If you look at this season’s standings, you’d think that the Jacksonville Sharks and Orlando Predators are two ships passing in the night, but if there’s one thing to learn from rivalries, it’s the old cliche that you have to throw out the records, because anything can happen. That applies now more than ever when these two teams face off on Saturday night at Amway Arena.
The Sharks started the season on fire, winning their first six games. Since then, they’ve lost three in a row and are looking to stop the bleeding against the Predators. Their once insurmountable lead in not only the South division, but the entire Eastern conference, is now gone as they’re tied with Tampa Bay. Orlando was left for dead after an 0-5 start, but now they’ve won two of their last three games to start to bring themselves into position.
The X factor this week is definitely going to be the battle at quarterback. Bernard Morris took the majority of first-team snaps at practice this week, as he looks to have the starting job back one week after R.J. Archer had a poor performance against San Jose. Morris remains a top-ten quarterback in terms of pass efficiency, throwing 40 touchdowns against only four interceptions on the season. He should have an easy night against the worst scoring defense in the Arena Football League (Orlando allows 61.6 PPG), which will help him rebound from his previous start against San Antonio, where he only threw one scoring pass against two picks.
On the other side, it will be another familiar foe for Jacksonville. Future Hall of Fame QB Aaron Garcia was the man for the first two seasons in franchise history, which he brought home both his and Jacksonville’s first championship, throwing for more than 8,600 yards, 198 touchdowns, and 33 interceptions in the process. Since then, has since become a bit of a journeyman. After a successful season in San Antonio, he found himself not living up to his reputation in San Jose, and was traded to the Predators. In just three games, he’s found his stride, throwing for more than 1,000 yards, 23 touchdowns and only three interceptions; highlighted by a franchise-record 11 touchdown, no interception performance in a comeback win against Spokane. Jacksonville is staying strong with the second-ranked scoring defense in the Arena Football League, and with Garcia’s vulnerability and a league-leading 27 sacks, they could take advantage and exact a measure of revenge against a hero turned bitter rival.
Both teams have a complement of receivers to throw to, ranging from Jeff Hughley and Jeron Harvey for the Sharks to T.T. Toliver (who had a franchise performance in the win against Spokane, catching 18 passes for 251 yards and six scores) and Prechae Rodriguez for Orlando, which means the scoreboard could get a workout this week The Sharks will be at a disadvantage because of Garcia’s tenure with the team. He knows the plays, and he also knows how to beat them. However, Jacksonville has proven that they can score with anyone, and they’ll have to do that and then some against Orlando if they want to earn their sixth straight win against them and to end their three-game overall losing streak.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m., and the game will be televised on WJXT Channel 4 and broadcast over the air on WBOB AM 600. As with all games this season, it will be streamed through AFL Live. For more information and the latest news on the Sharks, log on to www.jaxsharks.com. For more on the rest of the Arena Football League, including the latest news and standings, log on to www.arenafootball.com.