By David Rogers. April 9, 2017. BOONE, NC – Self-inflicted wounds they might have been, but it didn’t take the Sharks long to smell blood and swarm to the feast. Jacksonville crushed the High Country Grizzlies on Sunday afternoon, 68-21.
All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
SLIDESHOW at bottom
Facing league-leading Jacksonville in the National Arena League contest at the Holmes Center in front of a surprisingly sparse crowd, the Grizzlies found out a little more about what they are made of – and got a bit of comeuppance in the process. After last week’s 94-6 thrashing of “traveling team” Dayton, the Grizzlies received a taste of their own medicine in being on the wrong end of a lopsided score.
In a word, the Grizzlies were “Shark bait” on this day. Jacksonville intercepted High Country QB Stephen Panasuk four times and the Grizzlies fumbled the ball away once, while turning the ball over on downs three times – and all of that was in the first half alone. The second half was marginally better for the estimated 700 Grizzlies fans in attendance, but by the time the final whistle blew half of them were already gone after watching the overmatched High Country side implode with five interceptions, one fumble and at least five turnovers on downs.
Sharks quarterback Tom Grady, a former University of Utah quarterback and last year’s most efficient QB in the Arena Football League, was impressive in his visit to Boone, completing 10 of 14 passes for 217 yards and five TDs. The massive Sharks offensive line, which averaged well over 300 pounds per man with the height to match, only allowed one sack of Grady at the hands of the Grizzlies’ defense.
If there was a bright spot for the Grizzlies, it was the often acrobatic pass catches by Malachi Jones.
Grady’s 5-TD aerial performance included passes to three different Shark receivers. Former University of Pittsburgh wide receiver and 6-year arena football veteran, Moe Williams, was on the paydirt side of three of the five passing touchdowns.
Four-time All-Arena fullback Derrick Ross added to the star-studded Shark offensive performance. He only rushed six times for 33 yards, but churned out three TDs on the ground.
If there was a bright spot for the undermanned Grizzlies, it was the dozen, sometimes acrobatic pass receptions by former App State wide receiver, Malachi Jones, who continues to make a name for himself in arena football – and is making a strong case for being given another try at the next level, the NFL. Among his 12 passes caught was the Grizzlies first TD of the game, a 15-yarder at the 12:45 mark of the third quarter.
All of the NAL teams have Easter weekend off, then the Grizzlies travel to Georgia on April 22nd to take on the Lions in a Saturday night game. Columbus was founded in 2006 as an expansion team of the now defunct World Indoor Football League. In 2016, the Lions were the champions of American Indoor Football. Their owners, Skip Seda and father Keke are the original founders of National Arena Football, so Grizzlies fans can expect another strong challenge.
The Grizzlies return to the Holmes Center to host the Georgia Firebirds of Albany, GA, on May 7th.