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Surging Storm Looking for Revenge Against Sharks

The division-leading Sharks (12-1) are expected to have their hands full when the resurgent Tampa Bay Storm comes to town tomorrow night for a 7 p.m. encounter at Veterans Memorial Arena.

The Storm, winners of four of their five last games, hope to avenge an earlier 54-30 shellacking at the hands of the Sharks while keeping their flickering wild card playoff hopes alive.

Jacksonville won the previous encounter in Tampa Bay earlier this spring, breaking open a close game in the first half and waltzing to a relatively easy victory behind the deadly passing of Aaron Garcia, who threw for 238 yards and six touchdowns.

The Sharks, who trailed 21-6 in that contest, grabbed the half-time lead when Garcia connected on a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jomo Wilson with 11.3 seconds remaining in the first half.

Coming off a 46-44 win against the Orlando Predators last Friday night in a game dubbed the “War on I-4” in front of a crowd of 11,151 at the St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa Bay comes into Saturday’s game with a 6-7 record, two games behind second-place Orlando.

Tampa Bay led 39-16 late in the third quarter before Orlando, getting three consecutive defensive stops, staged one of the Arena Football League’s biggest comebacks this season, only to fall spectacularly short on a last-minute drive as time expired.

It was the 48th meeting between the two teams, one of the greatest rivalries in the AFL.

Rookie wide receiver Amarri Jackson led the Storm with eleven pass receptions for 151 yards and five touchdowns, three of them coming in the first half. Tampa Bay quarterback Brian Zbydniewski, who became the Storm’s third starting quarterback this season in late April, threw for six touchdowns in the game on 19-32 passing for 231 yards.

Tampa Bay will have to figure out a way to stop Aaron Garcia if it hopes to keep its two-game winning streak intact. It won’t be easy. The 40-year-old Garcia, the league’s all-time passing leader, is having a banner season — one of the best of his career — completing more than 71 percent of his passes for 3,481 yards.

Protected by the best offensive line in the league, Garcia has been sacked only five times all season.

It should be an interesting match up. Tampa Bay’s front four leads the AFL in sacks with 33, one more than the equally aggressive Sharks. Last week, the Storm sacked Orlando quarterback Nick Hill seven times — two more times than Garcia has been sacked all season.

Tampa Bay has never defeated Jacksonville during the regular season, losing all three previous contests.

The Sharks, riding a 12-game winning streak, have already been guaranteed no less than a third seed in the AFL playoffs set to begin on July 29.

Saturday’s game at Sea Best Field will be televised on CW17 and will also be broadcast on 1010XL radio.

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