Lowly SaberCats Stun Sharks, End Record-Breaking Winning Streak
Despite scoring on their first seven offensive possessions and building a seemingly comfortable three-touchdown lead late in the second quarter, the Jacksonville Sharks saw their record-setting thirteen game winning streak come to an abrupt end last night, losing 83-70 to the downtrodden Saber Cats — losers of seven straight — before a crowd of 8,216 fans at San Jose’s HP Pavilion.
It was the Sharks’ first loss since the opening week of the season when they fell to the Arizona Rattlers, 55-52. The stunning setback also jeopardizes Jacksonville’s hopes of hosting ArenaBowl XXIV later this summer.
Connecting on six first-half touchdown passes, including four to wide receiver Jomo Wilson, Aaron Garcia led the Sharks to a 42-28 halftime lead.
The Sharks maintained their two-touchdown advantage until the midway point of the third quarter.
Then disaster struck when Jeff Hughley uncharacteristically fumbled back-to-back kickoff returns, including one that was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown that knotted the score at 49 apiece.
San Jose (6-9), coming off an 82-21 shellacking at Cleveland last weekend — the worst defeat in franchise history — then took a 56-49 lead as the third quarter came to a close.
Jacksonville (13-2) fought back, tying the game at 56 all on a breathtakingly spectacular catch by 6’3” Jamarko Simmons with 12:24 remaining in the game, but quickly found themselves trailing the rest of the way.
The Sharks, who entered last night’s contest allowing just 46.1 points per game — the second best in the league — were simply unable to stop the upset-minded SaberCats in the game’s waning moments.
Trailing by two touchdowns, Garcia, who completed 27 of 34 passes for 354 yards, tried to keep Jacksonville close, firing his ninth touchdown pass of the game — tying a franchise record he set last week against the Tampa Bay Storm — to cut San Jose’s margin to 77-70 with 25 seconds remaining.
But it was too little, too late. The explosive SaberCats, tallying 55 points in the nightmarish second half, scored again when quarterback Mark Grieb threw a nine-yard strike to wide receiver James Roe in the closing seconds to seal Jacksonville’s fate.
Completing 32 of 48 passes, the 37-year-old Grieb passed for 401 yards and nine touchdowns, tying his best performance of the season. He also threw two interceptions.
In snapping their seven-game losing streak, the SaberCats, who are chasing defending Arena Football League champion Spokane (7-7) and Utah (7-8) for a wild-card spot in the AFL’s National Conference, kept their flickering playoff hopes alive.
Jacksonville, which has never won a game in the West — losing to Spokane last year and dropping contests at Arizona and San Jose this season — return to Veterans Memorial Arena next Saturday when they host the Dallas Vigilantes (9-5) at 7 p.m.
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