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 get Shocked By Spokane, Lose 73-62

Photo Courtesy San Jose SaberCats
Photo Courtesy San Jose SaberCats

By Kahlil Najar

SAN JOSE – The San Jose SaberCats (2-2) were defeated by reigning AFL MVP Erik Meyer and the Spokane Shock (2-1), 73-62. Meyer had an impressive night as he ran for four touchdowns and threw for over 250 yards. Russ Michna got the start after being out for the last two games had a great game himself. He threw for 352 yard and eight touchdowns. Unfortunately he also threw three interceptions that resulted in 14 points for Spokane. All Star candidate Reggie Gray caught eight passes for 75 yards and five touchdowns.

“We’re going to have to watch the tape and practice. More practice is going to fix it,” said Head Coach Darren Arbet on the loss tonight. “We have to regroup, practice and believe in each other and continue to play hard.”

Speaking on Spokane, Arbet said, “The way we played tonight it’d be tough to beat anyone in this league. Spokane is a good football team. It’s a long season we just have to practice and get better.”

On his return to the field Michna said, “It felt good to be back on the field but it was an ugly night though. A lot of things happened that don’t happen to us often. We just have to get better. I was disappointed with my performance but we turned the ball over four times and I had three interceptions. I can’t name the last time I threw the ball to the other team that many times.”

Spokane got on the board with less than 30 seconds gone in the first when Meyer found a streaking Mike Washington on a nice 19-yard pass. The SaberCats hopped on the field and went for a deep pass to start the game but Michna over threw the speedy Rod Harper. The five plays later Michna threw a pass down the middle of the field that was tipped in the air by the Shocks Terence Moore who was able to grab the ball and give it back to Spokane. The Shock then worked five minutes off the clock and found Terrance Carter on a 15 yard strike to give the Shock a 14-0 lead with a little over seven minutes left in the first. On the SaberCats next possession, Michna found Reggie Gray from 15-yards out for the SaberCats first score of the night.

The second quarter felt like an old west shoot out. There was a total of 63 points scored including three rushing touchdowns by Meyer for Spokane and a pair of touchdowns to both Gray and Rod Harper on the SaberCats. The Cats seemed to have the momentum going into their favor as one of Gray’s touchdowns happened with only 17 seconds left in the half but then Terrance Sanders ran the ball back off of Nick Pertuit’s kickoff and gave the Shock a 49-35 lead.

San Jose had the ball to start the third but then when Michna was working in the pocket he was hit and was picked off again by Moore to turn the ball back over to Spokane. Fortunately for the Cats, they were able to hold Spokane to zero point off the turnover as SPokane kick Taylor Rowan hit the bar and turned the ball back to San Jose. After getting the ball back, Michna found Gray again for his fourth touchdown of the night and brought the lead to a manageable seven point deficit. However Meyer was able to find Washington for a deep 41-yard bomb to make it 56-42 game after three quarters.

Michna tossed his third interception of the game on his first pass of the quarter and gave the ball back to Spokane. Again Meyer was able to take the ball into the end zone himself and made it a 63-42 game. Michna found Gray yet again for his fifth touchdown and 14th touchdown of the season to bring it back down to a 14 point lead for Spokane. Spokane drove down the field again and settled for a field goal but by this time it already seemed like the wind was knocked out of the SaberCats. They were able to get a pair of touchdowns from J.J. Payne and Huey Whittaker but the SaberCats still fell by 11 points with a final score of 73-62.

The Cats will stay home this week and practice as coach continued to say and will face the Arizona Rattlers next Saturday at 7:30 pm.

SaberCats suck the Soul out of Philadelphia, 70-33


By Emily Zahner and Kahlil Najar

SAN JOSE, CA–Fresh off their convincing week one win over the newly formed Portland Thunder, the San Jose SaberCats cruised to an easy 70-33 victory over the visiting Philadelphia Soul late Sunday afternoon. In his very first start of his AFL career, Rookie Nathan Stanley impressed the Cats faithful with a spectacular game. Stanley completed 18 of 28, for 249 yards with 6 TDs and zero interceptions. Head coach Darren Arbet had nothing but praise for his QB, saying “this game is made for him right now.”  Stanley admitted to having pre-game jitters in his AFL starting debut, especially since he did not anticipate getting into the game so quickly in the season. After starting QB Russ Michna suffered concussion symptoms after the first game of the season, Stanley was told to be ready, and was given the start.

After giving up an early TD, the SaberCats bounced back to finish the first quarter 14-7. The two traded scores in the second quarter, and ended after the Soul pressured hard and earned a touchdown that carried the game into the half with the home team up by a small margin of 35-27. The rookie QB continued to impress, at the end of the second quarter, Stanley had thrown for four touchdowns, 123 yards and no interceptions. San Jose’s impressive defense gave the rookie the chance he needed to put his team ahead. “It’s really comforting to be able to rely on my defense, especially as a new QB”, Stanley said.

The third and fourth were all Cats. San Jose held the Soul completely scoreless in the third and the majority of the fourth. Newcomer Reggie Gray lit up the score sheet in the second half. After just one 24-yard touchdown in the first half, Gray posted 53 yards and 2 touchdowns in the second. Gray had 46 touchdowns last year with the Chicago Rush, and so far has wasted no time bringing those stats to San Jose. When asked about his home debut with the team, Gray stated “the atmosphere here was amazing. There were a few jitters but it’s special to be a part of such a great team”.

In their season opener last week, Philadelphia’s Derrick Ross instantly made a name for himself in their thrilling overtime loss to the defending AFL champions, Arizona Rattlers. Ross posted an impressive six touchdowns, with 12 carries for 46 yards. In week two, the SaberCats held him to only 34 yards with one touchdown.

With just a minute left in the game, Philadelphia managed to break through the SaberCats’ defense and cut the ever-growing lead down to 70-33.

San Jose heads to Pennsylvania next Saturday, looking to continue their strong start to the season against the Pittsburg Power, who were 4-14 last season.

Sabercats Spoil Thunder’s Franchise Debut 64 -34

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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.

SaberCats fail to upset Rattlers, eliminated from playoffs

August 4, 2013
US Airways Center
By Emily Zahner and Kahlil Najar

PHOENIX, AZ—The San Jose SaberCats were eliminated from the Arena Football League playoffs Sunday night, as they were defeated by the defending champion Arizona Rattlers 59-49. San Jose’s QB Russ Michna completed 20 of 36 passes for 238 yards and five total touchdowns (one rushing), but mistakes cost the Cats and Michna’s impressive play was not enough to move on to the second round.

Coming in to tonight’s game, every favored team had advanced to the next round, creating an opportunity for the SaberCats to become the first upset of the playoffs. Last season, the Arizona Rattlers dealt the SaberCats a heart breaking defeat, but on the backs on QB Russ Michna and wide receivers Jason Willis and James Roe, the Cats clawed their way back into the post season to find some revenge. With the top two scoring teams in the league, this first round game was expected to be high scoring and intense. With the odds against them, the Cats would turn the ball to Michna, who began this game with a successful 4-0 record against Arizona.

In the first possession, the Cats struggled and prevented from building the momentum they were looking to carry into this game. San Jose was unable to make any forward progress, and on the turnover, the Rattlers took no time to get the first score, going up 7-0 just seconds into the game. It didn’t take the Cats long to get on the board, as the next possession they were able to convert for a score. At the end of the first, the game was tied 14-14, but it took less than two minutes into the second for the Rattlers to score again. After questionable officiating and physical play, the first half came to a close with the Rattlers leading 28-21.

A potential turning point of the game for the Cats occurred in the third quarter when Arizona’s kicker Garret Lindholm missed the opportunity for a field goal and defensive back Clevan Thomas returned the miss 49-yards for a San Jose touchdown. This turned the momentum to the Cats, and one score later, they had brought the score to 35-35. Arizona’s QB Nick Davila faltered, and threw an interception to Huey Whitaker who returned the pick-6, giving San Jose their first lead 42-35. Arizona kept pressing, and at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the score was tied 42-42.

In the fourth, the Cats turned the ball over at the one yard line that the Rattlers managed to return to regain the lead, and it was all Rattlers from there. Russ Michna had to take matters into this own hands, running for the touchdown with 3:27 left in the game, shortening the deficit to 56-49, but it wouldn’t be enough. More mistake by the defense cost San Jose, and Arizona punched their ticket to the next round with a final score of 59-49. The San Jose SaberCats end their thrilling season 13-6.

No Rush… Cats cruise into post-season

July 27th, 2013
SAP Arena
By Emily Zahner and Kahlil Najar

SAN JOSE, CA—In the last game of the regular season, the San Jose SaberCats (13-5) hosted the visiting Chicago Rush (10-8) in what promised to be a high caliber playoff-type game. Both teams were looking to end the season on a high note and carry the winning momentum into the post season. San Jose came out victorious, taking the win 65-40. Carried by a spectacular performance by QB Russ Michna and wide receivers Jason Willis and James Roe, the SaberCats erased all memory of last weeks’ 65-43 loss to the Philadelphia Soul.

After a kickoff return for a touchdown by the Rush, the first quarter was all SaberCats. Clevan Thomas picked off Carson Coffman one yard into the Cats end zone with less than a minute to go in the first, and returned it for a pick-6. This gave Thomas the franchise record of 14 interceptions this season for San Jose, and he wasn’t even close to being finished. By the end of the first, the score was 23-14 SaberCats. Late in the second, Thomas almost had his 15th, but the ball just tipped his fingers, giving the interception to teammate JC Neal. Going in to half, San Jose lead Chicago 37-19, carrying all the momentum. The third was a low scoring quarter, as both teams only completed one score, bringing the score to 44-26. In the fourth, Clevan Thomas brought the fireworks, hauling in another pick-6 that brought the franchise record to 15. This was his sixth of the season, making him the record holder for the most pick-6 in a season. The Cats finished strong in the fourth, sealing their 16th victory of the season by a score of 65-40.

For the first time playing against his former team, Russ Michna had a night for the ages. Michna completed 19 of 24 passes, averaging 13.5 yards per throw. With five touchdown completions, the SaberCats QB extended his streak to seven games in which he has thrown five or more TDs. Michna would be replaced by backup QB Mitch Mustain late in the fourth, presumably giving him some rest prior to the playoffs. On the other side, Chicago’s QB Carson Coffman struggled. While he threw 20 for 36, for 223 yards with two touchdowns, he was picked off three times and was sacked four times.

The SaberCats begin their 2013 Post Season next Sunday against the Arizona Rattlers in Phoenix, AZ. The Rattlers are 15-3 this season, number one in the West Division of the AFL.

SaberCats streak stops at six, crushed by Soul 65-43

July 20th, 2013

By Emily Zahner and Kahlil Najar

SAN JOSE, CA – In the second-to-last game of the regular season, two
of the hottest teams in the AFL met at the newly named SAP Arena in
San Jose, and were destined to put on a high scoring battle. The San
Jose SaberCats (12-5), currently ranked fourth in points per game,
played host to the Philadelphia Soul (12-5), currently ranked third.
The SaberCats and the Soul were both on win streaks of four and six
respectively coming in to the game Saturday night, and the night
wouldn’t be over without a streak snapped. The Soul, the reigning
American Conference Champions, have also won six consecutive road
games. History had favored the home team in the season series, but the
Soul were in it to snap streaks tonight, coming away with a 65-43 win.
The win tonight extended their current win streak and consecutive road
win streak to seven games.

On the 44th anniversary of the lunar landing, the Soul’s play was out
of this world as they left their footprint on the SaberCats undefeated
record against American Conference teams. The SaberCats looked out of
sorts in the first quarter, as the Soul took an all-too-easy 21-0 lead
after multiple miscues from the kickoff return. The Soul continued to
surge, going up 27-0, but a strong second period by the Cats brought
the score back to 27-21 heading into the half. It looked like the Cats
were building momentum, but a last second field goal at the end of the
second silenced the crowd and halted the Cats attack. The Soul
continued their dominant play, shutting out the Cats in the third,
increasing their commanding lead to 44-21. The Cats tried to give
their fans something to cheer for on fan appreciation night tallying
22 points in the fourth quarter, but would ultimately fall short to a
score of 65-43.

Russ Michna had an impressive game, despite the loss, by completing 15
of 37 passes, good for five touchdowns. The majority of Michna’s
throws were hauled in by James Roe, for three touchdowns on 70 yards
receiving. Huey Whittaker had 106 all-purpose yards, of which 81 yards
were receiving, and the other 25 were an interception return for a
touchdown, San Jose’s last score of the night.

The SaberCats conclude the regular season next weekend, Saturday July
27th at 7:30PM, against the Chicago Rush.