The Portland Steel earned their second victory of the season on Saturday evening, defeating the Jacksonville Sharks 55-53 in front of 4,793 fans in Portland’s Moda Center.
Portland (2-12) needed their second-highest point total of the season to sneak past Jacksonville (5-9), who had an opportunity to tie the game in the last seconds, but failed on a two-point conversion attempt.
Jacksonville outgained Portland in yards from scrimmage by a margin of 305 to 154. Steel quarterback Shane Austin went 17 for 27 for just 120 yards and two touchdowns, while Sharks quarterback Tommy Grady went 25 for 35 for 293 yards and four touchdowns. Both teams had four rushing touchdowns each, an anomaly in the world of arena football.
Another anomaly: zero turnovers by either team. Neither quarterback threw an interception, and while there were three fumbles in the game, none of them were recovered by the opposing team.
Portland was able to keep pace with Jacksonville thanks to a superb kick-return game. Shane Boyle began the game with a 51-yard return all the way to the Jacksonville three-yard line.
Four plays later, Portland had scored to take a 7-0 lead. On Jacksonville’s next kickoff, after Grady connected with Tiger Jones for an 18-yard touchdown pass, Boyle took the return all the way to the end zone, 54 yards from where he had initially fielded it. In two plays, Boyle had accumulated 105 yards and directly set up 14 points for the Steel.
The Steel took a 31-27 lead into halftime and, after holding Jacksonville scoreless in the third quarter, a 38-27 lead into the fourth quarter. After trading scoring drives, Portland led 52-40 with time winding down in regulation. Jacksonville scored to close the gap to 52-47.
With under a minute remaining, Ernesto Lacayo made a 19-yard field goal for Portland to extend the lead to 55-47. Grady completed four straight passes to Reggie Gray, totaling 28 yards and getting them to Portland’s one-yard line. Derrick Ross ran in the touchdown with eight seconds remaining on the clock.
Jacksonville kicker Lindsey Wolfe had missed two extra points earlier in the game, creating the two-point spread that now existed. When Grady’s pass fell incomplete, the Sharks’ fate was sealed.
Portland travels to Tampa Bay next week to take on the Storm (1-13) on the CBS Sports Network, then end the season at home against the Los Angeles KISS (7-7). Jacksonville concludes their season with two games at home: against Los Angeles on on the 23rd, then their finale against Tampa Bay on the 31st.