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Sharks Take Bite Out of Mustangs, Win 12th in a Row

Defensive back Laroche “L. J.” Jackson’s interception and 23-yard return for a touchdown broke open a tight game with the visiting Milwaukee Mustangs last night and extended Jacksonville’s winning streak to 12 games. Jackson’s interception — his fifth of the season — gave the Sharks (12-1) an insurmountable 48-34 lead with 11 minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

Milwaukee twice narrowed Jacksonville’s two-touchdown advantage to a single touchdown in the game’s waning minutes — trimming the lead to 48-41 and again to 55-47 with a minute to play — but weren’t able to overtake the heavily-favored Sharks before a friendly Sea Best Field crowd at Veterans Memorial Arena.

Jacksonville tacked on one last touchdown for a final margin of 62-47.

By virtue of its victory, Jacksonville became the first team in the Arena Football League to clinch a berth in the playoffs, securing no worse than a third-seed in the American Conference.

The Mustangs, losers of three of their last four outings, jumped out to an early 7-6 lead and kept the game close most of the way. Proving to be no pushover, the defensive-minded visitors from Wisconsin led 14-13 midway through the second quarter before Jamarko Simmons gave the high-scoring Sharks the lead with a one-yard dash into the end zone.

Trailing by a touchdown, the Mustangs (4-9) later knotted the score at 27-27, and again at 34-apiece on a spectacular 57-yard kickoff return by lightning-quick Kelvin Rodgers at the end of the third quarter. It was Milwaukee’s first kickoff return for a touchdown this season.

The Sharks, who enjoy a four-game lead over the Orlando Predators in the AFL’s South Division, play host to the Tampa Bay Storm next Saturday at 7 p.m.

Jacksonville won the earlier meeting between the two teams, stomping the Storm by 24 points in a game played before 10,304 fans at the St. Pete Times Forum on April 1. Having struggled earlier in the season, Tampa Bay (6-7) defeated Orlando 46-44 on Friday to notch their second win in a row and fourth in their last five games.

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