The Jacksonville Sharks are back to start the 25th season of Arena Football. Although they were only founded in 2010, the Sharks have risen to the spotlight quickly after winning last year’s AFL Championship. The menacing red and black look not only to win their third division championship in a row, but to once again capture the Arena Bowl title.
The future of the Arena Football League looked bleak in 2008, when Commissioner David Baker suddenly stepped down and several teams decided to cease their involvement. With a delayed draft and the fate of the league in jeopardy, players agreed to decrease the salary cap to make sure that the owners did not completely disband the league. The 2009 season was consequently cancelled for restructuring and augmenting the efficiency of operations. But with a new business plan and partnerships with the NFL Network set in line, the AFL returned with the newly-minted Jacksonville Sharks.
The dimensions of Arena Football are significantly smaller than those of the National Football League, but the added challenges of a shorter field, narrower goal posts, and a padded sideline barrier make for a fast-paced and furiously physical contest. Popularity of teams in the AFL has decreased slightly over the past two years though, with an average attendance only slightly over 8,000 per game.
The Sharks have reassigned last year’s quarterback Herbert Bynes in favor of the return of Bernard Morris. After leaving in 2010 and playing for the Pittsburgh Power during the 2011 season, Morris has now taken the starting role for the Sharks, hoping to keep up his impressive performances. With 55 touchdowns and only nine interceptions last year, along with a team-leading 312 rushing yards on just 46 carries, Morris will provide essential offensive production that the Sharks hope will propel them back to the championship.
In the home opener against the Georgia Force this past Saturday, the Sharks fell to their South Division rivals with a score of 69-41. With offense abundant in arena football, the Sharks need to learn from their mistakes and capitalize on any breaks they can get.
“Anytime you get beat, there’s a lot to learn from. Not only players but coaches also,” Head Coach Les Moss said in an interview after the game.
Moss claimed that in the days leading up to the opener, the team had three of their best offensive practices, but that the players needed to translate that momentum and energy into game situations.
Their next game is this Friday in Tampa Bay, where the team will face the Storm. With a record of 1-1 so far, the Sharks need a win here to avoid falling behind early. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.