WEEK 5 PREVIEW: SHARKS VS. EMPIRE
Jacksonville Returns to Shark Tank to Take on the Empire
JACKSONVILLE— After facing their NAL rival the Columbus Lions (3-1) in week 4, the Jacksonville Sharks (0-2) face the Albany Empire (4-0) in week 5. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, FL. The Sharks will play host to the Empire and play for the first time since the Empire entered the NAL.
This season the Empire are atop the NAL standings at 4-0 as they enter their first season in the NAL, after playing in the Arena Football League (AFL) and winning the 2019 Arena Bowl. Last week, the Empire faced the Orlando Predators. Head coach Tom Menas and the Empire handed the Predators their second loss of the season, 68-40 in Orlando, FL. That night, Jacksonville suffered a loss on the road to the Columbus Lions 32-56.
The Empire showed signs of struggle in the first half of their week 4 game with a 32-27 score at halftime with the Predators on their tail. Franchise quarterback Tommy Grady dominated the second half, finishing the night throwing four touchdown passes, completing 24 passes for 259 yards and six touchdowns. On defense, the Empire picked off Brian Hicks once and added two tackles for loss against the Predators.
The Sharks offense is off to a slow start this season but a return home to the Shark tank may favor production on offense, which is currently averaging 36.5 points per game (last in the NAL). Jacksonville also continues to struggle on third downs, which was one of their strengths in 2019. Last Saturday, the Sharks were 1 of 4 on third down conversions (25 percent). Defensively the Sharks have been battered by injuries with multiple defensive backs out entering week four. Despite injuries, Still, the Sharks showed power on defense, sacking Mason Espinosa for a six yard loss, recording an interception in the second half and forcing two fumbles against the Lions offense.
With a healthy secondary and the potential return of Alstevis Squirewell, we may see more productivity with the Sharks running game on both sides of the ball— perfect timing for the return of fans in the Shark Tank. Jacksonville's receivers continued to be efficient despite a third change at the quarterback position bringing in Connor Kaegi. Devin Wilson served as the Sharks receiving leader with eight catches and one touchdown. Wide Receiver Jordan Williams, before injury, had seven catches, 171 overall yards, and a first half touchdown; While Paris Mack had his best game this season with five catches for 65 yards and one touchdown. Another strength for the Sharks entering into week 5 is the Sharks special teams headed by All-NAL kicker Brandon Behr, who is currently averaging three PATs and one deuce a game. Behr has yet to have an opposing kicker out play him this season, so it will be an interesting matchup this week as Albany's Craig Peterson enters the Shark tank. Peterson, the 2018 NAL Special Teams Player of the Year, will face the Sharks 2019 NAL Special Teams Player of the Year, Behr, in an all-out Special Teams kick-off.
Saturday’s game will feature Sharks Youth Football Camp, if interested visit jaxsharks.com, tickets for Halloween in June presented by Clay Eye Physicians & Surgeons are on sale starting at $10 a seat the #1 way to purchase Sharks tickets is online at jaxsharks.com you can also call David Diana at 904-621-0700 ext. 717 or visit the arena box office on game day. Can’t make the game? The game will be televised on CW-17 (WCWJ) locally you can also watch the entire game on YouTube by going to the National Arena League youtube channel.
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