Power beats Jacksonville, 64-48, for 9th consecutive victory
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Power's season of firsts continued with a 64-48 victory Saturday night at Jacksonville.
The Power had secured their first winning season and playoff berth in franchise history before arriving at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, but the victory was the first in five tries against the Sharks since Pittsburgh re-joined the AFL in 2011.
Power quarterback Tommy Grady completed 24-of-37 passes for 353 yards and nine touchdowns, including four scoring passes to Hank Edwards, three to Prechae Rodriguez and two more to Shaun Kauleinamoku.
Edwards caught six passes for 115 yards. Rodriquez caught 10 for 165 yards and Kauleinamoku had eight for 73 yards.
“This is a special team,” Grady said after leading the Power to their ninth consecutive win. “We have great chemistry. This is an unselfish group.”
At 5-9, Jacksonville will have its first non-winning season in franchise history.
The Sharks came into the game knowing they needed to run the table in their final five regular-season games to have a chance to qualify for the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year.
Jacksonville stole the early momentum when Xavier Brewer recovered Rodriguez's fumble on Pittsburgh's first offensive play. Jared McGriff-Culver ran 19 yards one play later to put the Sharks up front 7-0 just 59 seconds into the game.
But that's where Jacksonville's early rally — and its playoff hopes — ended. Grady completed a 38-yard pass to Edwards and a 7-yard touchdown to Kauleinamoku to tie the game less than one minute later.
Jake Killeen's sack of Archer for a safety, followed by a 12-yard TD pass from Grady to Kauleinamoku, put the Power up 16-7.
“We have a resilient bunch,” Power coach Ron James said. “We were a little sloppy to start, but from the start of the second half on we played really good football. It's going good, but we're still building toward that perfect game. We're getting closer.”
McGriff-Culver's fumble at the Power 1-yard line midway in the second quarter, followed by a 49-yard touchdown pass from Grady to Rodriguez with 5:51 to go in the half, gave the Power a 16-point lead.
Jacksonville didn't get closer than nine points the rest of the game.
“We know the playoffs are ahead of us,” James said. “We don't have any control over the seeding. We're just worrying about winning games.
“Right now, it's a great atmosphere here. We're a team on a mission.”
Terrance Smith started the game at defensive back but finished on offense. Smith has eight catches for 116 yards and three touchdowns.
Archer passed for 322 yards and six touchdowns.
Don Coble is a freelance writer.