JACKSONVILLE - The ArenaBowl XXIV Champion Jacksonville Sharks built a three-score lead in the second quarter but could not keep up momentum in the second half, falling by a 56-39 score to the Georgia Force at The Arena at Gwinnett Center on Saturday night.
Jacksonville (6-6) started fast, taking a 27-9 lead early in the second quarter on a phenomenal 52-yard interception return from LaRoche Jackson, who picked off Georgia's R.J. Archer at the goal line and weaved his way around would-be tacklers to go the distance. But from that point forward, the Force outscored Jacksonville 40-12 for the remainder of the game, taking control in the fourth quarter.
One key shift in momentum came on the final play of the third quarter. The Sharks held a 34-33 lead but were backed up inside their own five yard line when quarterback Bernard Morris was sacked for a safety, moving Georgia back in front by a point.
Jacksonville recovered from there, as Aaron Robbins pounced on an Archer fumble to give the Sharks offense the ball back, as Morris responded with a two-yard touchdown pass to Jamarko Simmons to put the Sharks back in front. But Georgia answered with a score of their own, reclaiming the lead for good.
The Sharks' next possession started inside the team's own one yard line, and on the first play from scrimmage Morris was intercepted by Jeremy Grier for a quick Georgia touchdown. That score extended the Force's lead to 49-39 with under a minute left. Jacksonville got the ball back with a chance to recover, but Morris was then intercepted in the end zone by Marrio Norman as the Force reclaimed possession and sealed the game.
Georgia receiver Larry Shipp punctuated the contest with a razzle-dazzle, one-yard touchdown pass to Shay Hodge in the final seconds. Shipp was Georgia's most potent offensive threat, finishing with 13 receptions for 167 yards, three receiving touchdowns and a rushing score. Archer ended the game 27-of-43 for 284 yards, three touchdowns and that Jackson interception.
For the Sharks, Morris completed 12 of 26 passes for 111 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. He also made a pair of outstanding plays scrambling out of the pocket, as a 39-yard burst in the first half helped Morris set a new single-game team record with 68 rushing yards on six carries. Rendrick Taylor added 15 yards of his own as the Sharks accumulated 83 rushing yards as a team - the most in any game in franchise history.
At receiver, Simmons led the way with three touchdown catches. In his return from injured reserve, Jeron Harvey totaled a team-high 34 receiving yards and a touchdown, while Bobby Sewall notched a touchdown catch as well.
On defense, Berry's sack was his team-leading seventh of the season. He also now leads the Sharks with four forced fumbles in 2012. Jackson led the Sharks with eight total tackles (seven solo) along with his impressive pick-six.
The Sharks will return to Sea Best Field next Saturday, June 16 as they host the American Conference-leading Philadelphia Soul. Next Saturday's game will be "Halloween In June" as fans are encouraged to come in costume. Kickoff for that contest is set for 7:00.