The High Country Grizzlies (2-2) came into the game against the Jacksonville Sharks (4-0) riding high after a dominating outing against the Dayton Wolfpack, and hoped to string together some momentum-starting wins. The Sharks came to Boone as the odd-on favorites to win the National Arena League title, and potentially going undefeated in the league. It would be the NAL’s elder-statesmen who would walk away with the victory, defeating the Grizzlies 68-21.
Wide receiver Malachi Jones’s maiden voyage in the NAL added another highlight to the reel with a circus catch on the wall in the second quarter.
The Grizzlies proved that their receiving corps can hold up with any other in the NAL. Jones and Daron “Speedy” Clark are beginning to look like the best 1-2 punch in the NAL. It’s a good foundation to build around, if they both stay.
After being shut out in the first half, adjustments at halftime netted the Grizzlies 21 points in the half, a testament to the Grizzlies’ coaching staff’s relentless attitude.
The Grizzlies’ chance at creating any momentum this season sputtered yet again. Through four games, the Grizzlies are 2-2, and going 1-2 in a three-game home-stand is what could keep them from the postseason.
The Sharks’ defense smelled blood in the water of the trenches, getting consistent pressure on QB Steve Panasuk. The Grizzlies’ offensive line had trouble coping, allowing two sacks and a lot of pressure in the first half.
It took the Grizzlies until there was only three minutes left in the first half to get close to the end zone. As was the story for most of the game, the Grizzlies came close but ultimately fell short. A Panasuk fumble doomed the Grizzlies to a scoreless first half.
Sharks quarterback Tommy Grady was pulled from the game with plenty of time left in third quarter. Resting starters when you have a big lead isn’t exactly a new concept, but doing it in the third sends a message.
If you want to win a championship, you have to be able to hang with the big boys. Taking the Steelhawks to the final seconds was encouraging, and the final score over Dayton is what a contender should do.
The Sharks have been pegged from the beginning to win the league, if not dominate it. They’re winning, but they haven’t dominated yet and have been pushed by teams similar to the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies could have, and should have, made this a game and proven that they are contenders.
The now .500 Grizzlies will take a week off and then play the Columbus Lions (3-1) who fell to the Sharks in the season opener. The Grizzlies will try to get their season on the up-swing and get some momentum going.
Story By: Ian Taylor, Sports Reporter
Photos By: Lindsay Vaughn, Staff Photographer