Jacksonville Sharks win American Conference Championship; head to ArenaBowl XXIV

The Jacksonville Sharks are the champions of the American Conference in the Arena Football League after their 64-55 home victory over the Georgia Force on August 8. The Sharks now head to Phoenix to compete in ArenaBowl XXIV.

It took 17 years, but Aaron Garcia (No. 8) finally gets his first crack at an ArenaBowl championship.
Sharon Soares (used with permission)

Sharks quarterback Aaron Garcia has finally reached the ArenaBowl for the first time in his 17-year career, leading the second-year franchise Jacksonville Sharks to the title game of the Arena Football League. Garcia was surgical on Monday night, completing 22 of 28 passes for 313 yards and eight touchdowns. The Sharks committed no turnovers in the game.

Wide receiver Jeff Hughley caught seven of Garcia's passes for 168 yards and three scores. He added four kickoff returns for 57 yards on the night. Jamarko Simmons caught six passes for 48 yards and two touchdowns, and he added five rushing yards and a score on the ground.

Sharks defensive back LaRoche Jackson continued his dominance on the field, chalking up 12 tackles on the night.

The Georgia Force had no answer for the No. 1 scoring offense in the league, never accomplishing a defensive stop. The best they could come up with was holding Jacksonville to a field goal on a drive late in the fourth quarter.

Force quarterback Darnell Kennedy had an outstanding game, identically matching Garcia's 313 yards and eight touchdowns, but he threw an untimely interception to defensive back Bill Alford on Georgia's last drive to seal the Force's fate.

Maurice Purify stood out at wide receiver for Georgia, hauling in 13 passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns. Electric receiver C.J. Johnson returned six kickoffs for 141 yards and caught five passes for 61 yards and two scores.

The Force kept the ball for 36:45 to Jacksonville's 23:15, and they ran 52 offensive plays to the Sharks' 35. The visitors hung with the South Division champions throughout the first half, trailing 40-34 at the midpoint, but receiving the kickoff to start the second half. That drive, however, stalled out, and Jacksonville took over on downs.

The difference in the game came down to that defensive stop and Alford's interception.

Jacksonville beat Georgia for the third time this season and will be on the NFL Network for the fourth week in a row on Friday. The Force were the only team to win a road playoff game this season.

ArenaBowl XXIV will feature the top two playoff seeds in the Arena Football League, the top two scoring offenses, the teams with the two best records, and two of the best quarterbacks in the league. The championship game between the Sharks and the Arizona Rattlers, who won the National Conference on August 6, is set for Friday, August 12, with kickoff scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on the NFL Network.

Note: This article was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Sign up here to start publishing your own sports content.

Updated Tuesday, Aug 9, 2011