. Though technically in fourth place, Jacksonville is just a half-game out of first place, held in a three-way, 3-3 tie by the Georgia Force, Tampa Bay Storm and New Orleans VooDoo.
Last Saturday, quarterback Omar Jacobs continued to build on his impressive recent performance. Against the Gladiators, Jacobs threw for 300 yards and connected on six touchdowns without throwing an interception, his third consecutive start without a pick. Jacobs has connected on 18 consecutive touchdown passes in that span, and overall, the Sharks’ offense has turned the ball over just three times in the last three games.
One reason for the offense’s recent success is continued improvement in pass protection. The Sharks’ offensive line is expected to get another boost this week, as Vladimir Richard was activated from injured reserve on Tuesday. Entering his second year with the Sharks, Richard anchored a Jacksonville offensive line that yielded just 12 sacks in the entire 2011 regular season.
However, the Sharks will have to make up for the absence of receiver Jeron Harvey, who was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday. Harvey must remain on IR for a minimum of four weeks.
Led by two-time AFL Playmaker of the Week Terrance Smith, the Sharks have a dynamically talented receiving corps that will give Jacobs plenty of options without Harvey in the lineup. Bobby Sewall broke out as a deep threat with two fourth-quarter touchdowns in the win over Cleveland, while Shamar Graves (6’3”, 235) and Jamarko Simmons (6’3”, 250) each possess a rare combination of size and speed.
On defense, the Sharks put together an outstanding performance against Cleveland. After allowing the Utah Blaze to score a touchdown on every possession two weeks ago, the Sharks came up with several defensive stands in key spots against the Gladiators. In particular, Jacksonville’s defense forced a turnover on downs in the final minute to set up the game-winning touchdown then thwarted Cleveland’s final chance as time expired
Know Your Foe
Like the Sharks, the Spokane Shock enter this weekend’s matchup with a 2-3 overall record. The team has split two road contests in 2012 and heads into Saturday’s game coming off of their second bye week of the season.
The Shock have had a fluid quarterback situation through the team’s first five games, as three different players have attempted at least 45 passes for Spokane this season. The team is led by Kyle Rowley, who rejoined the Shock several weeks ago after he began the season assigned to the Pittsburgh Power.
Rowley played with Spokane in both 2010 and 2011, throwing for four touchdowns and an interception when the teams met on Sea Best Field in last season’s regular-season finale, a game the Sharks won 75-56.
On defense, Spokane’s pass rush must compensate for the loss of top sack man Jeremy Geathers, who racked up six sacks in five games before signing with the Canadian Football League’s BC Lions last week. The rest of the Shock’s front four has combined for a total of just four sacks this season.