The Orlando Predators (8-5) defeated the Jacksonville Sharks (4-8) by a final score of 58-48 at CFE Arena on Thursday evening. The victory marks Orlando’s third of the season over Jacksonville, as the Predators completed a sweep of the season series with their division rivals.
Jacksonville struck first off a 36-yard scoring pass from quarterback RJ Archer to WR Maurice Williams and the Predators quickly responded with a one-yard touchdown run by FB Michael Simons. The Sharks would regain possession and managed to build a 20-7 lead into the second quarter after Archer found Williams and WR Charles Gilbert for touchdowns on consecutive drives.
Shaking off the slow start, QB Bernard Morris needed just two plays to reach the end zone, as he connected with WR Kendal Thompkins on a 20-yard completion before finding WR Greg Carr from 10 yards out for another touchdown. Jacksonville managed to regain its two-possession lead on the ensuing series, as Archer found WR Jomo Wilson for a 14-yard score on fourth down. Orlando would quickly respond, as Morris again executed a two-play drive that was capped off with a 16-yard touchdown reception by Carr.
Trailing 27-21 late in the second quarter, K Mark Lewis dribbled a perfect onside kick attempt that was juggled by a Sharks defender before being recovered by the Predators. With momentum on their side, Orlando’s offense executed a methodical seven-play, 41-yard drive, advancing towards the end zone while controlling the clock. On the final play of the series, Morris received the snap and rushed right before leaping over the goal line for a touchdown to put Orlando up 28-27 at halftime.
The Predators received the ball to open the third quarter added to their lead. Morris completed a five-play, 44-yard drive by lofting a seven-yard pass to Carr, who used his massive frame to outmuscle a defender and secure the touchdown reception in the end zone. After three unanswered Orlando scores, the Sharks finally responded with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Archer to Wilson. However, the Predators would regain a two-score lead heading into the final quarter of play, as Simons found the end zone on a one-yard carry to give Orlando a 42-34 advantage.
Jacksonville would regain possession, only to be denied on a goal-line stand by Orlando’s defense. After turning the Sharks away on 4th-&-Goal, Morris completed a quick pass to Gerald Young and let the fleet-footed wideout do the rest of the work. After securing the reception, Young shed a defender on the sideline and cut back towards the middle of the field, dodging defenders in the process. After shaking off yet another would-be tackler, Young burst back up field towards the right sideline and sprinted to the end zone for a 42-yard touchdown.
The Sharks managed to score off a one-yard run by FB Jared McGriff-Culver on the ensuing series, but Predators DB Anthony Shutt picked off the pass attempt by Archer on the two-point conversion try and raced the length of the field to give Orlando a 51-40 lead late in the fourth quarter.
Needing points and possessions to stay in the game, the Sharks attempted the onside kick on the following play. Players from both sides struggled to secure the recovery, causing the loose ball to dribble into the end zone before the Predators managed to dive on it for the touchdown. The Sharks would score on their last possession, but it would mean little as Orlando ran out the clock a series later to seal the 58-48 victory.
The Orlando Predators travel to play the Tampa Bay Storm in Week 15 in the third installment of the 2014 “War on I-4.” Kickoff from the Tampa Bay Times Forum is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST on Saturday, June 21st.