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Sharks Look to Extend Streak In San Jose

The Jacksonville Sharks will look to extend their 13-game winning streak tonight when they visit the slumping San Jose SaberCats.

Tonight’s game, set to kick off at 10:30 p.m. ET, marks the first meeting ever between the two teams.

It’s also the first time veteran quarterbacks Aaron Garcia of the Sharks and San Jose’s Mark Grieb have played against each other since March 2004, a year when Grieb led the SaberCats to their second of three Arena Bowl championships. Garcia, who tossed for nine touchdowns on 19-21 passing, led the New York Dragons to a 14-point victory in that game.

Garcia, 40, is coming off a phenomenal performance against the Tampa Bay Storm on Saturday, throwing for 288 yards and nine touchdowns. He also broke the AFL’s record for most career completions in that game.

The Sharks are heavily favored, but shouldn’t take San Jose too lightly.

For starters, the Sharks have never won a game in the West, losing at Spokane last year and narrowly dropping their 2011 season opener to the Arizona Rattlers in Phoenix on March 12.

Beginning the season with great promise by winning five of their first seven contests, including an impressive season-opening 76-48 spanking of the Spokane Shock — the defending AFL champions — the SaberCats have struggled in their last seven outings.

The low point in their losing streak occurred last Saturday in Cleveland when the Gladiators jumped out to an insurmountable 41-7 halftime lead en route to an embarrassing 82-21 thumping of the SaberCats — one of the worst drubbings in the history of the Arena Football League.

On the other hand, the Saber Cats (5-9) are capable of playing much better, as was the case only a week earlier when they lost a 64-57 last-second heartbreaker at Arizona (13-2), the only team to have defeated the league-leading Sharks this year. In fact, three of the losses in their current seven-game slump were by a single touchdown.

Allowing 319.5 total yards per game, San Jose’s porous defense is the worst in the league, and if the SaberCats have any chance of pulling an upset against the heavily-favored Sharks it will depend largely on veteran quarterback Mark Grieb’s ability to exploit Jacksonville’s pass defense, which currently ranks 16th in the AFL.

Now in his 12th AFL season — five fewer than Jacksonville’s Garcia — Grieb holds the league’s record for career pass completion percentage.

But the 37-year-old Grieb, who has thrown for 72 touchdowns this season, will have to avoid costly turnovers against the Sharks. Uncharacteristically, the former Harlon Hill Trophy finalist at UC-Davis has thrown twenty interceptions so far this season, the most in his Arena Football League career.

This is San Jose’s first home game since May 28, when they hosted the Georgia Force before 10,231 fans. The SaberCats are 4-3 this season at HP Pavilion, also known as the “Shark Tank,” home of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks.

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