JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Arizona Rattlers took control early and put an end to the Jacksonville Sharks’ perfect season Saturday night with a 58-48 victory in front of a season-high 11,076 fans at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
The Rattlers (6-1) used a pair of first-half defensive stops to build a 34-19 halftime advantage, and though the Sharks (6-1) scored first in the second half to make it a one-score contest, the Rattlers responded immediately and never trailed by fewer than two scores for the rest of the game. The Sharks totaled 22 points in the fourth quarter but were not able to convert a potentially game-changing onside kick.
For Arizona, Rod Windsor racked up 14 catches for 145 yards and five touchdowns, while Trandon Harvey added two grabs for 45 yards and a score.
Quarterback Nick Davila was efficient in the victory, going 21 of 30 for 251
yards and six touchdowns.
The Sharks’ offensive star in defeat was wide receiver Jeron Harvey, whose 16 receptions were the most by any Jacksonville receiver in a single game this season. Harvey also racked up 143 yards and three touchdowns, making this his third consecutive game with at least three scores.
It was Harvey who helped put the Sharks on the board in the early stages of Saturday’s contest. After Arizona received the opening kickoff, the Jacksonville defense began the game with a strong stand. The Rattlers moved the ball into a first-and-goal situation before a holding penalty backed them up to the 18. On second-and-long, Rashaad Duncan collapsed the pocket and brought down Davila for his fourth sack of the season. Two plays later, Duncan swatted away Garrett Lindholm’s long-field goal attempt to give the Sharks the ball at the Rattlers’ 13.
It took just two plays for the Sharks to draw first blood, as quarterback Bernard Morris found Harvey for a one-yard touchdown to open the scoring. Harvey’s team-leading 14th touchdown of the year gave Jacksonville a 7-0 advantage.
But after that early score, Arizona responded with a long drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Davila. The Rattlers defense then asserted itself as the first half progressed, forcing the Sharks to go four-and-out on their second possession. Two quick scores by the Arizona offense gave the visitors a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Sharks again had a tough time on offense as the second quarter got underway. On Jacksonville’s first possession of the frame, Morris threw three straight incompletions before the Rattlers blocked Marco Capozzoli’s 42-yard field-goal try. On the very next play, Davila connected with Windsor for a 23-yard touchdown, making it a two-score game at 21-7.
After Morris and Harvey hooked up for their second touchdown of the game – this one a 3-yard pass – Arizona extended its lead to 34-13 late in the second quarter, as Davila found Harvey and Windsor in the end zone on back-to-back possessions. After a Sharks touchdown late in the second quarter, the Rattlers took a 34-19 lead into the break.
For the Jacksonville offense, the second half started in much the same way as the first half ended, as a sustained drive ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Morris to fullback Rendrick Taylor – his first touchdown grab of the year. Capozzoli’s extra point cut the deficit to 34-28, but the Rattlers answered with a touchdown run by Odie Armstrong to regain the two-touchdown advantage.
The Sharks’ next possession proved pivotal, as Jacksonville had moved the ball into Arizona territory when defensive back Arkeith Brown stripped the ball from receiver Jarvis Williams. Tyre Glasper hopped on the fumble to force a turnover, and Davila found Windsor on the ensuing possession to put the Rattlers up by three scores.
From that point on, the Sharks could not cut the deficit closer than 10 points. They did put up 22 points in the final frame, getting a touchdown catch each from Harvey and Williams while Taylor added a rushing score, but the Rattlers also converted on every drive to sustain their lead.
Morris finished the game 27 of 41 for 255 yards and six scores. Though he did not throw an interception, Morris was brought down twice by a Rattlers pass rush that was a constant presence.
Arizona defensive back Marquis Floyd led all players with seven solo
tackles and three pass breakups, while Jeremy Kellem added six total
tackles (four solo) and two breakups of his own. Antron Dillon and
Marcus Pittman each recorded a sack for the Rattlers.
For the Sharks, Jamaal Fudge led the way with seven tackles (six solo) and Terrance Smith recorded a pass breakup. Duncan recorded the team’s lone sack, while Matt Marcorelle was also a factor on the defensive line, batting down a pair of passes and blowing up a run play in the backfield.