The Jacksonville Sharks, as they’ve done all season, got off to a slow start against the High Country Grizzlies. But this time, it was very short lived, as Jacksonville took the penultimate step to an undefeated regular season. At the final horn, the Sharks ran out 66-18 winners.
High Country started a new quarterback, Reed Gurchiek, and Jacksonville gave him a true Shark Tank welcome, sacking him on the first play. The drive, which featured two fumbled snaps, ended with a 38-yard field goal attempt going short.
Darien Fleming, however, had early issues of his own. His first drive ended with a Dexter Jackson interception in the end zone. The Grizzlies still struggled thanks to another fumbled snap, but Gurchiek recovered to make a deep pass to Daron Clark. The touchdown eluded them, as the drive ended with a 21-yard field goal.
It would be the last time High Country would score for more than 25 minutes.
In that time, Jacksonville rattled off 34 straight points. Derrick Ross scored twice and came up short a third time, Micheaux Robinson and Charlie Hunt netted an interceptions as part of three turnovers, and three different receivers caught a touchdown pass. Emughedi Umodu, who just signed with the team mid-week, was one of the three.
When Reed Gurchiek found Daron Clark for a 30-yard touchdown pass, and Clark handled a bad snap to run in for a two-point conversion right before halftime, the game was long over at 34-11.
Again, it would be the last time High Country would score for more than 25 minutes.
Jason Boltus came in to start the second half, and he only needed the third quarter to find his rhythm. The defense also made plays in the frame, as newly-married Dale Pierson featured on the first of consecutive sacks, and Jacksonville earned the stop on the ensuing 4th-and-24.
The Grizzlies did score for the final time of the night in the fourth quarter on a Reed Gurchiek run, but after Boltus threw his first touchdown pass as a shark to Maurice Williams. As part of the Sharks scoring the final 25 points of the night, Williams scored again. Derrick Ross also had a long, 22-yard touchdown run, extending his grip on the rushing title.
To round out the offense, Devin Wilson scampered into the end zone. On defense, another debutant, Peter Tulloch, made his mark on the scoresheet with an interception. For special teams, Nick Belcher continued his assault on the kicking record books, hitting two deuces during the scoring run.
With the win, the Sharks are now one game away from starting their NAL tenure with a perfect regular season. The last opponent standing in the way of history is the Monterrey Steel, in a game that could also serve as a semifinal preview. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 17, at Veterans Memorial Arena.