WEEK ONE PREVIEW: SHARKS VS. LIONS
Jacksonville Faces Rival on the Road for Season Opener
JACKSONVILLE, FL – The Jacksonville Sharks will face NAL rival the Columbus Lions on the road for their season opener. The game will take place on April 23rd, 2022 at the Columbus Civic Center. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00pm.
The Sharks and Lions are both founding members of the NAL, which launched its first season in 2017. The two also faced off in the first-ever NAL championship game where Jacksonville came out on top 27-21 under head coach Siaha Burley. Jacksonville has played Columbus in twelve games since that inaugural season with the Sharks leading the rivalry with an overall 8-4 record. However, last season the Lions swept the Sharks with victories in Jacksonville and Columbus. Columbus last played in the 2021 NAL championship where they were defeated by the Albany Empire. Coach Gibson and his newest squad of Lions exit training camp with unfinished business & championship expectations but will unfortunately face one of the most successful teams to ever play in the NAL, the Jacksonville Sharks. The Sharks have payback on their minds and look to get back to the Championship game themselves.
Burley & Gibson have quite a rivalry. Along with being the winningest coaches in the NAL, both have fan bases with championship expectations. Burley is the leader of the two with two NAL championship rings (2017, 2019), They face off against each other for the first time since the 2019 NAL Playoffs which were played in Jacksonville. The Sharks came out on top with a 67-43 victory to advance to the memorable 2019 NAL Championship game.
The Sharks look to repeat their success from 2019 but will need several key pieces to make that goal a reality. A healthy quarterback may be on the top of that list for the Sharks or at least the top of the fans list. Last year they witnessed a franchise worst 2-8 season, watching more than five starting quarterbacks take the helm in ten games in 2021. Burley may have the remedy with two well-known quarterbacks on this year’s roster, including 2017 NAL MVP Warren Smith, whose toughness & winning reputation has left little to no space for injuries during his NAL & AFL career. Young athletic Malik Henry, a nationwide known talent from high school, college, and now professional arena football completed his first season in the IFL where he helped the Frisco Fighters to the playoffs as rookie during the franchises first season. Henry now comes to a well-established arena brand but is used to playing on big stages throughout his career and is projected to be a rising star in the NAL as glimpses of that appeared during his sole season in the Indoor Football League.
In addition to a Quarterback, new names must rise on offense to support the Sharks top scoring threat All-NAL Wide Receiver Devin Wilson. The Sharks have bolstered talent in the offseason but will find out who the future Shark stars will be on Saturday night. Most importantly, from a pure football standpoint the most vital unit on the field may be the two things Burley has had in both of his championship seasons… The best team in the trenches game after game. During both the 2017 and 2019 championship season the Sharks often lead the league in both sacks made and fewest sacks allowed, most notable during Burley’s 2019 campaign, where the Sharks sent more lineman to All-NAL teams than any other NAL franchise. Winning the battle in the trenches on Saturday and further into the season may determine the Sharks potential towards any championship aspirations. Although the Sharks will have a lot of new names on their uniforms, both the 2017 and 2019 rosters entered their seasons in similar style. Leaving week 1 as the launching pad for many new Shark players to make a name for themselves within Shark Nation households.
Kickoff to this week 1 matchup is Saturday, April 23 in Columbus, GA at the Columbus Civic Center. To watch the game online visit the National Arena League YouTube Channel or tune in to the Sharks social media pages as we will be posting direct links to watch the game on game day through Facebook & Twitter. Remember, the Sharks home opener is right around the corner season tickets are still available and we have a great two tickets for only $98 season ticket deal that is available by calling 904-621-0700 Ext. 717. If you are just looking to catch the home opener against the Albany Empire on Saturday April 30 or attend one of our fun family Theme nights we also have lower bowl single game tickets starting at just $12 a seat! Please visit jaxsharks.com/theme-nights to see our upcoming games
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 their home games at the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena. Sharks Nation Memberships for the 2022 season are now available. To become a Shark Nation member or for more information please call (904) 621-0700. 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.