Jackson Sets Rookie Record in Defeat
JACKSONVILLE - Roger Jackson's third quarter catch-and-run set the franchise record for rookie receiving yards in a season, but victory slipped through the hands of the New Orleans VooDoo (3-14-1) as the Jacksonville Sharks (10-8) completed a fourth quarter comeback to defeat the VooDoo 36-33 on Saturday night at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
Trailing 21-13 with 10:03 left to play in the third quarter Adam Kennedy would find an open Jackson, who would get back to his feet following a sliding catch and race 37 yards down to the Jacksonville seven, setting the rookie yardage record in the process. Roosevelt Falls would carry the ball on four of the next five plays, rumbling for 11 total yards and finishing the drive with a two-yard touchdown cutting the Jacksonville lead to a single point.
On Jacksonville's next possession, backup quarterback Lee Chapple mishandled the snap before Benji McDowell would pounce on the football giving the VooDoo possession at the Jacksonville 23 with 2:02 left in the third quarter. Kennedy would immediately find Jackson for another big gain, this time down to the six yard line for 16 yards before scrambling up the middle for a four-yard touchdown. T.C. Stevens would miss the extra point off the left upright, but the VooDoo would take a 27-21 lead into the fourth quarter.
Cameron McGlenn's interception and return to the New Orleans 20 gave the VooDoo the ball back quickly on the ensuing Jacksonville possession. Following and eight yard swing pass to Falls and a personal foul, Kennedy would fake a handoff to Falls and carry the ball into the endzone himself for the third time on the night, giving the VooDoo their largest lead of the night at 33-21 with just over nine minutes to play in the game.
Chapple would respond, scrambling 16 yards down to the New Orleans 15 before finding a wide open Tiger Jones for his third score of the night, cutting the New Orleans lead to just five points with 6:10 remaining.
On the ensuing kickoff, Sharks receiver Joe Hills would recover the onside kick before catching a pair of passes totaling 25 yards, moving the ball all the way down to the VooDoo 10-yard line. On 1st and Goal from the New Orleans four-yard line Tiger Jones would score on a four-yard end-around, giving Jacksonville its first lead since the third quarter. Lee would them scramble to his left before tripping over a stray helmet, but finding Hills for the two-point conversion, giving Jacksonville their 36-33 lead with just over a minute remaining.
The VooDoo would have one last chance following a failed Sharks onside kick, but Nicolas Jean-Baptiste would strip Roosevelt Falls of the football, fall on it, and seal the victory for Jacksonville.
A cagey opening quarter saw both teams go scoreless for the opening 13 minutes of the contest. New Orleans opened the game with a ten play drive that took almost eight minutes off the clock, before a pair of sacks by Shark defensive lineman Joe Sykes and Jerry Turner forced a 49-yard field goal attempt by Stevens that missed off the left side netting.
Following a pair of Jacksonville first downs Sharks starting quarterback Tommy Grady's deep pass to Tiger Jones was swatted away in the back of the endzone by Tracy Belton, and two plays later the VooDoo defense would come up big when Dominie Pittman recovered a Derek Ross fumble at the New Orleans 16 with 4:22 to play in the first quarter.
On the ensuing drive Kennedy looked for Charlie McClain, but found Jackson instead for a 27 yard catch-and-run down to the Jacksonville seven after the ball was tipped right into Spiderman's hands by McClain. Fortune would reverse two plays later as Shark linebacker Alvin Ray Jackson made a leaping interception in the endzone to half the New Orleans drive.
Jacksonville opened the scoring four plays later when Grady found Hills from six yards out capping a four play 45 yard drive to end the first quarter. The catch gave Hills a touchdown in 52 straight games, good for the second best streak all-time in Arena Football history. Julian Rouche missed the extra point off the right upright, giving the Sharks a 6-0 lead heading into the second quarter.
A back-and-fourth second quarter saw the VooDoo respond quickly, marching 45 yards in just five plays when Kennedy found McClain in the left flat, the diminutive speedster raced 20 yards untouched down the left sideline to give New Orleans its first lead of the contest, 7-6 with 11:34 to play in the first half.
Showing why he leads the Arena Football League in receiving yards, it would take just a single play for Jones to catch-and-run 48 yards down the left seam quickly giving the Sharks the lead again 12-7 with 10:13 left in the second quarter following Rouche's second missed extra point of the evening. The catch moved Jones past 2,000 receiving yards in 2015.
Momentum would swing wildly on the next possession. After Kennedy capped a methodical nine play 45 yard drive with a six yard touchdown scramble, but Steven's extra point would be blocked by Jean-Baptiste before falling to LaRoche Jackson who raced down the right sideline and high-stepped his way into the endzone for a two-point conversion giving the Sharks the 14-13 lead they would take into halftime.
Jackson would finish his evening for New Orleans with three catches for 80 yards, ending his season with 74 catches for 924 yards and 16 touchdowns. His yardage total breaks Kenny Henderson's rookie record of 895 set in 2007, and his touchdown total of 16 finishes two behind Henderson's rookie record of 18.
Kennedy finished the night 16-of-20 for 182 yards with one touchdown and one interception, but also finished with three rushing touchdowns on four carries. He finishes his season 260-of-422 for 2,853 yards with 43 touchdowns and 14 interceptions and 114 yards rushing with a team best 11 rushing touchdowns.
For Jacksonville, Grady finished his evening 10-of-13 for 131 yards and a pair of touchdowns before making way for Chapple in the third quarter. Joe Hills finished with eight catches for 97 yards and a touchdown, while Tiger Jones at 7 catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Both Hills and Jones broke the franchise record for receptions in a single season during the game.
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Arena Football League Stories from August 8, 2015
- Jackson Sets Rookie Record in Defeat - New Orleans VooDoo
- Sharks Close out Regular Season with 36-33 Victory over VooDoo - Jacksonville Sharks
- Gladiators Fall to Soul in Season Finale, 48-33 - Cleveland Gladiators
- Predators Close out Regular Season with 59-40 Victory - Orlando Predators
- Storm Loses Season Finale, Falls to Predators 59-40 - Tampa Bay Storm
- Soul Defense Leads Way over Gladiators, 48-33 - Philadelphia Soul
- Storm Loses Season Finale, Fall to Predators 59-40 - Tampa Bay Storm
- Predators Bolster Defense with Two Free Agents - Orlando Predators
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