Empire Stop Sharks 58-56 in Albany
Carolina's Victory Put Jacksonville Out of Playoffs
ALBANY - The Jacksonville Sharks entered the Albany Times Union Center for the first time in team history with the 2021 NAL playoffs hanging in the balance. The Empire (5-1) suffered their only loss of the season to the Jacksonville Sharks earlier this year. 2019 NAL Champion Quarterback Jonathan Bane returned to the Sharks and started in tonight’s game. During the Sharks first drive a fumble turned Bane’s first drive into the Empire's hands. However the Sharks defense returned the blow as Jacksonville defensive back Kenny Veal picked off Empire’s Tommy Grady and returned his interception for a touchdown allowing the Sharks to gain the first scoring blow in this matchup. Following an Empire score Jordan Williams got a touchdown on the run putting the Sharks up 13-6 at the start of the second quarter.
The battle heated up in the second quarter as the Sharks scored again, this time it was a Jonathan Bane pass to receiver Jalen Rima for a 11 yard touchdown. The Sharks were on a roll and ready to score again before the half but were interrupted in the end zone by a devastating interception from Varmah Sonie during a touchdown pass attempt to Devin Wilson. The Empire finished the drive with a Phillip Barnett touchdown, Albany would advance right at the buzzer with another touchdown pass this time to Malachi Jones on a three yard touchdown to end the half 32-20.
With the playoffs on the line the Jacksonville Sharks knew what was a stake stepping back on to the turf. The Sharks defense had a huge first drive as defensive back Kenny Veal gained a fumble recovery stopping an Empire scoring drive. Jacksonville’s offense matched the effort as Bane and his receivers marched down field getting the Sharks into the red zone where fullback Alstevis Squirewell forced the Empire defense back into the end zone getting the Sharks to the goal line. On third & goal a quarterback sneak put Bane in for a score as the Shark began their second half comeback 27-32.
The Empire struck back in the later half of the 3rd quarter with a Jeramie Richardson rushing touchdown for Albany that was followed by a deuce from their kicker Craig Peterson putting the Empire up 41-27 going into the fourth quarter. Backs against the wall, the Sharks needed an explosive 4th quarter to flip this game in favor of the Sharks. Fuller and the Sharks offense answered the call right out of the gate with a 39-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jordan Williams. Luck started to shine on the Sharks as they got a stop on defense and the Sharks score again this time on the ground with Jonathan Bane who gained his second quarterback sneak for a touchdown. The luck continued to grow as the defensive pressure put Albany’s quarterback Tommy Grady out of the game, forcing backup quarterback David Pindell to finish the game. Pindell was able to rush for a score late in the fourth but Bane and the Sharks offense continued to drive down the field closing the gap 48-58 after Bane connected again to Jordan Williams for a two-yard score. It was up to the Sharks defense to hold the Empire to turn the tide of the game. Sure enough the Sharks defense held the Empire to 4th down but Empire’s kicker Craig Peterson knocked down the field goal to keep the Empire in the lead.
Time running down a familiar duo Jonathan Bane and receiver Devin Wilson teamed up on a 5-yard touchdown pass with 29 seconds left on the clock, receiver Jordan Williams closed the drive with a successful 2-point conversion rush the Shark miraculously found themselves only down by two points in a silent Albany arena, as the Sharks looked to be one play away from sending this game to overtime. Kicker Brandon Behr lined up for the final deuce attempt to tie the game. Behr’s kick landed right and the Empire spent the remaining seconds to end the game with the heartbreaking 58-56 final. Although the Sharks held the tie breaker, since they lost to Albany and Carolina defeated Orlando tonight the Carolina Cobras will advance to the NAL playoffs. This will be the first season the Jacksonville Sharks will not enter the NAL playoffs, since the team joined the league in 2017. The hard fought game did not end in the Sharks favor but strong performances did not go unnoticed Sharks quarterback Jonathan Bane’s 2021 debut ended with a 22 completion for 287 yard night where he threw four touchdowns surpassing Grady who threw 14 for 158 and two touchdowns but did leave the game in the second half due to injury. Sharks receivers Devin Wilson and Jordan Williams both had eight reception nights and 96 yards each. Wilson finished the night with a one receiving touchdown and Williams led the pack tonight with two.
Tonight’s Duval Motor Company Shark Players of the Game Include:
Duval Ford Offensive Player: WR, Jordan Williams is our Duval Ford Offensive Player of the game. Williams had an impressive eight catches for 96 yards with two receiving touchdowns and one rushing touchdown.
Duval Acura Defensive Player of the Game: DB, Kenny Veal is our Duval Acura Defensive Player of the game with three tackles, 1 interception returned for a 44-yard touchdown, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Duval Honda Special Teams Player of the Game: K, Brandon Behr is our Duval Honda Special Teams Player of the game going six of seven on point after attempts.
About the Jacksonville Sharks
The Jacksonville Sharks are members of the National Arena League (NAL). The 2017 NAL Champions and ArenaBowl XXIV Champions and play all home games at the Vystar Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. SINGLE GAME TICKETS ARE NOW AVAILABLE. To become a Shark Nation member or for more ticket information please call (904) 621-0700 or visit jaxsharks.com Follow the Sharks on Facebook at facebook.com/jaxsharks and on Twitter and Instagram @jaxsharks, as well as the Attack Dance Team at facebook.com/sharkattackdance and Chum at facebook.com/chumsharks.