SaberCats Trample Rival Rattlers 56-29, Secure Home Field Advantage.


By Shawn Whelchel

SAN JOSE, Ca.-The San Jose SaberCats made a statement against the conference rival Arizona Rattlers on Friday night, crushing their nemesis by a score of 56-29 to secure home field advantage in both the opening and conference rounds of the playoffs.

After what started out as a back and forth game through the first two quarters, The SaberCats used a massive second half explosion of both offense and defense to put the nail in the coffin of the Rattlers.

A familiar friend would turn enemy for Arizona, as former Rattlers receiver Maurice Purify helped to demolish his old team with a 108-yard night that ended with three touchdowns. Reggie Gray followed his new teammate’s performance up with three touchdowns of his own on 88 yards receiving.

The fierce divisional rivalry got underway in dull fashion Friday night as both teams went four-and-out to open the game in a lackluster manner. However, both teams quickly cleared off the rust and were off to the races from there on out. Arizona struck first, concocting an efficient 6-play, 45 yard drive before Mykel Benson plunged into the end zone for his 16th rushing touchdown of the season.

The SaberCats would respond with an efficient drive of their own, using eight plays before the team’s touchdown leader, Reggie Gray, would add on to his franchise record with yet another touchdown to even things up at seven a piece. Things got shaky for the SaberCats after that, as Arizona quarterback Nick Davila would find his go-to receiver, Rod Windsor, wide open in the end zone to put his team ahead.

After yet another defensive stop by Arizona left his team with good field position, Davila would widen his lead margin using just one play, a 20 yard bomb to receiver Kerry Reed to put his team up 20-7 after a missed PAT.

But the SaberCats refused to let things get out of hand, as QB Erik Meyers slowed the bleeding by responding with a solid drive of his own that ended with former Arizona star Maurice Purify hurting his old team with his first touchdown of the night to pull to within six. The league’s leading defense helped their own cause on the following drive as well, as an aborted snap by the Rattlers lead to San Jose reclaiming the ball.

The SaberCats would make good on their opportunity as a heavy dose of Reggie Gray moved them downfield before FB Odie Armstrong would rumble ten yard out of the backfield for a touchdown. After missing the PAT, the game was tied at 20.

The next drive ended in unusual fashion for both teams involved, as the Rattlers retook the lead on another Windsor touchdown after an ill-advised onside kick try from San Jose gave them the short field. However, the SaberCats special teams made yet another stand on the PAT, this time blocking the ball before Rodney Fritz returned it the length of the field to give San Jose two points of their own, making it a 22-26 ball game.

With under a minute left, the SaberCats mounted one last drive, as Meyers connected with three different receivers before Purify would outmuscle his defender in the end zone to make a leaping grab for his second touchdown of the game, giving the SaberCats a 29-26 advantage heading into halftime.

The Rattlers reclaimed the ball on the opening kickoff after a fortuitous bounce of the goal post shot the ball out to the 20-yard line and into the hands of Arizona for a turnover on the kickoff. Arizona wasn’t able to find the end zone, but Fabrizio Scaccio used his leg to tie the game up at 29 with a 27-yard field goal.

Gray would put the SaberCats ahead after a nice double move in space opened him up in the back of the end zone for his second touchdown of the game, putting his team up six after another rare Nick Pertuit miss.

The SaberCats would follow up with a pair of highlights on both sides of the ball, as DB David Hyland would make a spectacular leaping pick of a Davila pass to give way to Purify on offense, who would take the ball 34 yards down the field after spinning off a defender for his third touchdown of the night. San Jose would enjoy a commanding 42-29 lead after the spectacles.

San Jose’s defense would return with a vengeance on the next drive as well, forcing three hurries and gathering a sack to force a turnover on downs that would give the SaberCats a first and goal. After a series of setbacks, it would be Gray who would again make good on the scoring opportunity as he tallied his third touchdown of the game for a 49-29 lead for San Jose.

The SaberCats continued to add clips to their highlight reel after D.J Stephens made a dime-stop to slip under a defender before sneaking into the end zone to expand the lead to 56-29 in the fourth quarter, effectively nailing the coffin in their rival’s comeback plans.



Game Notes:

Reggie Gray broke the SaberCats’ single-season receiving-yards record with a 12 yard catch in the second quarter of Friday night’s game.

With the win, the SaberCats secured home field advantage for both the opening and conference rounds of the playoffs.

David Hyland’s interception would add on to their league leading tally, now leaving them with 31 on the season.

SaberCats Remain Perfect, Down Spokane 55-26.

By Shawn Whelchel

It wasn’t the cleanest of games for the league leading SaberCats, but San Jose managed to extend their undefeated streak to 11 games on Friday night after steadily dispatching the Spokane Shock by a score of 55-26.

Friday’s contest saw chippy play, bad penalties and a slow second half from both teams, but big plays from WR Reggie Gray and solid footwork from QB Erik Meyer propelled the team to a victory.

The former 2013 AFL Most Valuable Player, Meyer, got to work early against his old team, as he jettisoned the SaberCats to an early 7-0 lead after breaking off a 6-yard touchdown run just three plays into the first possession of the game.

The AFL leading defense then took the field, but got off to a sloppy start, as a trio of penalties inside the red zone gave the Shock new life before QB Warren Smith returned the favor by plowing his way into the end zone on a one-yard touchdown run of his own. The SaberCats would retain the lead however after K Taylor Rowan missed wide right of the goal post.

San Jose would start to pull away from Spokane during their next possessions, as Gray caught his AFL leading 25th touchdown reception before Meyer would plunge into the end zone for his second rushing touchdown to take a commanding 21-6 lead. San Jose’s defense would falter on their next possession, allowing Warren Smith to sneak into the back of the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown reception on fourth down, but they would again pad their lead with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Kelley with just 16 seconds left in the half, taking a 28-13 advantage into the locker room.

The third quarter slowed to a crawl for both teams, as injuries and penalties led to stoppages and a lack of offensive momentum throughout the frame. After getting a defensive stop, the SaberCats would tack on to their lead with yet another Reggie Gray touchdown for the opening score of the second half. But that would be all the offense that the quarter would see.

The Shock opened up the fourth quarter looking to make up for lost time, and did just that as Nick Truesdell shrunk San Jose’s lead with a 4-yard touchdown pass on the second play of the quarter, pulling his team to a 35-20 deficit. The SaberCats would respond following big plays by Gray to set up FB Odie Armstrong for a one yard lumber into the end zone.

The Shock would go on to score again on a highlight reel catch by Jabin Sambrano, but again, the SaberCats would respond with a touchdown of their own, disallowing Spokane to amass a late game comeback. Spokane had one final chance to score with less than a minute to go, but LB Mike Williams, who made his first start of the game sealed the win with a leaping reception in the end zone to close the game out.



Game Notes:

The SaberCats remain undefeated on the year, while also hosting a 4-0 record against Pacific Division rivals.

Reggie Gray, who leads all WR’s in touchdowns this year, tacked on two more to bring his total to 26 on the night.

San Jose came into the game allowing a league best 37.9 points per game. They improved on that number by allowing the Shock to score just 26 points in the contest.

SaberCats Win Home Opener 54-28 Against KISS, Remain Undefeated.

By Shawn Whelchel


SAN JOSE-The San Jose SaberCats welcomed back fans of the sport by remaining undefeated on Saturday after steadily dispatching the Los Angeles KISS in a 54-28 blowout win at SAP Center.

For the second straight game, the SaberCats offense eclipsed the 50-point margin while keeping Los Angeles at bay with their stifling defense, handing the KISS their second loss of the season.

The SaberCats got off to a hot start on both sides of the ball on Saturday night as they were able to put 34 points on the board by the end of the first half. Full back Odie Armstrong rumbled his way into the end zone to open up the scoring for San Jose before quarterback Erik Meyer rattled off three consecutive passing touchdowns to a trio of different receivers.

San Jose’s fearsome defense picked up where their offensive counterparts left off, forcing the KISS into two-straight turnover on downs to open the game. The SaberCats defense was helped out by a number of miscues from Los Angeles’ offensive line, who continued to get flagged for penalties throughout the first quarter.

Los Angeles would clean up their play in the second, going on to score their first touchdown in the early minutes of the frame after quarterback Adrian McPherson connected with WR Donovan Morgan on a 33-yard bomb on fourth-and-long. They would score again later in the second, but not before the SaberCats secondary would make them pay with a pick-six by David Hyland near the goal line. San Jose would ride a comfortable 34-14 lead into the locker room.

The third quarter was dominated by the SaberCats, as they held Los Angeles to yet another scoreless frame while adding on to their lead with a 15-yard touchdown by David Hyland and the second defensive touchdown of the game after Virgil Gray jumped the lane on a pass by KISS quarterback Brian Zbydniewski for a 27-yard pick six.

But Los Angeles wouldn’t go quietly, as they came out gunning to open the final quarter of the game with a 42-yard bomb from Zbydniewski to Morgan to cut the score to 47-21. The two teams would trade touchdowns until time ran out, rewarding San Jose with their second straight win of the season.

The SaberCats will travel to Tampa Bay to take on the Storm on April 10.

Sabercats’ Smothering Defense Lead San Jose to Conference Title Game

By: Joe Lami

SAN JOSE Calif.–

The San Jose Sabercats started their 2014 post-season run with a 55-28 victory over their Pacific Division rival, the Spokane Shock, on Saturday to advance to the National Conference Championship next weekend.

The best defense in the AFL showed why, as they held their opponents to just 28 points, all of which came in the second half. The 28-point total is also the second lowest point total the Sabercats have given up all season, as they held the Portland Thunder to just 27 points on May 17.

“We played as a unit tonight,” said Sabercats’ Defensive Tackle Jason Stewart, who recorded 3.5 sacks in the victory. Stewart came up huge in the 2nd Quarter for San Jose, when they faced a third down and two from their own nine. Stewart came up with a sack on the play. When Spokane decided to go for it on fourth down and six, Stewart came up with his second sack in as many play to force the turnover on downs, and help keep the Shock off of the scoreboard. Stewart wasn’t the only one on the defensive line to make plays, as Francis Maka with two sacks, and Terrance Carter with 1.5 sacks found ways to get to the Quarterback.

The defense didn’t stop there, however, as they also came up with three interceptions, all coming in the first half. Ken Fontenette, whose known for his tackling ability more than his intercepting ability led the way with two interceptions for 40 yards. He also finished the game with ten total tackles, leading the team. “Kenny put the team on his back tonight,” added Head Coach Darren Arbet.

David Hyland also picked one off of Erik Meyer, the reigning AFL MVP, with a magnificent catch in the end zone to take away a touchdown.

In his first career playoff game, Sabercats’ Quarterback, Nathan Stanley had an outstanding performance finishing the game 18 of 35 for five touchdowns and 193 yards. “It meant something to him, he was focused,” Arbet commented. Stanley did a great job of spreading the ball around, as each Reggie Gray and Dominique Curry had two touchdowns, with Ben Nelson receiving one. Stanley gave all the credit to his defense however, “they did a great job, it really took a lot of pressure off of us,” he added after the win.

San Jose now awaits their fate, as they will find out their next opponent on Sunday, where they will face the winner of the Arizona Rattlers (15-3) and the Portland Thunder (5-13). If the Rattlers win, the Sabercats will travel to Phoenix next weekend, but if Portland pulls off the upset, they will host the Thunder at home in San Jose.

No Shock in Spokane for San Jose

Photo Courtesy SJ SaberCats
Photo Courtesy SJ SaberCats

By Emily Zahner

SPOKANE, WASHINGTON—The San Jose SaberCats (7-3), riding a four game winning streak, took on the Spokane Shock (5-5) tonight at the Veterans Memorial Arena in Spokane, Washington. Riding in with confidence and less impactful injuries, the Cats took the win 49-34. With the added offensive power of Reggie Gray, who returned from injury tonight, the Cats made easy work of Spokane. With the loss of their MVP quarterback Erik Meyer, the Shock have been putting up low numbers lately, and tonight was no exception. However, coming into the game tonight, San Jose didn’t come in with any low expectations. The Shock hold the edge over the season series between the two teams, leading 5-3.

The first half was all Cats. The first period saw the Cats go up 14-6, followed by an equally offensive second, ending with San Jose up 28-13. San Jose didn’t let up until the final whistle. Scoring 14 points in each of the first three quarters, San Jose gave themselves a lead that would give them the victory. Spokane was equally as consistent, but on the opposing side of the score sheet; scoring 6, 7, and 7 in each of the first three periods. The Shock made it interesting in the fourth, outscoring the Cats 14-7.

Spokane seemed out of sorts without the leadership of QB Erik Meyer. Brian Zbydniewski completed 24 of 42 passing attempts, good for 303 yards and two touchdowns, and two sacks. Meanwhile, Russ Michna performed on the other end of the scoring spectrum. Michna completed 17 of 29 passes, good for 4 touchdowns and 218 yards.

In his return to the lineup, Reggie Gray received 8 passes good for 83 yards, completing one touchdown. The next best on the team was Jason Willis, with two received passes and 40 yards and a touchdown. San Jose has now won five games in a row, improving to a 7-3 record.

The Cats have a bit of a break before heading down to Arizona to take on the always impressive Arizona Rattlers on May 31st at 6:30pm.

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.

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.