Former Pittsburgh Power quarterback Bernard Morris came home once again with the Jacksonville Sharks and emerged victorious by a 61-35 score.
“This is not the result we wanted as a team,” Head Coach Derek Stingley said. “I truly felt like we had an awesome week of practice. The way we prepared, we prepared to the point of understanding what Jacksonville was going to do and we truly thought we had an answer for everything. Things didn’t go our way.”
The Sharks started out with the football at their own 15 yard line but it was former Power quarterback Bernard Morris who found reigning AFL Ironman of the Year Jeff Hughley from 27 yards out to give his team a 7-0 lead.
Slowly, the Power responded with a couple of key fourth down conversions. A big reception by Perry Baker also kept the drive going. Naturally, it was a fourth down conversion where Jordan Jefferson found P.J. Berry for an 11 yard touchdown. Josh Czajkowski missed the extra point though and the Sharks held on to a 7-6 lead.
The Power appeared to solve the Sharks on the next drive forcing two penalties including an unsportsmanlike conduct, however on the very next play, Morris found Markee White on a 37 yard pass. The extra point was blocked.
On the second play of the drive, the Power had another miscommunication at the line of scrimmage and Jefferson fumbled the ball. Jerry Turner of the Sharks recovered the ball at the Power one yard line.
Two plays into that drive Dusty Bear ran the ball in from a yard out to extend the Sharks lead to 20-6.
On the next Power possession, Baker had a 31 yard catch and run but the team could not get the ball in the end zone, turning the ball over on downs.
Morris dropped back to pass in his own end zone but the pass was thrown to no one in the vicinity resulting in a safety. The Power kept possession and Jefferson ended the drive with a two yard run.
Towards the end of the first half, Jefferson left the field with a rib injury and he was replaced by backup quarterback Shane Austin and the offense stalled after a long pass was broken up by Micheaux Robinson.
Morris would then take care of things himself running the ball into the end zone from 12 yards out.
The Power then struck before the end of the half when Austin found Berry for a 31 yard gain out to the Sharks one. Kirby Griffin did the rest making the score 34-21 Sharks.
The Power defense was able to make a final stand in the half and with three seconds left, Austin had a chance to draw Pittsburgh closer but ultimately was sacked to end the half.
The offense flowed much better under Austin leading to a Berry two yard run cutting the score to 34-28.
The Sharks moved the ball and had a fourth down on their own one yard line. The Sharks were said to score but Stingley threw maybe the fastest challenge flag ever seen and was proven correct.
“I saw his knee down from my viewpoint so when the officials threw their hands up, I knew I would win that challenge. I was glad that at least that went right for us,” Stingley said.
The Power looked to be in business moving the football down the field but then Austin was intercepted by Robinson. The score would be 42-28 after Morris ran the ball in from a yard out.
Jefferson came back in during the fourth quarter and quickly was intercepted resulting in a second run from Bear, this one from two yards out.
The Power offense did strike again though when Jefferson found Berry for a 21 yard touchdown.
The Sharks then used clock to before Morris found Jeron Harvey for the nail in the coffin. As if that was not enough, Jefferson threw another interception to Robinson who returned it 52 yards for the score as time expired.
Now heading into the lone bye week of the season, the Power stand 0-2, a record that surprises Berry.
“We didn’t expect to be here in the beginning of the season,” Berry said. “All of us came to camp and had a good camp. We were expecting to be 2-0. It sucks but we’ve just got to get better.”
Berry did not blame anyone for the loss this week, saying the team needs to do better but seemed embarrassed to lose.
“They’re just a man-to-man team,” Berry said. “They play man, that’s it. In Arena if you can’t beat man, then you shouldn’t have a job.”
It is also clear that Stingley is frustrated by the start and it looks as though there will be moves to change player personnel before their Sunday April 14th road game against the Chicago Rush.
“I’m constantly looking for other players, it’s the revolving door in this league,” Stingley said. “I told the guys day one when they made the team, that I had some good news and some bad news. The good news is that you made this team but the bad news is that I’m constantly looking for your replacement. If there’s something better that’s out there, I have to do what’s right for this organization.”
The offense appeared to flow better when Shane Austin was under center. Austin got reps because of Jordan Jefferson’s rib injury. Jefferson is still learning the Arena game and making the adjustment from playing outdoors to playing indoors and on a shorter field. Regardless, Stingley still puts his trust in Jefferson and intends on starting him should he recovery for his injury in time for the Chicago game.
“He had a rough game early on, the pressure was on top of him,” Stingley said. “It could be cartilage or a broken rib. The doctor wanted to look at him and held him out at the end of the first half. The doctor said he was ready to go back and Jordan went up to me and said he was ready to go. I thought Shane was doing a pretty good job moving the ball down the field, so he got the reps he needed but Jordan is our starting quarterback so I’m going to allow him to come back into the game to finish because I knew he was still capable of making the throws.”
There appear to be many things the Power need to work on however the offensive line play once again seemed to bring the team down. Jefferson and Austin were sacked a combined seven times and threw three interceptions in the game. The pass protection was inconsistent at best as the quarterbacks did not receive much time to throw. The Power had a golden opportunity at the end of the first half to get a touchdown with three seconds left and Austin ended up on his back having no time to throw the ball. When Stingley alluded to potentially replacing players, perhaps the offensive line was one of the positions he was considering.
“It was always one guy probably not doing their job right, one guy getting beat and that’s on us as coaches,” Stingley said. “I put some of the blame on the players, but as coaches we’re the ones that see those things. We saw it last week and we thought we did a pretty good job at making things simple up front with the protection, but unfortunately there was some leakage and it was always when we needed first downs the most.”
Pittsburgh Power vs Jacksonville Sharks scoring 3/29/13
Sharks- Hughley 27 yard pass from Morris [Capozzoli kick good] 7-0 13:15
Power- Berry 11 yard pass from Jefferson [Czajkowski kick no good] 7-6 5:56
Sharks- White 37 yard pass from Morris [Capozzoli kick blocked] 13-6 1:17
Sharks- Bear 1 yard run [Capozzoli kick good] 20-6 13:50
Power- Safety 20-8 9:29
Power- Jefferson 2 yard run [Czajkowski kick good] 20-15 6:43
Sharks- Hughley 5 yard pass from Morris [Capozzoli kick good] 27-15 2:10
Sharks- Morris 12 yard run [Capozzoli kick good] 34-15 0:42
Power- Griffin 1 yard run [Czajkowski kick no good] 34-21 0:27
Power- Berry 2 yard run [Czajkowski kick good] 34-28 11:36
Sharks- Morris 1 yard run [Hughley run] 42-28 0:00
Sharks- Bear 2 yard run [Capozzoli kick no good] 48-28 9:33
Power- Berry 21 yard pass from Jefferson [Czajowski kick good] 48-35 7:01
Sharks- Harvey 14 yard pass from Morris [Capozzoli kick good] 55-35 1:05
Sharks- Robinson 52 yard INT return 61-35 0:00
RUSSELL ATHLETIC OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
Bernard Morris – Jacksonville
RIDDELL DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
Jerry Turner – Jacksonville
J. LEWIS SMALL PLAYMAKER OF THE GAME
P.J. Berry – Pittsburgh
CUTTERS CATCH OF THE GAME
Jacksonville’s Markee White’s 37-yard touchdown in the first quarter
AFL HIGHLIGHT OF THE GAME
Jacksonville’s Micheaux Robinson interception of Shane Austin in the third quarter