Sharks Win Thirteenth Straight, Calm the Storm 66-41
In one of their overall strongest performances of the season, the league-leading Jacksonville Sharks (13-1) demolished the visiting Tampa Bay Storm last night in front of 10,517 fans at Sea Best Field at Veterans Memorial Arena.
Led by veteran quarterback Aaron Garcia’s precision arm, the Sharks broke open a relatively tight game in the second quarter en route to an easy 66-41 victory.
In winning their thirteenth game in a row — the longest single-season winning streak in Arena Football League history — the Sharks clinched the AFL’s South Division and assured themselves of a home-field advantage in the first two rounds of the league playoffs, set to begin on July 29.
Completing 22 of 27 passes, Garcia threw for 288 yards and nine touchdowns — six of them to wide receiver Jeff Hughley, who amassed 324 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns in the lopsided victory.
The 5’8” Hughley, who had only scored six touchdowns this season heading into Saturday’s game, was substituting for the injured Jeron Harvey, who had been placed on the injured reserve list following the June 11 game against the Orlando Predators.
A nimble Micheaux Robinson sparked the Sharks on defense, making an interception, knocking down four passes and forcing a fumble.
Tampa Bay’s Brian Zbydniewski — the third quarterback to start for the Storm this season — completed 27-of-44 passes for 341 yards and six touchdowns. Wide receiver Amarri Jackson, who played college football at the University of South Florida and had twice been signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, caught fourteen passes for 187 yards and four touchdowns for the Storm, matching his career high in both categories.
It was Jacksonville’s fourth consecutive win against the Storm, who have yet to defeat their AFL rival to the north.
Despite its loss, Tampa Bay (6-8) remains in contention for a wild card spot with four regular season games remaining, thanks in large part to Orlando’s 64-34 drubbing last night at the hands of the visiting Georgia Force (9-6). The loss was the third in a row for the Predators (8-6).
Tampa Bay plays three of its final four games at home, including a July 16 showdown against the Force, who currently hold a 2 ½-game lead over the Storm in the wild-card race.
Not content to sit on their 4 ½ game lead in the South Division, the Sharks travel to San Jose on Friday to take on the struggling Saber Cats, a team that has lost seven in a row, including an embarrassing 82-21 shellacking at the hands of the Cleveland Gladiators on Saturday night.