JACKSONVILLE - Several early turnovers created a deficit from which the Jacksonville Sharks could not come back, as the team fell by a 62-27 count against the Philadelphia Soul in front of 10,206 on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena on Saturday night.
The Sharks (6-7) kept the game close into the second quarter, trailing 20-13 at the end of the first. But the Jacksonville offense stumbled from that point, as Philadelphia's defense shut out the Sharks in the second quarter. As part of that defensive effort, Rayshaun Kizer intercepted Shark quarterback Bernard Morris, setting up a touchdown that put the Soul ahead, 27-13. Philadelphia pushed that edge to 34-13 in the half's final minute, when Kizer capped the quarter by forcing a Morris fumble as time expired.
In the second half, Philadelphia (11-3) continued that strong defensive effort. Late in the third quarter, Morris was intercepted by Kent Richardson for a Philadelphia touchdown, pushing the Soul's edge to 55-20. It was the second of three interceptions for Richardson on Saturday, as he became the first opposing player to accomplish the feat against the Sharks in franchise history.
Overall, Philadelphia forced seven Jacksonville turnovers. On the other side, Bill Alford provided a late-game highlight with a 47-yard interception return for a touchdown - the only turnover snagged by the Jacksonville defense. Melik Brown followed Alford's return with his second rushing touchdown of the contest for the final score of the game.
Offensively, Morris finished 11-for-23 for 125 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Morris also ran for 19 yards on five carries. Jamarko Simmons grabbed both touchdown receptions - including a first-half score in which he ended up in the stands - while Jeron Harvey led Jacksonville with five catches for 52 yards. Rendrick Taylor produced another strong game on the ground, racking up 31 yards on just three carries.
For the Soul, quarterback Dan Raudabaugh completed 14 of 24 passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns. Donovan Morgan hauled in all three of those scores, leading all receivers with eight catches for 114 yards. Former Shark Jeff Hughley sparked Philadelphia with a kickoff return for a touchdown late in the first quarter.
On defense, Scooter Berry notched his team-high eighth sack of the season for Jacksonville, while the Soul's T.J. Langley recorded his first sack in a Philadelphia uniform. LaRoche Jackson led all players with 6.5 total tackles, while Kizer, Colin Nelson and Bryan Robinson each recovered a fumble for Philadelphia.
The night stands as the largest defeat in Shark team history and also marks the first time that Jacksonville did not score at least 30 points in a game.
With the loss, Jacksonville is tied with the Tampa Bay Storm and New Orleans VooDoo for second place in the South Division, a half-game back of the Georgia Force. With the Cleveland Gladiators' Saturday defeat, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay and New Orleans and Cleveland are all 6-7 - and competing for three potential playoff spots - with five weeks to play.
The Sharks return home next Saturday to take on those Gladiators in what could be a pivotal game in the American Conference Wild Card Race. Because Jacksonville already defeated Cleveland, 54-49, on April 20, the Sharks could clinch a potential tiebreaking scenario against Cleveland. Kickoff for next Saturday's game is set for 7:00 p.m.