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Tiger Sharks drop first arena game

POSTED: July 1, 2017 5:06 p.m.
Ted O'Neil/

Players from the Richmond Hill Tiger Sharks (white uniforms) and Hinesville Hurricanes (black uniforms) face off at the line of scrimmage during Saturday's game.

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The Richmond Hill Tiger Sharks did exactly what Coach Roger Ritchie wanted them to on defense, but a lack of offense was their downfall Saturday.

The Tiger Sharks lost 12-0 to the Hinesville Hurricanes in the first game of the season for the United States Indoor Football arena league at the Savannah Civic Center.

Ritchie had said during the preseason that he felt the key to arena football was defense.

“If you can stop the other team from scoring three times, you should be able to win” he said.

The Tiger Sharks appeared ready to score on the opening possession of the game when quarterback Jonny Smith went down with a broken toe trying to run the ball in on fourth and goal.

“We were about to punch it in,” Ritchie said. “I honestly believe if we hadn’t lost Jonny we would have won.”

The Tiger Sharks would end up using three other players at quarterback, but a rash of missed snaps and overthrows stopped them from generating any offensive momentum.

The Hurricanes got on the board first with 7:12 left in the first half on a shovel pass from Tony Blocker to Shane Hotchkiss. The two-point conversion failed.

Anthony Budd scored for the Hurricanes with six seconds left in the game from one yard out, but the two-point conversion again came up short.

“We’re just coming off of our outdoor season, so I think we were a little more prepared,” Hurricanes Coach James Sharp said.

Many of the players on the Hurricanes’ arena league roster also play for the same organization’s semi-pro spring team

“But there were still a lot of adjustments we had to make,” Sharp added. “Especially on defense.”

Those familiar with arena football know that the game is played on a field that is 50 yards long by 28 yards wide.

Each team will have eight players on the field at a time, including three linemen. Additional players on offense will be the quarterback, running back and three wide receivers, while defense will feature two linebackers and three defensive backs.

Rules allow for two players to move in motion toward the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped to create more offensive excitement. On defense, on linebacker is prohibited from going more than six yards back from the line of scrimmage.

“That player can only move six yards back but can go the entire width of the field,” Ritchie said. “With those restrictions, that position is known as the ‘jack-in-the-box’ but a quick player can cover half the field.”

Richmond Hill appeared to score on its third possession on a pass from Donte Smith to Jonas Flannery, but the touchdown was called back to a personal foul.

“Our guys have never played on a field like this before,” Ritchie said. “But the only bad loss is one you don’t learn from. We’ll regroup at practice Tuesday and get ready for next week.

The league’s opening day continued with a night game between the Savannah Coastal Outlaws and the Myrtle Beach Masters.

The Tiger Sharks face the Outlaws at 7 p.m. on July 8, while the Hurricanes take on the Masters at 1 p.m. that day. Tickets are $15 for both games. For more information, see www.usifpro.com.

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