Jacksonville wins Arena Bowl in wild finish
PHOENIX – Aaron Garcia threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jeron Harvey on the final play to give the Jacksonville Sharks their first Arena Football League title, 73-70 over the Arizona Rattlers on Friday night.
Nick Davila hit Kerry Reed with a 12-yard scoring pass with 21 seconds left to put Arizona up 70-67, but Garcia connected with Jomo Wilson on a 17-yard play to put Jacksonville at the 10 with 2 seconds left.
The 40-year-old Garcia threw for 402 yards and eight touchdowns in his first Arena Bowl appearance.
Jacksonville (17-4) won its first title in its second year of existence, overcoming an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Arizona (18-3) entered the game on an 11-game winning streak.
The teams set a championship game record with the 143 points, breaking the mark of 131 set in San Jose's 69-62 victory over Arizona in 2004.
Garcia connected with Wilson on an 11-yard TD pass with 40 seconds left to give Jacksonville a 67-63 lead.
Davila, the league's most valuable player, threw for 338 yards and eight touchdowns for Arizona.
Davila hit Chris Jackson on a 5-yard scoring pass with 52 seconds left, but Arizona tried an onside kick, giving the Sharks the ball on the Arizona 11.
The Rattlers stopped the Sharks on its first two possessions of the second half and, despite turning the ball over on downs once themselves, took a 42-32 lead on Davila's 9-yard pass to running back Odie Armstrong with 6:09 left in the third.
Jacksonville bounced back on Garcia's 3-yard pass to Jarmarko Simmons with 1:56 left in the third to cut it to 42-38. Jason Witczak missed his third extra point. There was a high snap on another conversion and a pass was thrown to an ineligible receiver.
Davila hit Chris Jackson on a 35-yard pass play to set up Armstrong's 1-yard run with 13:21 left that gave Arizona a 49-38 lead.
Arizona nearly put the game away with 11:32 left when Kevin McCullough picked off Garcia's pass at the Sharks 20, but Marcus Pittman was called for roughing the passer, keeping the drive alive. Three plays later, Garcia hit Simmons on 7-yard scoring play to cut it to 49-45 with 9:59 left.
Micheaux Robinson intercepted Garcia's pass at his 13, returning it to the 21 with 7:58 left.
Arizona won the 1994 and 1997 league titles. The Arena Football League is in its second year after sitting out a season when it declared bankruptcy
(This version CORRECTS Sharks 73, Rattlers 70. Corrects winner in 2004 game to San Jose in fifth paragraph..)