Although at times it wasn’t pretty, the Jacksonville Sharks (8-0) made it two-thirds of the way through a potential undefeated season after a 42-13 win against the Monterrey Steel (3-3) on Saturday night.
Neither offense could get going in the first quarter, with the only score being a Nick Belcher field goal. In fact, after Derrick Ross scored the first touchdown of the game to put Jacksonville up 10-0, the only scores for either team were some form of two points until near the end of the third quarter.
With the Steel generating pressure on Damien Fleming thanks to former Sharks Joe Sykes and Jerry Turner (both of whom factored on multiple sacks) and Jacksonville’s secondary forcing bad passes and penalties, the game devolved into a barrage of safeties and deuces for both teams.
Leading 16-4 in the third quarter, Erick McIntosh finally broke the end zone deadlock by hauling in an interception and returning it 35 yards for a pick-six and a 23-4 lead. Monterrey generated some offense thanks to another pair of former Sharks, London Crawford and Mardy Gilyard, the latter finding himself wide open after blown coverage for the Steel’s lone touchdown of the night, cutting the lead to 25-11 after Belcher hit his third deuce of the game.
Brandon Rutherford responded with a deuce of his own, but the Steel would not score again, as Jacksonville would record five interceptions on the evening, and multiple stops on third and fourth down (among these, Monterrey faced 3rd-and-22, 3rd-and-25, and 4th-and-25).
To salt the game away in the fourth quarter, Darien Fleming used a pump fake to ease a defender off Maurice Williams who hauled in a 45-yard scoring pass for the penultimate touchdown of the night. Thanks to a Charlie Hunt two-point conversion catch and a fourth deuce from Belcher (as the kickers combined for six on the night), Jacksonville enjoyed a 35-13 lead when Derrick Ross, who opened the scoring along with Belcher, ended it with a 26-yard touchdown run where he beat three defenders on his way into the end zone. The Steel had one last chance to score, but Michaeux Robinson sealed the game with the final interception.
At 8-0, Jacksonville now has just four games left in the regular season, starting with a road trip to face the Corpus Christi Rage on Sunday, May 28 at 7 p.m. ET.