Predators set to square off against in-state rival Sharks in Jacksonville

Riding high off a win against the Columbus Lions on June 3, the Predators look to continue their win streak as they take on the Jacksonville Sharks on Saturday night.

The Predators (3-3) will travel up to Jacksonville to take on the Sharks (3-4) in the first of a three game series against their in-state rivals for the 2022 season. Lineman De’Quan Murray said the only thing on his team’s mind is coming out with a win against the Sharks.

“I’m excited man, it’s always a dog fight,” Murray said. “It’s Florida vs. Florida. This is for bragging rights for an entire year.”

In the Predators matchup last week, the team faced adversity on both sides of the ball as quarterback Rakeem Cato and defensive end Sha-Ki Holines went down with injuries in the second half. However, according to head coach Jeff Higgins, both players will make the trip to Jacksonville.

“They were dinged up a little bit but it happens, it’s arena football,” Higgins said. “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. We are at a place in the season where we are about to turn the corner in the middle of that marathon and we are taking the steps to keep pushing forward. 

Cato has had a breakout season in his first season in the NAL racking up 1224 yards through the air and 33 touchdowns with just three interceptions. Chemistry has been important to the growth of the offense, Cato said. It is just a matter of putting it on display on game day.

“We are all about communication,” Cato said. “I try to understand what they like and they try to understand what I like. Whether it’s getting the right route depth, where they want to catch the ball, or anything else. I’m just feeding off of those guys.”

An area of the team that has broken out this year has been the defensive line unit of Holines, Murray and defensive lineman Freddie Booth-Lloyd. Together, the unit has managed to put pressure on the opposing team’s offensive line. Between Holines and Booth-Lloyd, the unit has put up 8.5 sacks on the year so far.

We’ve got a pretty good unit going into this game and we are coming in with a chip on our shoulder,” Booth-Lloyd said. “We are coming to play.”

Although bragging rights are at stake against the Sharks, Higgins said the game is just another part of the season and he likes to play any team as if they are a rival. 

“Every game is a rivalry for us in this league,” Higgins said. “But the thing with Jacksonville, it’s a little closer to home. They’re ready for us, they’re ready to compete, so we have to bring our best to them.” 

The Predators matchup with the Sharks is set to kickoff at 7 p.m. at the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville. The game will be streamed live via the NAL YouTube Channel.