By Tim Peterson
(Anaheim) – The LA KISS outscored Jacksonville 31-6 in the second half and went on to beat the Sharks 64-39 Saturday night to kick off the 2016 Arena Football League season at Honda Center.
Donovan “Captain” Morgan hauled in seven catches for 81 yards and three touchdowns including the 250th touchdown of his career making him eighth all-time in the Arena Football League. The reception gave the KISS a 14-13 lead after one. After the score Morgan gave the ball to KISS owner/lead singer Paul Stanley.
KISS quarterback Nathan Stanley, no relation, completed 27 of 36 passes for 283 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions.
The game was tied at 33 at the half but the KISS forced the Sharks into three huge turnovers and turned it into a rout in the second half scoring the last 24 points of the game.
Down 14-13 Jacksonville answered with a 33 yard touchdown strike by Tommy Grady to Tiger Jones to regain the lead. Morgan hauled in an 11 yard TD pass from Stanley but the Sharks responded with another Grady touchdown pass to Joe Hills.
Fullback Rory Nixon rumbled three yards to get the KISS even but former USC Trojan Andre Heidari missed the extra point.
Jacksonville and the KISS traded touchdowns in the final seconds of the first half. Brandon Collins made a leaping catch of a Stanley toss for the KISS’ score. Both the Sharks and the KISS kickers shanked the extra points and the game was tied at 33 at the break.
The KISS immediately grabbed the lead in the third quarter when Stanley connected with Collins on a 19-yard touchdown pass on their possession. The Sharks responded when Derrick Ross scored on a one-yard run but again the extra point was missed. There was still 3:23 left in the third quarter and that was the last time the Sharks scored.
Morgan’s one handed grab of a five-yard pass in the corner of the end zone put the KISS up eight at the end of three.
DJ Stephens then made the play that turned the game. He raced down the field on the ensuing kick off and when the ball came off of the net he was there to recover it for the KISS at the four yard line. Nixon turned it into six points with a three-yard jaunt and just like that the KISS was up by 15.
Rayshaun Kizer then picked off Grady at the goal line to deny Jacksonville a score.
After a Heidari field goal Stephens came up big again as he recovered the KISS kick off in the endzone for a score to ice the win.
Grady finished 22 of 33 for 279 yards and four touchdowns for the Sharks with an interception. Joe Hills was his go to guy with nine receptions for 151 yards and two touchdowns but it wasn’t nearly enough.
“I’ve been an assistant coach for six years and this is my proudest moment as a coach,” said first year KISS HC Omarr Smith. “I’m really happy and appreciative of all my players. They came out and stepped up and answered the bell.”
The opening night crowd was treated to a KISS concert at halftime as owners Stanley and Gene Simmons took the stage.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen a KISS concert,” said Nathan Stanley
Next week the KISS will host the Arizona Rattlers on Saturday night.