Looking for Redemption, Sharks Host Dallas Vigilantes
Hoping to redeem themselves after last Friday’s stunning loss to the struggling SaberCats at San Jose’s HP Pavilion — an unexpected setback that snapped a record thirteen-game winning streak — the Jacksonville Sharks return to the friendly confines of Veterans Memorial Arena tonight at 7 p.m. when they host the surging Dallas Vigilantes.
Though they clinched the Arena Football League’s South Division a couple of weeks ago, the Sharks (13-2) still have plenty to play for, not the least of which is an opportunity to host ArenaBowl XXIV on August 12.
Jacksonville, which is already guaranteed to play at home in the first two rounds of the AFL playoffs, currently trails the Arizona Rattlers (14-2) by a half-game for the right to host the Arena Bowl. Arizona, which plays at Pittsburgh on Sunday, holds the tiebreaker on the strength of its 55-52 win over the Sharks in the season opener.
The Sharks will be without the services of Jamarko Simmons, who was signed by the Virginia Destroyers of the United Football League (UFL) earlier this week. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound wide receiver, who started the last three games in place of the injured Sale Key, scored a dozen touchdowns for the Sharks in eight games.
Bobby Williams, a 6’2” Raines High graduate, will replace Simmons in the starting lineup.
Dallas (10-5) comes into tonight’s game having won four straight, including a punishing 58-41 victory last Saturday against the Philadelphia Soul, and is looking to win its fifth straight game for the first time in franchise history.
In putting together their second four-game winning streak of the season, the Vigilantes have really turned up the defensive pressure, recording no fewer than four sacks and three interceptions against Philadelphia on Saturday.
Led by quarterback Dan Raudabaugh, the Vigilantes lead the league in fourth down conversions, converting on a remarkable 22 of 29 attempts. The red-hot Raudabaugh, who played college football at Miami of Ohio, has completed 60 of 92 passes for 768 yards and 17 touchdowns in his last three outings.
The Vigilantes are only one game from clinching the third-seed playoff spot in the AFL’s National Conference.
They also come into Saturday’s game with an outside chance of overtaking the Chicago Rush (11-4) in the Central Division.
Dallas, which closes the regular season with difficult matches against the division-leading Rush (11-4) and the Arizona Rattlers — one of only two squads to have defeated the Sharks this season — currently leads defending Arena Football League champion Spokane and Utah by three games in the battle for the conference’s third playoff spot.
“We control our destiny from here,” said Dallas defensive end Justin Warren in preparing for the Sharks. “We just have to take things one game at a time and make sure we keep Spokane and Utah in the rearview mirror. If we can win out, we know we will be in the playoffs, without a doubt. We just have to work hard and get ready for Jacksonville.”