Orlando Predators fall to division-rival Jacksonville Sharks, 66-51
Preds snap winning streak in loss to Jacksonville
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Turnovers and miscues proved costly as the Orlando Predators (6-5) dropped a 66-51 decision on the road to the division-rival Jacksonville Sharks (6-5) in front of 10,127 fans at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena on Saturday evening.
Despite the loss, Orlando remains atop the South Division of the American Conference, holding a tiebreaker over the Sharks due to a superior divisional record.
Unable to capitalize at key moments in the game, the Predators offense turned the ball over five times on the night. Quarterback Bernard Morris threw for 292 yards and six touchdowns, but was intercepted once and had the ball stripped twice on fumbles. Fullback Michael Simons carried three times for 14 yards and a score, but also put the ball on the turf by way of a fumble.
Wide receiver Kendal Thompkins paced the receiving corps with five receptions for 103 yards and two scores, while wide receiver Brandon Thompkins registered six catches for 90 yards and another score. WR Larry Brackins caught two passes, both of which went for scores totaling 28 yards. WR Greg Carr returned to the lineup and delivered five receptions for 68 yards and another touchdown.
Defensive back Emanuel Cook led all defenders with 10.5 total tackles in the game, including one forced fumble. He was joined in the secondary by DB Nick Taylor and DB Rod Issac, both of whom posted interceptions in the game. As a unit, the Predators defense forced three first half turnovers, but Jacksonville would score touchdowns on seven consecutive second half possessions.
Orlando took an early 7-0 lead two plays into the game as Morris dropped back and lofted a 28-yard touchdown pass over the defense to Kendal Thompkins in the right corner of the end zone. Orlando’s defense swiftly regained possession as Nick Taylor picked off a fourth-down pass to the end zone by Jacksonville QB Tommy Grady. However, the Predators were unable to capitalize on the turnover after Morris failed to connect with Larry Brackins on a fourth-down throw a series later. The Sharks managed to tie the game on the ensuing possession off a 10-yard pass from Grady to WR Anthony Jones.
Facing 4th-and-10 on Orlando’s next drive, Morris eluded pressure and launched a deep 45-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Brandon Thompkins for a 14-7 advantage at the end of the first quarter. The Predators defense returned to the field and promptly denied the Sharks with their second interception of the game.
Orlando’s pass rush supplied pressure and Grady made an ill-advised throw over the middle that was tipped by Emanuel Cook into the arms of Rod Issac, who secured the interception for the Predators. Orlando converted the turnover into points of a successful 19-yard field goal by Mark Lewis to take a 17-7 lead.
Derrick Ross rushed for a one-yard score on the next Jacksonville series, but the point-after-touchdown attempt was unsuccessful as Austin Brown bull-rushed an offensive lineman into the backfield while blocking the kick. The Predators regained possession with a short field after recovering an onside kick attempt and needed just one play to score as Morris tossed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Larry Brackins to take a 23-13 lead with a minute remaining in the second quarter.
The Predators defense put forth another stifling effort in the red zone on the next Jacksonville drive by forcing an unsuccessful field goal attempt, but Morris would have his pass attempt intercepted by Jacksonville DB LaRoche Jackson on the resulting possession. The Sharks would kick an 18-yard field goal as time expired, giving Orlando a 23-16 lead at the midway point.
Jacksonville scored off a 2-yard run by Derrick Ross on the opening drive of the third quarter; however, the Predators stayed ahead following a missed point-after-touchdown, 23-22. Orlando added to its lead moments later as Morris fired a 13-yard strike to Larry Brackins, who dove over the goal line to secure a 30-22 advantage.
The Sharks would take the lead with three unanswered scores in the third quarter, beginning with a 10-yard pass from Grady to WR Jeron Harvey. The Predators turned the ball over on a fumble by Michael Simons on the ensuing drive and Jacksonville went ahead 36-30 after a 22-yard touchdown pass from Grady to WR Anthony Jones.
Orlando turned the ball over again on its next series, as Morris was sacked and fumbled the ball at the opponent’s seven-yard line. The Sharks took a 43-30 lead on the next play from scrimmage as Grady completed a seven-yard touchdown pass to WR Joe Hills.
The Predators offense responded just minutes into the fourth quarter, as Simons rumbled over the goal line on a 2-yard run that decreased the deficit, 43-36. However Jacksonville would make it a two-score game once again a series later, as Grady found Jones for a 27-yard touchdown pass on a fourth down attempt.
Six plays into Orlando’s next possession, Morris scrambled to elude pressure before firing a completion to Greg Carr. Carr would take it 23 yards up the field, running through defenders on his way to the end zone to decrease the Sharks lead, 50-44. However, Jacksonville would score again a series, this time off a 5-yard reception by Joe Hills to put the Predators in a 57-44 hole late in the fourth quarter.
Disaster struck on the ensuing Orlando drive, as Morris had the ball stripped from his possession while backed up against his own goal line. The Predators recovered the loose ball in the end zone for a safety that left the Predators trailing, 59-44. Jacksonville would score on the resulting possession off a 1-yard run by Derrick Ross to take a 66-44 lead with under a minute remaining in the contest.
On Orlando’s final offensive snap of the night, Morris delivered a 38-yard pass to Thompkins, who made a diving catch in the end zone to bring the game to its final score, 66-51.
The Predators have registered a 2-1 record inside the South Division, holding a tiebreaker over the Sharks, who have a posted a 1-2 divisional record. The two teams will meet in Orlando for a third and final regular season match-up in Week 19 on Saturday, Aug. 1.
The Orlando Predators return home in Week 12 to take on the Philadelphia Soul at 7 pm Saturday.
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