WEEK 4 PREVIEW: SHARKS VS. LIONS
Sharks Travel to Take on NAL Rival Lions
JACKSONVILLE – After facing their in-state rival the Orlando Predators (1-1) in week 3, the Jacksonville Sharks (0-1) face their NAL rival the Columbus Lions (2-1) in week 4. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Columbus Civic Center on the Hughston Clinic Field in Columbus, GA. The Lions will play host to the Sharks for the first time in 2021 after falling to Jacksonville in the NAL playoffs in 2019.
This rivalry left off in a 67-43 postseason thrashing in Jacksonville, the Sharks ended the Lions season and advanced to win the 2019 NAL Championship. This season the Lions stand at second in the NAL standings at 2-1. Last week, the Columbus Lions faced the Jersey Flight. Head coach Jason Gibson and the Lions handed the Flight a third straight loss, 49-15 in Trenton, NJ. That night, Jacksonville suffered a loss in their home opener to in-state rival Orlando Predators 52-41.
The Lions dominated the first half of their week 3 game, forcing multiple turnovers against the Flight with a 42-0 score at halftime. Franchise star quarterback Mason Espinosa returns to the Lions for 2021, Espinosa played in 2017-2018 and both seasons ended with the Lions in the NAL championship game. Espinosa continues to serve as the Lions lead striker throwing five touchdowns in 13 completions in a 120 yard performance. Espinosa found four different receivers for touchdowns. Defensively, the Lions sacked Jersey quarterback Warren Smith and snatched an interception against the 2017 NAL MVP. Entering week 4 the Lions defense leads the NAL in fewest points allowed (40) in 2021.
The Sharks defense will look to put pressure on Espinosa and force him to make big plays. Defensive lineman Keith Bowers led the Sharks in QB hurries, landed a sack, a tackle for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Teammate Zack Brown also served as a disruptive presence recording two tackles for loss, a pass breakup, and a blocked kick. “We already know what we need to work on, it’s the small things,” said Sharks linebacker / fullback Zack Brown. “This is a team, not a one-man show. We’re going to get together next week at practice and get the win in Columbus.”
Offensively, the Sharks proved to have multiple offensive targets. Wilson serving as the Sharks leader with 10 catches and two touchdowns in his 2021 debut. Wide Receiver Jordan Williams also proved to be a dual threat both on offense and special teams. Williams added a receiving touchdown and 118 overall yards between receiving yards and kick return yards; his longest return went for 29 yards. Looking beyond the receiving core the most effective piece to the Sharks offense may be standing behind the quarterback. All-NAL fullback Alstevis Squirewell had a breakout home opener landing a rushing touchdown, receiving touchdown and 53 overall yards of offense. The Sharks quarterbacks both got action last week as starting quarterback Mike Fafaul went four for four on his first drive finishing the night with 14 completions, 171 yards, a touchdown, and an interception before going down before the half ended with an injury. Rookie backup quarterback Breck Ruddick stepped in completing eight passes for 85 yards, with two touchdowns, and two interceptions.
To watch the Sharks face the Lions on the road watch live at the National Arena League YouTube channel. A direct link to watch the game will be posted on the Sharks social media pages. Our friends at Dicks Wings & Grill will be hosting a watch party Saturday night at their Nocatee location. Tune in to the Sharks social media pages for this week’s Sharks Dicks Wings Watch Party, members of the Sharks Attack Dance Team, Sharks Staff, and partners will be attending with great food & beverages from Dicks Wings & Grill while we root on your defending NAL Champions.
About the Jacksonville Sharks
The Jacksonville Sharks are members of the National Arena League (NAL). The 2019 & 2017 NAL Champions and ArenaBowl XXIV Champions play all of their home games at the Veterans Memorial Arena. Shark Nation Memberships for the 2021 season are now available. Call David Diana at 904-621-0700 Ext. 717 or visit jaxsharks.com