by Steven Shotola

Orlando Rematch in the Shark Tank

JACKSONVILLE, FL -  The Jacksonville Sharks (4-5) return home for an exciting rematch against the (3-5) Orlando Predators this Friday, June 24 at the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena. 

Last week both teams fell to their opponents as the Sharks lost on the road 43-33 to the Columbus Lions (4-3) on Friday night. While the Predators suffered defeat on the final play of the game against the San Antonio Gunslingers (2-5) in a 55-53 nailbiter. Jacksonville played Orlando two-weeks ago in the Shark tank for the first time this season. The oldest rivalry in the NAL featured a low scoring game dominated by both teams' defenses as the Sharks shut out the Predators in the first quarter while Orlando only allowed the Sharks to score 13 points in the whole second half. Jacksonville claimed the victory in that week 8 match with the final score 45-34. 

This week the Sharks will continue to have home field advantage while the Predators will travel for revenge as Orlando is in a 1-victory margin for being tied in the NAL rankings with the Sharks. Arvell Nelson had a solid first half week 8 against the Predators but by the end of the game finished with 4 touchdown passes and a season-high three interceptions. Jacksonville will need to limit turnovers going into week 10 but will expect to apply the same pressure to Orlando quarterback Rakeem Cato who was taken down twice by Jacksonville with sacks and was picked off once by the Sharks secondary. 

On special teams, the Sharks need to make the difference in that category sooner than later as they struggled two weeks in a row on extra points including against Orlando, who blocked several attempts to score. However, one of the brightest plays of the game came from the Sharks special teams unit as lineman Kwan Stallworth blocked an Orlando field goal attempt for a Seyvon Lowry recovery to score. Shark Nation will hope to see more incredible plays like that beyond the kicker position as Jacksonville has in the arsenal kick returner Nyqwan Murray, who has already returned a kick for a touchdown this year; another breakout performance by Murray could put the Shark on top again over the Predators.

Difference makers, the Sharks will lean on a strong defensive performance holding Orlando to only 34 points was impressive. Football minds know Orlando’s offense will likely make many changes to avoid a repeat loss in Jacksonville. Which is why the spotlight may often find star ironman DL/LB/FB Chei Hill this Friday as he leads the Sharks in sacks currently with five and will need to make his way to Rakeem Cato through an offensive line that has allowed only five sacks in eight games. Behind the defense line is defensive back Markus Smith who had a terrific two weeks crushing the Lions with five tackles as well as a forced fumble he recovered and returned for a touchdown. Smith also pounded the Preds in week 8 with four tackles, three pass breakups, and an interception. 

With the Sharks injury list piling up this season, this 4-5 team will need to rally around its active leaders, coaches, and feed off the best fans in the NAL to get another victory over their rivals the Orlando Predators this Friday. A win Friday will put the Sharks at 5-5 in pursuit of jumping over the Albany Empire (4-4) for a shot at 3rd place in the NAL standings. To witness this great rivalry in person Friday, call the Sharks ticket team at 904-621-0700 or visit jaxsharks.com for tickets. Tickets are starting at $12 a seat, any school employee can take advantage of the Sharks buy one get one free ticket deal (available this week only).

About the Jacksonville Sharks

The Jacksonville Sharks are members of the National Arena League (NAL). The 2019 & 2017 NAL Champions and ArenaBowl XXIV Champions play all their home games at the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena. Sharks Nation Memberships for the 2022 season are now available. To become a Shark Nation member or for more information please call (904) 621-0700. Follow the Sharks on Facebook at facebook.com/jaxsharks and on Twitter and Instagram @jaxsharks, as well as the Attack Dance Team at facebook.com/sharkattackdance and Chum at facebook.com/chumsharks.