Position battles put to the test on Thursday Night
ALBANY – The Jacksonville Sharks pulled off a hard fought victory against a formidable Georgia Firebirds team in a preseason matchup on Thursday night.
The Albany, GA showdown previewed two National Arena League teams on the eve of the regular season set to kick off March 17. As expected the Sharks came out strong scoring 16 unanswered points in the first quarter. Quarterback Damien Fleming threw two touchdowns to wide receiver Will Dukes in 1st quarter. Fleming finished the night with throwing 5 passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns. The Sharks starting defense had a lights out performance shutting down the Firebirds offense that failed to score a single point in the first quarter and even allowed a safety at end of the first quarter.
The Firebirds struck back in the 2nd quarter when Firebird Quarterback Jeffrey Legree and receiver Kurtis Green connected with a 21 yard touchdown pass to put Georgia on the boards. Kicker Evan Selman came through with the extra points and a 30 yard field goal to continue the Firebirds streak. Offensively the Sharks failed to score on a single drive during the second quarter, Firebirds quarterback Isaiah Jupiter took advantage of the momentum shift by scoring a 11 yard touchdown pass to end the half putting Georgia ahead 17-16.
Entering the third quarter, Derrick Ross put the Sharks back in the lead as he pounded the ball for short touchdown run and kicker Nick Belcher added a 10 yard field goal to the Sharks offensive come back putting the Sharks ahead 22-17 to enter the fourth quarter.
The Sharks defense stole the show in the second half stifling the Firebirds. Keys to the Sharks dominate night included four tackles for a loss from the Sharks defensive line which totalled 26 total yards lost. Former Orlando Predator, now Shark, Erik McIntosh had an interception that was returned for 44 yards. Fellow DB Laroche Jackson also caught an interception which he returned for 11 yards. Seven Sharks players ended the night with two or more tackles and as a team the Sharks totalled four pass breakups.
The Sharks played two quarterbacks in this preseason game, quarterback Liam Nadler took over the second half for the Sharks throwing 3 passes for 49 yards and one touchdown. The Firebirds scored on a 27 yard pass from Jupiter to Deion Hamilton, making the score 32-24 as the clocked continued to wind down to the game’s final minutes. Darryl Thompson scored a touchdown from a 27 yard pass by Nadler with 1:56 left in the game to distance the Sharks with a comfortable lead. This put the Sharks defense in a crucial role which allowed them to hold off the Firebirds again, this time on the final drive, allowing the Sharks to run the clock which led to the Sharks 39-24 victory.
The Sharks head back to Jacksonville to continue training camp this week, the players will have one final chance to fight for a position on the roster as the Sharks will host a intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday March 11. Following the saturday scrimmage the Sharks will finalized their 2017 roster March 12.