Cobras Clinch #2 Seed After 62-55 Victory in Jacksonville
JACKSONVILLE, FL - Malik Henry tossed three touchdowns and Herb Waters snagged 3 interceptions to secure the second seed in next week’s NAL playoffs with a 62-55 road win over the Jacksonville Sharks. The Cobras (9-5) will play host once again to the Columbus Lions next Saturday night, as the Lions trounced Orlando to earn the third seed. Albany, the reigning NAL champions, wrapped up the number one seed and home field advantage with a win over San Antonio to close the regular season.
Jacksonville (7-5) got off to a fast start, quickly gaining a 13-0 advantage before Henry found Kendrick Ings for a 30-yard touchdown late in the first quarter. Kicker T.C. Stevens then booted one of his two Deuces to cut the deficit to 13-9, but the Sharks’ offense was not done yet. In all, Jacksonville scored 5 first half touchdowns, 3 of which came on one-play drives. However, just as the Sharks seemed poised to pad their early two-score lead they had the misfortune of meeting Herb Waters. The University of Miami product picked off Jacksonville starter Mike Faufel twice in consecutive possessions, leading to 2 Carolina scores and another Deuce, which led to a 39-35 Cobras’ halftime lead.
The first of Stevens’ 3 clutch field goals was followed by Waters’ third interception, a pick-six which gave the Cobras a 49-35 lead midway through the third quarter and meant the end of Fafaul start. Enter Arvell Nelson, who had been the starter for the Sharks since replacing Malik Henry early in the season. Nelson promptly hit Jenson Stoshak for a touchdown to close the gap. Stoshak led the Sharks with 3 receiving touchdowns, followed by 2 from Rob Jones. Miles Kelly and Milton Williams added 1 touchdown apiece. Fafaul finished 11-for-18 for 193 yards and 5 touchdowns but was haunted by the 3 Waters interceptions. Nelson was 6-for-7 for 83 yards and 2 touchdowns but was victimized by a D.J. Myers pick just as Jacksonville was poised to try and tie the game.
While T.C. Stevens’ 3 clutch second half field goals and 2 Deuces proved crucial, the Cobras’ offense made a return to prominence thanks to Stevens and receivers Myers and Adam Smith. Smith led all receivers with 10 catches for 90 yards and a touchdown while Myers caught 8 passes for 55 yards and a score (plus his key interception). Henry completed 27 passes for 260 yards and 4 touchdowns on the day without an interception. On the day, Henry completed passes to 8 different receivers. The Cobras’ offense was augmented by the run game, with touchdowns from Zack Brown (28 yards rushing) and Micah Robinson (17 rush yards).
While we know there will be one more home game in the Greensboro Coliseum, there is the possibility that Carolina could host the NAL championship should they win next weekend. While the Empire is a formidable one seed, they are also a vulnerable one. The Empire swept the two games they played against the Sharks, both played before June. Meanwhile, the Lions and Cobras are familiar foes, having met twice already this month. A win next week will not only avenge last week’s 47-46 loss at home, but it will catapult the Cobras to the NAL championship game.