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 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.