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.