JACKSONVILLE — The Georgia Force's road to AVITAE Arena Bowl XXV ended Saturday night as Jacksonville won the playoff opener 58-56 on a game-winning kick from Marco Capozzoli.
The defending Arena Bowl champion Sharks, who advance to play the Philadelphia Soul for the American Conference Championship, got the winning kick with six seconds left as Capozzoli hit from 51 yards.
Things started off slow for the Force as the Sharks scored to open the game. Things did not appear to be getting much better as Force QB Bryant Moniz threw an interception on a pass intended for WR Larry Shipp. Moniz was 8 of 17 with 137 yards, and three touchdowns before being carried off the field with a left ankle injury in the third quarter. Things took a positive turn when the Force closed the gap with a touchdown pass to WR Larry Shipp. The score brought the team within striking distance to end the half. WR C.J. Johnson carried the offense in the first half with two touchdowns. Johnson completed the game with 152 all purpose yards.
The second half began almost as rocky as the first with Georgia Force kicker, Carlos Martinez, whiffing on an onside kick attempt. Though Martinez missed the ball, the air from his initial kick, knocked it off the tee, and the ball was recovered by the Sharks. Jacksonville capitalized quickly, making the score 41-21. After QB Darnell Kennedy replaced Moniz, the Sharks scored again. At the time the 48-21 score seemed insurmountable. The Force however stepped up defensively shutting out Jacksonville for the rest of the quarter.
Kennedy's favorite target, Force WR Michael Johnson. Johnson had two touchdowns in the third to pull the Force back within 13. Safety Ahmad Hawkins, also had a crucial interception as the Sharks were attempting to move the ball. The momentum seemed to be swinging towards the Force to start the 4th quarter.
The Force started the final 15 minutes with another touchdown for WR Michael Johnson making the score 48-42. The comeback was in full swing as the Force defense created havoc for the Sharks. The Force fumbled to give the an opportunity to extend their lead, and they did. After Jacksonville recovered, they scored soon after putting them back up 55-42. The Force marched back down the field cutting the score to 55-49 on the legs of FB Benji McDowell. With one minute left in the game, the Georgia Force threw the final touchdown to WR Michael Johnson.
The Sharks needed to score, and with six seconds left placed their playoff hopes on the foot of kicker Marco Capozzoli. From 51 yards Capozolli ended the game and season for the Georgia Force. For Georgia, it was a valiant effort, and for Jacksonville, another step towards defending their 2011 Arena Bowl Championship.