SaberCats Dominate Thunder, Advance To National Conference Championships.

By Shawn Whelchel

SAN JOSE, Calif. The San Jose SaberCats steamrolled the Portland Thunder during opening round of the 2015 AFL playoffs on Friday, cruising their way to a 55-28 at SAP Center.

The SaberCats, who have dominated the Thunder in four consecutive matches this season, jumped out to an early lead while riding the back of dominate defensive effort that forced a pair of interceptions, a fumble and numerous turnovers on downs to reach the National Conference Championship at the SMG Stockton Arena.

Leading the way for the SaberCats were Ken Fontenette, who had an interception and forced fumble while totaling a team high 9 tackles, and Reggie Gray on offense, who had two touchdowns on four receptions while adding a 57 yard kickoff return to his stat-line as well.

The SaberCats will now face either the Spokane Shock or the Arizona Rattlers in the Conference Championship game, which will be determined on Saturday.

The SaberCats’ league leading defense was on full display during the opening half of the game, forcing four turnovers while allowing Portland to post just seven points over the first two quarters. Things got underway for San Jose during the opening drive by Portland, as Ken Fontenette showed the value of hustle by punching out the ball from behind after initially overrunning his man, forcing a fumble to be recovered by San Jose. After extending the drive with a fourth-and-long reception earlier, Maurice Purify would finish what he started with a 3-yard touchdown reception to put San Jose on the board first with a 7-0 lead.

The first quarter would remain devoid of action after a goal line stand by the SaberCats and a painfully long, eight minute drive by San Jose that ended in a turnover on downs. But Portland wouldn’t waste time on their third drive of the game, as QB Kyle Rowley tied the game up with a 33-yard bomb to Jamar Howard after he broke free of the SaberCats secondary.

San Jose would respond with a pair of scores, however. The first of the two highlighted receiver Ben Nelson’s athleticism, as the receiver had to make a mid-air adjustment with his body to snag the ball in the corner of the end zone. The SaberCats defense would set up the next score as David Hyland would make a leaping snag of Rowley’s pass over the middle to haul in the interception. Shortly after, Reggie Gray made the turnover hurt as he was lofted a pass across the end zone to make it a 21-7 lead.

San Jose would close out the half with one more touchdown after forcing a turnover on downs with 39 seconds left. Meyers and the offense worked efficiently down the field before yet another sprawling catch by Gray in the end zone would land his team a 28-7 lead heading into the locker room.

The SaberCats opened the second half much like they closed out the first, by finding their way into the end zone. Meyers used a steady helping of Purify and Nelson before the latter would bounce his way off defenders into the end zone for a 35-7 lead.

Unable to break the SaberCats defense, the Thunder instead attacked their special teams, as WR Duane Brooks broke free of the pack for a 54 yard touchdown return, closing the margin to 35-14.

The SaberCats clean play was marred in the third quarter after OL Rich Ranglin fumbled the ball after being cut from behind on a dump-off from Meyers. San Jose was on the cusp of recovering and mounting their third goal line stand of the game, before Rowley threw a perfect back shoulder fade to Howard for their second consecutive touchdown of the game.

But Big Play Reggie Gray would shore up any attempts of a comeback from Portland by taking a kick return of his own to the house, sprinting through the pile for a 57 yard touchdown to make it a 41-21 game.

After spreading the offense to many of his teammates throughout the game, Meyers decided to get in on the action himself on the SaberCats next score, scrambling to the left to find a wide open field before taking off to the end zone for a 9 yard touchdown and a 27 point lead.

The Thunder would return to score one final touchdown in garbage time, but would come up far short as a 55-28 final would sink their playoff hopes.


Game Notes:

With David Hyland’s interception in the first quarter, the DB has now had three straight games with a pickoff.

SAP Center will be unavailable for next week’s Conference Championship, which is why the game will be hosted at the SMG Stockton Arena. However, the SaberCats will be providing a free shuttle bus to the Stockton Arena from Fry’s Home Office at 550 E Brokaw Rd. San Jose, CA, 95112 prior to the game.

Tickets to the game will be made available to the public on Ticketmaster on Monday, August 17th at noon.

SaberCats Shrug Off Slow Start, Beat Portland In Overtime.

By Shawn Whelchel


Riding the back of a historic night by receiver Reggie Gray, the San Jose SaberCats erased a sloppy start to come from behind and beat the Portland Thunder 55-49 in overtime at SAP Center on Saturday night.

Gray, who broke both the single-season franchise records for most receptions and receiving touchdowns, finished the night with 14 receptions for 130 yards and four touchdowns.

The outburst by Gray helped lead a come from behind effort that saw the SaberCats down as much as 20 points in the opening quarter amidst ugly play.

The San Jose SaberCats hardly looked like the AFL’s league leading team during the opening half of Saturday night’s contest, making mistakes on both offense and defense that allowed the Thunder to take a commanding 34-21 lead heading into the locker room at halftime.

Things got off to a rough start for San Jose after allowing two quick scores to the visiting team to open the first quarter. After striking on their opening drive, the Thunder found themselves with the ball again after forcing a fumble from Darius Reynolds on the SaberCats opening offensive play of the game. Portland would get points on the turnover after using three plays to go 19 yards for their second score of the game.

Things would not get easier for San Jose on their next trip out after quarterback Erik Meyers suffered a 12 yard sack on fourth down to set up a short-field situation for the Thunder, who would again cash in on the error with a diving catch by V’Keon Lacey to shoot out to a 20-0 lead.

But the SaberCats would stabilize their sinking ship on the back of the reliable Reggie Gray, whose 25 yard touchdown catch in the opening minutes of the second half would not only get the SaberCats on the board for the first time, but would also break the franchise record for most receptions in a season. Fellow wideout Ben Nelson would follow up Gray’s touchdown with a sliding touchdown despite heavy coverage to cut the deficit to six.

Just as it appeared that San Jose would amass a quick comeback, the Thunder struck twice to break the game open again. The SaberCats squandered a solid red zone opportunity after an interception by Ken Fontenette gave them good field position for the third straight possession. However, after failing to convert a fourth and one near the goal line, the Thunder rode the momentum of their defensive stop into a 24 yard touchdown pass with under a minute to go, widening their lead to 27-14.

The ugly half wouldn’t end there for San Jose, as a 24-second, four-and-out gave Portland the ball back on the 10-yard line with time to operate. Portland would rub salt on the wound on the first play of the drive, with their second touchdown in under a minute to make it a 34-14 deficit for the SaberCats. Again it would be Gray to salvage the sinking ship for the SaberCats.

With just 20 seconds left, the speedy receiver returned a kickoff 42-yards to give San Jose a first and goal opportunity. He would finish what he started by catching his second touchdown of the game with just two seconds left to keep his team in the game, heading to the locker room with a 34-21 deficit.


San Jose came out as a reinvigorated team to open the second half, using their renewed spirit to grab their first lead of the game after nine minutes of play. Darius Reynolds kicked off the scoring for San Jose, using a nifty move to break free on the sideline for a 19 yard touchdown. It was then up to Fontenette to get the ball right back for San Jose after recording his second interception of the game. Gray would cap the drive off with his third touchdown of the night, this one on a fourth and goal, to take a 35-34 lead.

Gray’s next touchdown would continue his historic night, as the wide receiver not only regained the lead for his team after Portland reclaimed it on the previous possession, but also secured the speedy receiver as the SaberCats franchise leader for touchdowns in a single-season with his 41st scoring reception on the year.

A second consecutive score for San Jose, this time on a Ben Nelson touchdown, would give San Jose an eight point lead. But Portland would not go down quietly. With just over three minutes left in the game, Kyle Rowley would sling his sixth touchdown of the game.After electing to go for two points, Portland would tie things up at 49 a-piece after completing the conversion.

San Jose received the ball with time to mount a final scoring drive, but questionable calls derailed their plans. On consecutive plays, receptions by Nelson and Gray were ruled incomplete, although it appeared the receivers could have held on for what would have been touchdowns. After a field goal attempt from 12 yards out was blocked by Portland, the game was sent to overtime.

The SaberCats used an efficient six play drive to go 48 yards for a touchdown to open up extra time, but failed to convert the PAT to lead by just six. Portland amassed a threatening drive, reaching the four yard line with plenty of time left, but Rowley launched a fourth-and-one pass high into the net to end the game in dramatic fashion for San Jose.


Game Notes:

Gray’s 14 receptions and four touchdowns gives him a single season total of 147 receptions and 41 touchdowns, both franchise records for the SaberCats.

The San Jose SaberCats announced today that they have partnered with ReplyBuy to create SaberCats Mobile Fast Pass, bringing fans an easier way to instantly purchase game tickets. Mobile Fast Pass enables SaberCats’ fans to purchase tickets with a simple text message. Upon purchasing a ticket via text, a mobile e-ticket will be sent instantly, the faster a reply, the better the seats. By texting SABERCATS to 20123, fans will receive an initial $10 credit just for signing up.
The San Jose SaberCats announced today that they will have a live stream Internet broadcast for the remaining home games this season on SaberCats TV. SaberCats TV will launch on beginning with the game Saturday, July 18th against the Portland Thunder at 7:30PM PDT.

SaberCats Remain Perfect, Beat Portland 64-45

By Shawn Whelchel


The San Jose SaberCats remained undefeated on Saturday night after steadily defeating the Portland Thunder by a score of 64-45 in an entertaining and chippy match at SAP Center

The SaberCats defense came out strong to open Saturday night’s contest, disallowing the Thunder to gain any offensive momentum through their first two sequences. Linebacker Francis Maka made an early statement for the group after breaking through Portland’s line to send quarterback Kyle Rowley crashing into the pads behind the end zone for a safety during his second trip onto the turf.

On the other end of the ball, SaberCats quarterback Erik Meyer looked comfortable against a young, but talented Thunder secondary. San Jose put on an offensive spectacle for fans at SAP Center, with Meyer throwing four touchdowns of 20-yards or more in the first two quarters, including both a 35 and 43 yard bombs to the speedy D.J Stephens for a pair of highlight reel catches.

Portland wouldn’t go into the half quietly though, as flared temples jump-started what was a stagnant effort thus far. After connecting with Jared Perry for their second score of the game, the Thunder’s defense tagged Meyer’s for his first mistake of the game after throwing an interception near San Jose’s 5-yard line. After a brief scrum between both teams, Portland capitalized on the mistake with a quick touchdown to cut the score to 37-19. But San Jose would get the last laugh before heading to the locker room as Reggie Gray made good on his “Big Play” nickname by taking a 56-yard kickoff return to the house to send his team into halftime with a 44-19 lead.

Despite yet another SaberCats goal to open the second half, the Thunder managed to pull to within striking range by the end of the third quarter after a touchdown reception by V’Keon Lacey and a fumbled kickoff return by San Jose that was smothered by Portland’s Osagie Odiase for two quick scores. San Jose headed into the final frame with a 51-32 advantage.

To halt Portland’s rising momentum, San Jose opened up the fourth quarter with two quick scores of their own following Gray’s second touchdown of the game and Stephens’ third, that was setup by a Ken Fontenette interception. But again, Portland would respond with a pair of quick scores of their own following touchdowns by Perez Ashford and Lace, that was setup by yet another careless SaberCats fumble on a kickoff. But the SaberCats would not let the game slip away as they would pad their lead with yet another touchdown before relying on the defense to keep Portland off the board again before the final whistle.

The SaberCats will take their 5-0 record into their biggest challenge of the season as they head to Arizona to take on their rival Rattlers next week.


Sabercats Strike Thunder at Home Win 64-27

Photo Courtesy SJ SaberCats
Photo Courtesy SJ SaberCats

By: Phillip Torres and Kahlil Najar

SAN JOSE-The San Jose Sabercats hosted the Portland Thunder on Saturday night at the SAP Center in San Jose. The Sabercats defeated the Thunder 64-27 behind Russ Michna’s seven touchdown passes. Michna through four out of the seven to WR Dominique Curry. The victory was the fourth in a row for San Jose.

“The team is getting better and better every week. Curry was young back then and now he’s starting to understand the game and he’s playing really well right now,” said Head Coach Darren Arbet.

San Jose played great defense holding the Thunder to just 27 points, making it five consecutive games where the defense has held their opponents to under 35 points. Ken Fontenette lead the way on defense as he recorded five tackles and an interception.

“Everybody is really starting to gel. We have a bunch of great guys at every position. We have to keep doing the little things right,” said Fontenette on the defense.

This was Fontenette’s first interception of the year. “Finally right!? I’m right there and everyone keeps messing with me. I’m trying to work on my hands. If I caught half of them I might be leading the league.”

Curry recorded a team high four touchdown catches on the night. “It was a big night, I never scored four touchdowns in one game before. Even my senior year in college I only scored two,” the wide receiver said. “The leaders on the offense bring me up to speed. They work with me on the way home, talking to me.”

On his ability to get open Curry said, “The more film I watch the more I just listen and become a student of the game. I’m able to read the coverage through everyone and not just through one person.”

On the SaberCats upcoming road trip against two number one teams in the league Arbet said, “We have momentum going right now. The guys know what we need to do..they understand that. It’s a big vision game and I’d be real surprised if they weren’t prepared next Friday.”

The Sabercats will take their 6-3 record to the 5-3 Spokane Shock on Friday in Washington.

SaberCats snap three game losing streak, top Thunder 38-32

Photo Courtesy SJ SaberCats
Photo Courtesy SJ SaberCats

By Emily Zahner

PORTLAND, OREGON-The San Jose SaberCats (3-3) look to get back to winning ways tonight and end their three game losing streak as they face the equally struggling Portland Thunder (0-5). This is the second match up between the two this year, with the Cats taking the first win easily 64-34. Portland has yet to find its first win, on the season and of team history. San Jose squeaked out a win, 38-32, handing the Thunder their fifth consecutive loss. The Thunder made it interesting though, battling until the end and looking nothing like a team who hasn’t won a game this season.

The Thunder struggled early, with three straight turnovers that looked to dictate the game; however minutes later, Portland opened the scoring after capitalizing on a San Jose fumble, fueling their energy and giving them momentum. Multiple turnovers and miscues provided to an ugly period, which ended 7-0 with Portland on top. The Cats were unable to find the score sheet, but got on the board early in the second to cut the deficit to 10-3. Every loose ball seemed to find the Thunder, but the Cats remained persistent and ended the half down 19-14.

San Jose came out on fire in the second half. Nathan Stanley came in briefly to relieve Russ Michna, and completed his first possession for a touchdown to Doug Williams. Coming back into the game, Michna took matters into his own hands and ran it himself for a touchdown to give the Cats their first lead of the game. Michna’s TD took the game into the fourth with a tight score of 31-25.

Portland answered in a hurry, giving themselves an early one point lead in the fourth. After trading scores, San Jose went up 38-32 with just under five minutes to go in the game. Portland pressed hard at the end of the fourth, looking as though they would tie the game, but an incomplete attempt on fourth down lead to the final turnover of the game and a SaberCats victory. With the win, San Jose has snapped their 3-game losing streak to improve to an even record of 3-3 on the season.

Russ Michna threw 12 for 29 with 250 yards and 3 touchdowns. In his brief appearance, Nathan Stanley went 1 for 1 with 22 yards and one touchdown. Newcomer Doug Williams had 108 receiving yards for two touchdowns. When asked about his first game as a SaberCat, Williams responded “I’m just happy we got the win. I had to be patient, wait my time to get here.” On his chemistry with Michna throughout the game, the wide receiver praised his QB, “he always has a great touch on the ball. It’s easy to catch a ball from Russ”

San Jose heads to LA next weekend to take on the LA Kiss on Saturday April 26th at 7pm. The Kiss are currently second in the National Conference with a 2-2 record, sitting behind the reigning champions, Arizona Rattlers.

Sabercats Spoil Thunder’s Franchise Debut 64 -34

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 1.05.46 AM

By Kahlil Najar

Portland, Oregon – The San Jose SaberCats (1-0) manhandled the Portland Thunder (0-1) in front of the Thunders first ever home game at the Moda Center and beat them 64-34. The SaberCats offense was powered by Reggie Gray who had an impressive offensive showing as he went for 102 yards and 4 touchdowns on only six catches. SaberCats quarterback Russ Michna went 12 for 16 for 166 yards and five touchdowns and left the game at halftime after he gave the SaberCats a 37-27 lead. Nathan Stanley finished the game at quarterback for San Jose and went eight for 14 for 89 yards with three touchdowns.

Portland started the game strong as they were able to score on their first ever possession when University of Oregon alumni Darron Thomas found his way into the end zone and gave Portland the 7-0 lead. However the SaberCats were able to answer back when Michna found Gray for a 16-yard strike and tie the game up at seven. Then after a defensive stop by the SaberCats, Michna found Rod Harper for an 11-yard reception and gave the SaberCats a 13-7 lead after one quarter of play.

In the second quarter, Michna connected for three touchdowns including two to Gray and one to Jason Willis. Michna also found his second favorite target of the game Harper four times in the second quarter. Harper ended the game with 105  yards on 10 catches and two touchdowns. Portland also scored three times in the quarter including their first ever pass touchdown on a nice play from quarterback Nathan Enderle who found Jeffre Solomon for a 32-yard score but ended with a missed extra point and bring the score to 37-27 at halftime.

After halftime the SaberCats put in Nathan Stanley for last two quarters of the game and he continued the SaberCats dominance as he found Willis, Gray and Harper for scores and didn’t give up an interception. The SaberCats defense also stood strong in the second half as they didn’t allow a single point in the third quarter and only one touchdown in the fourth. Huey Whittaker contributed on defense with nine tackles on defense and veteran Ken Fontenette contributed with six of his own.

“I thought my guys played hard, they came out and did what they had to do,” said Head Coach Darren Arbet. “They took care of business. I liked the way they played.”

The SaberCats are back on the field on March 29 in San Jose when the host the Philadelphia Soul (0-1) at 5:00 pm.