Written by Drake Miller- Featured Jr. Journalist Story
Orlando, FL- In the first round of the playoffs, the Orlando Predators lose to the Jacksonville Sharks in an overtime thriller.
In the second quarter the Preds jumped out to a 28-14 lead, and it seemed as if they were going to control the game. That's when the Sharks kicked it into high gear forcing turnovers on their way to two quick scores to cut the Preds lead to just one before the half.
The Sharks opened up the second half with possession and continued where they left off, scoring on their opening possession to take a 33-28 lead after scoring 19 points unanswered.
Both teams then started to trade scores up until the very final seconds of regulation. The very last score of the fourth quarter was a one-yard touchdown run by Bernard Morris tying the game at 61 points. After the score, #18 Mark Lewis missed the extra point that would have won them the game but instead sent it into overtime.
Orlando started overtime with possession and Bernard led the team straight down the field and into the promised land. It was a six play, forty yard drive that was capped off by a three-yard touchdown run by Morris, giving Orlando a 68-61 lead.
Then it was the Sharks turn, and they answered right back with a one-yard touchdown run by Derrick Ross. They elected to go for the two-point conversion and Orlando stopped them on the first try. but a penalty flag would give Jacksonville one last try and this time they succeeded, resulting in the end of Orlando's season.
Head coach Rob Keefe spoke highly of his team after the game despite the loss, "I hurt for those guys right now. I don't think anyone in this city right now can be upset at us. The guys gave 100 percent maximum effort. I'm just upset that they fell short."
Orlando will now look ahead to the offseason as they rebuild their roster. The Jacksonville Sharks will move on to face the winner of Tampa Bay and Philadelphia.
Written by Brett Korpi
Orlando, FL - Saturday night at the Amway Center in front of a United crowd, the Orlando Predators will be kicking off the Arena Football League’s post-season to start their hopeful run to ArenaBowl. The Predators (12-4, 2nd in the American Conference) will be hosting the in-state rival Jacksonville Sharks (7-9, 3rd).
Orlando will be looking to prove a great deal as they begin the road to ArenaBowl XXIX. Having suffered defeat in the final two contests of the regular season at the hands of perennial powers, Arizona Rattlers, and Philadelphia Soul. The Predators are ready to put the losses behind them and secure their spot in the American Conference title game. “Champions are not immune to defeat, but it's what you do after a loss is how you will be remembered. Lessons learned, It's Time.” Head Coach Rob Keefe posted on Twitter earlier this week.
With star quarterback Randy Hippeard on the Injured Reserve list, the Predators will be looking to veteran dual-threat Bernard Morris, who is 3-2 as a starter in ’16. To go along with 1,249 yards and 27 touchdowns through the air, the Marshall graduate amassed 155 yards and 8 TDs on the ground this season.
Morris will be looking to get the football to his talented group of receivers, who are ready to dazzle the crowd and put points on the scoreboard fast. Brandon Thompkins, the leader of the group, set a Predators franchise record with 135 receptions this season. Those catches resulted in 1,631 receiving yards and 38 TDs. However, Thompkins elusiveness does not end with the aerial attack. As a kick returner, he ran up 1,823 yards and 5 TDs. Those stat totals have put the Arkansas State alum at the top of the AFL in all-purpose yards, and in the conversation for postseason honors. His running mate Greg Carr has been equally impressive totaling 83 catches, 1,146 yards, and 28 TDs and should be hyped for the game after missing last week’s contest against Philly.
On defense, the Predators, are led by Varmah Sonie and Paul Stephens. The defensive backs each had six interceptions in the regular season. Sonie also led the team with 98 tackles.
Those two and the rest of the Orlando defense will have their hands full as they face a Jacksonville offense that ranked first in the AFL in total yards. Led by quarterback Tommy Grady, who has scorched Orlando this season for 872 yards and 16 TDs, the Sharks will be looking for revenge as they lost 2 of the 3 contests to the Predators this season. Grady will be looking to his own talented receiver. Hills, an MVP candidate, led the AFL in every receiving category. His totals are astronomical, 161 receptions, 2,020 yards, and 58 TDs. He finished just two short of Damien Harrell’s 60 TD record. He was also selected in the first round of this year's inaugural AFL China Draft.
Hills and Grady are not the only weapons on offense. The Sharks also boast the AFL’s best ground attack. Fullback Derrick Ross has dominated the ground game for Jacksonville. Carrying the 108 times for 399 yards and 20 TDs, Ross gives the Predators an extra wrinkle to worry about as they both try to prove who the best in the AFL is and who will move on in the road to ArenaBowl XXIX
It all starts this Saturday at 7:00 P.M. ET at the Amway Center in downtown Orlando.
Written by Bob Mora
(Orlando, Florida) The Orlando Predators (11-2) and Tampa Bay Storm (1-11) have battled 60 times in the history of the “War on I-4”, this time the pre-game was much different, a show of unity and support, battlefield warriors becoming brothers for a moment, two teams who don’t like each other stood together arm and arm at midfield along with announced 13,527 supporters in the stands to honor the 49 victims of a senseless killing two weeks ago, then the game began, and it was back to the battle
The Predators jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter as Quarterback Bernard Morris rushed in a 9-yard keeper. Then after DB Emanuel Cook interception on Storm Quarterback Jason Boltus in the end zone to give Orlando the ball back, WR Brandon Thompkins caught a 10-yard pass from Morris for the score to make it 14-0.
Tampa did not find the end zone until the second quarter, on a 6-yard WR Prechae Rodriguez pass from Boltus to make it a one-score game. Then Morris went back to work, leading the Preds down the field and capping off the drive with a 12-yard rushing TD to make it 21-7.
Trying to catch the Storm off guard, Orlando attempted the onside kick, only to have Storm wideout Prechae Rodriguez recover the ball at the ten and return it for a touchdown. The extra point attempt was no good. On the Predators ensuing possession, Morris found WR Greg Carr for an 8-yard touchdown pass midway through the quarter to cushion the lead at 28-13.
Both teams scored in the final 90 seconds of the half; Tampa on a fourth and goal 5-yard pass to Rodriguez, his third score of the quarter, and Greg Carr scored on a 6-yard pass to make it 35-20 Orlando at the half.
The Predator defense took over in the third quarter. On the Storm's first drive of the 2nd half, a fourth down attempt was intercepted by Predators DB Paul Stephens and returned 24-yards. This set up a Bernard Morris 2-yard touchdown run, his third rushing score of the night. On the Storms next possession, they were forced into a turnover on downs highlighted by DL Willie McGinnis helmetless sack which was the AFL highlight of the game.
The first play of the fourth quarter was a Morris to Carr 9-yard touchdown, Carr's third touchdown reception on the night. The Storm then answered with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Rodriguez, his third touchdown reception of the night, which was the Cutters Catch Of The Game.
Orlando then recovered the Storm's onside kick attempt at the seven and Morris took four only plays to find WR Brandon Thompkins for a 2-yard touchdown pass, Thompkins second of the game.
Tampa did score one final time on an 8-yard V’Keon Lacy pass from Jason Boltus at the end of the game to make the final 56-33 Orlando.
Orlando QB Bernard Morris was named the Under Armour Offensive Player of the Game, he completed 16 of 23 passes for 131 yards with 8 touchdowns, 5 passing and 3 rushing, with 31 rushing yards on 6 carries.
Orlando DB Paul Stephens was the Riddell Defensive Player of the Game with 8 total tackles.
The Predators swept the three game series against the Storm this season and lead the all time series at 34-27.
2 seconds left in the game, a 23-yard field goal to give the Orlando Predators a 59-56 win over the Cleveland Gladiators.
Written by Bob Mora
(June 11, 2016) Orlando- The Predators started with the ball as Quarterback Randy Hippeard, after missing last week's game due to an injury, took the early lead on a one-yard touchdown run. On Cleveland's first play, after the catch, WR Larry Beaver was hit hard by DB Varmah Sonie, who knocked the ball loose which was recovered by LB Terence Moore. On the next play, Hippeard responded with a 26-yard touchdown pass to WR Brandon Thompkins for the quick 14-0 lead.
Cleveland QB Arvell Nelson wasted no time and found Beavers on a 37-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to seven. On the next play, Hippeard threw a quick pass out to Brandon Thompkins. Who after an excellent, tackle breaking a move, found the end zone for a 32-yard score and a 21-7 Predator lead that lasted until the end of the first quarter.
Cleveland answered in the second quarter as Nelson found WR Devin Wilson on a 14-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to one score. Only to have Hippeard locate the end zone on an 11-yard scramble for the score and 28-14 Predator lead. After the Gladiators had recovered the attempted onside kick, Nelson found WR Quentin Sims for his first of four touchdowns catches of the game, from the 6-yard line. With one minute remaining in the half, turned out it was enough time for Hippeard to find WR Greg Carr for a 2-yard touchdown pass as the clock ran out and the Preds took a 35-21 halftime lead.
Coming back Cleveland started the third quarter with a quick 2-minute drive ending with a Collin Taylor 33-yard touchdown pass. Then Orlando turned it over on a fumble, which the found Nelson found Sims for a 4-yard touchdown to tie the score at 35-35. With six minutes left in the quarter, the Predators did remain in the lead as FB John Martinez 1-yard touchdown run made it 42-35 at the end of the third quarter.
Coming back in the fourth quarter Cleveland took only 28 seconds to tie the game with Quentin Sims in a 37-yard reception, which was his third of the game. Hippeard responded with a six play drive ending with a Greg Carr five-yard score. Which left Cleveland with under eight minutes left to play. It was short lived for Predators as Nelson found Sims only, this time, it was a 30-yard touchdown score wich tied the game to 49-49. The Predators regained the lead with FB John Martinez second 1-yard touchdown run of the game. With only 45 seconds to play, Cleveland recovered the attempted onside kick and three plays later; Larry Beavers scored on a 4-yard pass to tie the score at 56-56 with 23 seconds on the clock. Hippeard aware of the game clock completed a quick sideline pass to WR Kendal Thompkins; then he found Greg Carr leaping at the sideline for a 21-yard pass reception to the eight. Which set up a successful Mark Lewis for a 23-yard field goal attempt with 2 seconds left to give the Predators the 59-56 win and was the AFL highlight of the game.
When asked about giving up 14 point leads, “you’ve got to weather the storm,” Coach Rob Keefe responded, “We have to learn how to finish teams, we have to teach a better killer instinct when you have opportunities to put them away, you have to put them away.”
Greg Carr followed with a similar statement, “We had a 14 point lead at one time, and it came down to a field goal; we have to take teams out and finish them.”
For Orlando, Randy Hippeard completed 23 of 34 passes for 316 yards and 4 touchdown passes, and 2 touchdowns rushed earning the Under Armor Offensive Player of the game. Greg Carr caught 9 passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Brandon Thompkins caught eight passes for 128 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Kendal Thompkins caught five passes for 74 yards. Terence Moore was the Riddell Defensive player of the game.
For Cleveland, Arvell Nelson completed 22 of 31 passes for 296 yards, and 8 touchdown passes earning the J Lewis small playmaker of the game. Quentin Sims caught 8 passes for 102 yards and 4 touchdowns; Larry Beavers caught 8 passes for 111 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Written By: Bob Mora
ORLANDO – The Orlando Predators fell to the Jacksonville Sharks 59-56 at the Amway Center in front of 10,651 to even the season series score at one game each with one more to play in three weeks at Jacksonville
Orlando started with the ball and marched downfield only to have Jacksonville defensive back Greg Reid intercept the pass, his first of two, setting up the first Grady to Joe Hills touchdown pass of the night, the extra point was no good, the Predators responded with a Randy Hippeard to Larry Brackins touchdown, the extra point gave the Predators the lead 7-6 at the end of the first quarter
Sharks Quarterback Tommy Grady found Joe Hills three times in the second, the first from 31 yards, after Greg Carr scored on a 24 yard Hippeard pass for the Preds, Grady found Hills from the 1, and after Brandon Thompkins scored on a 9 yard pass with one minute in the half, he found Hills from the 6 to regain the lead at the half 26-21.
Jacksonville started the second half with the ball as Grady to Hill struck again, this time from the 8 to give the soul a 12 point lead which did not last long, as Brandon Thompkins returned the kickoff for a 54 yards score, Brandon would end up with 205 total return yards on the night on 10 returns, after Hills scored from the 11 for the Sharks, Hippeards pass was overthrown and bounced off the wall as the Sharks Greg Reid caught it for his second of the game and sixth of the season, ending the Preds drive and ending the third quarter at 40-28 Sharks.
The fourth quarter found fullback Derrick Ross getting in the end zone to make it a 19 point lead at 47-28, the Preds answered with a Larry Brackins score from the 4 yard line, after the defense forced a turnover on downs, Hippeard found Brackins for his third touchdown of the game, a 9 yard Passes with 1:08 left to cut the lead to 47-42.
After the Sharks recovered the onside kick attempt, Grady found Hills for a 13-yard touchdown, the missed extra point made it an 11 point game, Hippeard marched down the field and found Brandon Thompkins for his second touchdown reception of the game, the 2 point attempt was incomplete making it 53-48 with 28 seconds left.
As expected, the onside kick was attempted, and recovered by the Sharks, On the first play Joe Hill found the end zone for the eighth time in the game which is a Jacksonville record for a receiver, with 23 seconds left in the game, Hippeard moved the team downfield and found Greg Carr for his second touchdown reception on the night as time expired, Brandon Thompkins caught the 2 points extra point pass to make the final score 59-56, after two losses to division rivals the predators are now 7-2 on the season.
The Under Armour Offensive Player of the Game was Jacksonville WR Joe Hills with team record of 8 touchdowns on 15 passes for 173 yards,
“ The most I ever had, was six touchdowns with a loss, it feels great to get eight with a win,” Joe Hills said after the game, “were just trying to get back on track, it feels good to come down here and win, this is a hostile crowd, and we like playing in front of these guys”.
When asked about the outcome of the game Coach Keefe replied, “We turned the ball over to many times, they started fast out of the gates on us and we were not able to match their intensity,” when questioned on the 14 penalties for 122 yards, “ It’s embarrassing, It’s undisciplined football and it’s a lack of obviously understanding what you have to do to win football games, apparently I am not getting my message through”.
For Orlando, Randy Hippeard completed 26 of 37 passes for 274 yards and 6 touchdowns with 3 picks, Brandon Thompkins caught 11 passes for 131 yards and 2 touchdowns,
Greg Carr made the Cutters Catch of the Game with his 24 yards over the shoulder touchdown catch, caught 7 passes for 71 yards and 2 touchdowns and Larry Brackins caught 4 passes for 29 yards and 3 touchdowns, Varmah Sonie had 9 tackles and Paul Stephens had 6 tackles.
For Jacksonville, Tommy Grady completed 26 of 38 passes for 280 yards and 8 touchdowns, Tiger Jones caught 8 passes for 79 yards and Derrick Ross rushed 8 times for 24 yards and a score, Greg Reid was the Riddell Defensive Player of the Game with 9.5 tackles and 2 Interceptions.
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