Vipers fall 62-47 at Jacksonville
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It was a tough start to the Alabama Vipers' two-game road swing through Florida.
Newcomer quarterback Tim Hicks held the Vipers in after coming on for injured starter Kevin Eakin early in the second quarter, but the Jacksonville Sharks blew open a tight game in the fourth and cruised to a 62-47 win before more than 10,000 fans at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
The Vipers fell to 6-6 on the Arena Football League season, while Jacksonville - which had lost 63-49 in Huntsville back in April - improved to 8-4 and remains one game behind Tampa Bay in the American Conference South Division standings.
"We had our chances tonight in a tough situation,'' said Alabama coach Dean Cokinos, whose team visits Orlando next Friday night for an NFL Network game.
"We just let things slip away there in the fourth quarter. We were playing a talented team that executed and made the plays when they had to make them. We've just got to reload and make some adjustments."
Hicks completed 22 of 37 passes for 288 yards and five touchdowns, while Jacksonville quarterback Aaron Garcia - now the AFL's all-time leading passer - was 19 of 35 for 247 yards and three scores.
Michael and CJ Johnson had 10 catches each and combined for nearly 230 yards and four touchdowns for Alabama, while former Florida Gator Dallas Baker and Sale Key had seven receptions and combined for almost 200 yards for the Sharks.
The Sharks led it 34-27 at halftime following a late 3-yard touchdown run from Bernard Morris and emerged from a defensive third quarter with a 41-27 lead after a late Alabama turnover set up Garcia's 35-yard bomb to Key.
Things didn't get any better for the Vipers.
Hicks was sacked on Alabama's next possession and Bill Alford returned a fumble on the play 20 yards for a Jacksonville touchdown and a 21-point lead with just over 12 minutes to play.
Both teams had their bright spots in the first half.
Jacksonville posted a defensive stop to open the first quarter, took over near midfield and put the game's first six points on the board on a fourth-and-goal 5-yard pass from Garcia to Jason Willis. The point after failed and the Vipers answered with a quick drive that ended on Eakin's 5-yard touchdown scamper. Emergency kicker Steve Azar missed the extra point and it was 6-all with five minutes left in the opener.
Alabama came up with its own defensive stop at the Sharks' 11 as time wound down in the first quarter, but couldn't cash in and then lost Eakin. Jacksonville returned the favor with its own stop when Hicks came on in relief and then converted on a 6-yard pass from Garcia to Willis. Paul Edinger's kick made 13-7 with 11:42 remaining in the first half.
Hicks found his rhythm on Alabama's next possession, converting a fourth-and-long before Michael Johnson took a short out pass, broke various tackles and rambled in from 31 yards out. Azar's kick tied it up with 7:07 to go in the second.
Morris' 1-yard touchdown run was matched by Hicks' 37-yard bomb to CJ Johnson, but Morris snagged the ensuing onside kick and scored from 15 yards out for a 7-point Jacksonville advantage with just over three minutes remaining in the half.
Alabama bounced back with a 45-yard drive capped by CJ Johnson hauling in an 18-yard pass from Hicks that tied things with a minute to play before intermission.
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Arena Football League Stories from July 3, 2010
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- Shock Sweep Rattlers, 37-36 - Spokane Shock