Tag Archives: Ben Nelson

National Conference Championship Game Preview: San Jose SaberCats Face Arizona Rattlers

All photos by Shawn Jonas

SAN JOSE – The no.1 seed San Jose SaberCats will host the no.2 seed Arizona Rattlers for the National Conference Championship Game on Saturday, August 22nd at the Stockton Arena. Kickoff is set for 5:00 pm PDT and you can catch the action on ESPNEWS, as well as KDOW 1220AM.

One of the best rivalries in Arena Football League history will add another chapter to the saga, with a trip to Arena Bowl XXVIII on the line. Three weeks ago the San Jose SaberCats clinched home field advantage throughout the 2015 AFL playoffs with a home victory. That crucial win was over the three-time defending Arena Bowl Champion Rattlers, the same team that knocked the SaberCats out of the playoffs in last season’s National Conference Championship game.

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This season, however; San Jose statistically has the top scoring offense and defense in the league, while defeating teams by a remarkable average of 22.2 points per game in the regular season.
The previous meeting between these rivals was on July 31st, where the SaberCats defeated the Rattlers 56-29. San Jose held a slight, 29-26 lead at halftime, before outscoring Arizona 27-3 in the second half, en route to the victory. Quarterback Erik Meyer threw for 286 yards and eight touchdowns (second highest total of the season), while completing 72.5-percent on his passes and was not sacked. Despite the strong attack of the Rattlers’ pass rush, the SaberCats offensive line proved to be a force in keeping Meyer protected.
The receiving tandem of Reggie Gray and Maurice Purify asserted itself as the catalyst on offense. Each had three touchdown receptions in the contest, with Gray hauling in 11 receptions for 88 yards and Purify leading the way with 108 receiving yards. The leading receivers for the SaberCats over the final three weeks of the regular season propelled San Jose to 289.0 total yards of offense per game.

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Ranked as the number one scoring defense this season, the SaberCats held Arizona to under 30 points for the first time this season. The leading tackler in the AFL this season, Second Team All-Arena defensive back Ken Fontenette had eight tackles and broke up four passes.

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Roaming the middle of the box, David Hyland had 7.5 tackles two pass breakups and an interception of Nick Davila. Leading the league in total sacks, the San Jose pass rush was a disruptive force, totaling three sacks, led by Donte Paige-Moss with 1.5 sacks. Earning 2nd Team All-Arena Francis Maka had 0.5 sacks and blocked a kick, which was returned by Rodney Fritz in the second quarter.

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To reach the National Championship game, the SaberCats defeated the Portland Thunder in the quarterfinals of the AFL playoffs last week. Jumping out to a 35-7 lead, San Jose remained in control, answering on any attempt the Thunder had at a comeback.
First Team All-Arena receiver Reggie Gray, the AFL leader in receptions and total touchdowns this season, returned a 57-yard kickoff for a touchdown and added two more receiving scores while Maurice Purify led the SaberCats with seven receptions for 81 yards. In his sixth season with San Jose and a member of the 2007 Arena Bowl Champion SaberCats squad, Ben Nelson had 50 receiving yards, adding two touchdowns as well. With the elusive D.J. Stephens and “Superman” Odie Armstrong, the SaberCats offense, which led the AFL in scoring (58.9 points per game), has an array of talented weapons for the 2013 AFL MVP Meyer to unleash.
Meanwhile, the Rattlers advanced to the National Conference Championship game behind a 72-41 home victory over the Spokane Shock. Davila threw eight touchdown passes, including four to Rod Windsor, who hauled in nine receptions for 112 yards. Chase Deadder led the way for Arizona with nine receptions for 121 yards, adding three touchdowns.

Arizona was in first half battle with the Shock, holding a slight, 30-28 lead at halftime before outscoring the Shock 42-13 in the second half. Defensively, the Rattlers had interceptions by Jeremy Kellem and Ben Wells, while Marcus Pittman added a sack.

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With a win over the Rattlers, the SaberCats would host Arena Bowl XVIII at the SAP Center on Monday, August 31st for a chance at a team’s fourth championship. The winner of this game will face off against the winner of the American Conference Championship game between the Philadelphia Soul and the Jacksonville Sharks.

Game Preview Courtesy of the San Jose SaberCats Media Relations

San Jose SaberCats Advance With A 55-28 Win Over The Portland Thunder

All photos by Shawn Jonas

SAN JOSE – The San Jose SaberCats (1-0) moved on to the National Conference Championship game, with a 55-28 victory over the Portland Thunder (0-1) on Friday night at the SAP Center.

The tenacious SaberCat defense, which forced 45 turnovers in the regular season struck again, as Jered Perry caught a pass from Kyle Rowley but was stripped by Ken Fontenette and the fumble was recovered by David Hyland. Fontenette, who led the Arena Football League in tackles this season (146.5), finished with 9.5 tackles and an interception.

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Capitalizing on the turnover, San Jose scored on a four-yard touchdown pass from Erik Meyer to Maurice Purify, getting on the board first with an early, 7-0 lead. With fourth down stops by each team, Portland regained possession in the second quarter, evening the score at 7-7, behind a 33-yard pass from Rowley to Jamar Howard. Howard led the Thunder with eight receptions for 87 yards and two touchdowns.

The SaberCats immediately regained the lead at 14-7, when Meyer threw a beautiful touch pass to the back corner of the end zone for the veteran Ben Nelson, who hauled in the pass as he crashed into the boards for the 22-yard touchdown reception. Meyer completed 20-of-36 for 215 yards and six total touchdowns.

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For the third consecutive game, David Hyland had an interception, this time reading the eyes of Rowley as he roamed the middle of the defense. The turnover set up the SaberCats with ample field position to capitalize, with a four-yard touchdown reception by Reggie Gray, as the lead swelled to 21-7. The SaberCats would end the first half with another touchdown reception by Gray, this time for 16-yards, propelling San Jose to a 28-7 halftime lead over Portland.

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Opening the second half, Nelson would add another touchdown as San Jose stretched its lead to 35-7. But Thunder struck when Duane Brooks, the AFL leader with eight kickoffs returned for a touchdown in the regular season, broke away for a 54-yard score, cutting the SaberCats lead, 35-14. Portland’s defense would hold the SaberCats on fourth down, regaining possession within the
SaberCats’ five yard line. Looking to score on fourth down, Rowley was sacked by Francis Maka, the team’s leader in sacks this season (11).

Fighting to extend its season, the Thunder would force a fumble from a Rich Ranglin screen pass, converting with a two-yard pass from Rowley to Howard to bring Portland with reach at 35-21. Just as the Thunder drew within striking distance, Gray returned the kickoff for a 57-yard touchdown, extending the SaberCats lead to 41-21 as the third quarter came to an end. Gray, AFL regular season leader in receptions and touchdowns, had four receptions for 36 yards and three total touchdowns.

Scoring six total touchdowns last week against the LA KISS in the regular season finale, Purify put on an encore performance, leading the SaberCats with 81 yards on seven receptions.

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Meyer opened the fourth with a nine-yard scamper to pay dirt, and with less than a minute remaining Odie Armstrong added another touchdown on the ground, putting the finishing touches on the victory.

Up next for the SaberCats is a second consecutive trip to the National Conference Championship, facing the winner of the Arizona Rattlers and Spokane Shock game. The National Conference Championship game will be played at the Stockton Arena on Saturday, August 22.

Game Recap Courtesy of the San Jose SaberCats Media Relations

San Jose SaberCats Hold On in OT, 55-49 Over Portland Thunder

All photos by Shawn Jonas

SAN JOSE – The San Jose SaberCats (15-1, 5-0) grinded out a, 55-49 overtime thriller over the Portland Thunder (4-11, 1-4) on a record setting night Saturday.

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The SaberCats came back from a 20-point first half deficit, outscoring the Thunder 34-15 in the second half and overtime to remain undefeated in the Pacific Division. Trailing 49-41 halfway through the fourth quarter, Portland scored on a six-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Rowley to V’Keon Lacey and successfully completed the two-point conversion on a two-yard pass from Rowley to Duane Brooks, tying the game at 49-49.

With 3:04 remaining, San Jose took over for its final drive, as quarterback Erik Meyer orchestrated an eight-play drive, setting up a potential game-winning field goal. Lined up 27-yards away with just one second remaining, SaberCats’ kicker Nich Pertuit had his kick blocked by Frank Trotter, forcing overtime.

In their second home overtime outing of the season, the SaberCats received the ball first. On the drive, Meyer completed six passes to three different receivers; with Ben Nelson hauling in the four-yard go ahead touchdown, giving San Jose a 55-49 lead, despite missing the point after try. With a chance to equalize, the Thunder moved the ball down to the SaberCats’ five yard line, but was stopped on fourth down with an incomplete pass from Rowley, intended for Lacey and sealed the win for San Jose.

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“The guys kept their composure, they continued to fight and they got the win,” said Owner and Head Coach Darren Arbet.

Portland opened the game with an 11-yard touchdown reception by Jared Perry to jump out to an early 6-0 lead. On the ensuing drive, Thunder defensive back De’Mon Glanton would strip Darius Reynolds and recover the fumble, setting up Rowley for a 13-yard touchdown pass to Lacey, making it a 13-0 lead with 8:51 remaining in the first quarter. Portland would regain possession after forcing a San Jose turnover on downs, leading to a 4-yard touchdown by Lacey, giving the Thunder a 20-0 lead after the first quarter. Lacey led the Thunder with four touchdowns, adding seven receptions and 63 yards receiving.

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With a routine 9-yard reception in the first quarter, Reggie Gray broke Rodney White’s all-time franchise record of 134 receptions in a season. Gray had a team-high 14 receptions 130 yards four touchdowns.

After the slow first quarter, The SaberCats would awaken in the second frame, getting on the board with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Erik Meyer to Gray in the corner of the end zone, taking a big hit but hanging on; cutting the lead to 20-7. The SaberCats would force a turnover on downs of their own, eventually scoring on a six yard touchdown pass from Meyer to veteran receiver Ben Nelson, making it a 20-14 score with 6:37 remaining in the first half. Meyer completed 34-of-50 passes for 284 yards for eight touchdowns.

In the final minute of the half, Jared Perry would add a 24-yard touchdown reception and Lacey would grab a 10-yard touchdown reception, extending the Thunder lead back to 20 at 34-14. Perry finished with a game-high 13 receptions for 156 yards, adding two touchdowns.

The roller-coaster of momentum swung back the SaberCats way when Gray returned the kickoff 48-yards, down to the eight-yard line with 12 seconds remaining. Gray would finish the drive with a 4-yard touchdown reception as the SaberCats trailed at halftime for only the second time this season at, 34-21.

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Coming out of the break, the SaberCats would march down the field from the three yard line, scoring on a 19-yard touchdown reception by Darius Reynolds. On the ensuing drive, Fontenette would intercept Rowley for the second time in the game, providing the San Jose offense with possession inside the red zone. The SaberCats top ranked scoring offense capitalized on the great field position, with Gray hauling in a 2-yard touchdown reception, giving the SaberCats their first lead at, 35-34 in the third quarter.

With his fourth touchdown of the game, Gray broke a SaberCats franchise record for most receiving touchdowns in a season with 41 and gave San Jose a 42-41 lead. “Big Play” Reggie Gray finished with a team-high 14 receptions for 130 yards and four touchdowns.

After Nelson grabbed his second touchdown of the game, Portland answered with a 6-yard pass from Rowley to Lacey, also successfully completing the two-point conversion to tie the game at 49-49, the mark that would stand until overtime.

2015 San Jose SaberKitten Reunion – Photo by ShawnJonas

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The SaberCats enter their bye week before hosting the Arizona Rattlers on Friday, July 31st, in a National Conference showdown on CBS Sports Network and 1220AM KDOW.

Game Recap Courtesy of the San Jose SaberCats Media Relations

San Jose SaberCats Cruise Past New Orleans Voodoo 56-35

All photos by Shawn Jonas

SAN JOSE – With a record breaking performance, the San Jose SaberCats (14-1) cruised past the New Orleans VooDoo (2-12) 56-35 at the SAP Center on Friday night.

In the third quarter, defensive back Ken Fontenette broke current SaberCats’ Assistant Head Coach Omarr Smith’s franchise record of 114 total tackles in a season, set in 2008. Fontenette also set a season-high with 17.5 tackles in a single game.

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“It’s a great honor, anytime you do anything to get your name in the record books for this franchise,” said Fontenette. “It’s all about the win and about the team and everyone has just set their individual goals aside.”

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On the opening drive, the VooDoo drove down into the SaberCats’ territory before veteran defensive back Clevan Thomas halted the drive by making a one-handed interception in the end zone. Taking advantage of the turnover, the SaberCats got on the board first when Reggie Gray hauled in a 13- yard touchdown pass from quarterback Erik Meyer.

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On the ensuing drive, VooDoo quarterback Adam Kennedy threw his second pick, this time by a diving effort from Fredrick Obi, his fourth interception in four games this season. San Jose capitalized on its fortune with a 10-yard touchdown reception by Darius Reynolds, extending its lead to 14-0. Reynolds finished with seven receptions for 73 yards and the one touchdown.

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The VooDoo would answer, as Chris Duvalt, the leading receiver for New Orleans, grabbed an 11- yard touchdown, cutting the San Jose lead to14-7 with 4:35 remaining in the second quarter. Duvalt finished with a game-high 15 receptions for 165 yards and added three touchdowns.

After trading touchdowns, San Jose extended its lead when Meyer scrambled in from the one-yard line for the score as time expired in the first half, giving the SaberCats a 28-14 halftime lead. Meyer finished with 229 passing yards, completing 76.7-percent of his passes, throwing for seven touchdowns, adding another on the ground.

Late in the third quarter, San Jose forced a New Orleans turnover on downs, scoring immediately as Meyer lofted a beautiful touch pass for Ben Nelson, who made an over the shoulder catch in the end zone before crashing into the boards, extending the SaberCats lead to 42-14.

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“They played with a lot of energy,” said Arbet. “That was the thing that we talked about coming out of the bye and I thought that they did that tonight.”

The VooDoo would answer on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Kennedy to Johnny Lester, cutting the SaberCats lead to 42-21. However, the SaberCats remained in control, as Meyer would connect with Gray for two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

Gray finished with a team-high nine receptions for 92 yards and four touchdowns and is now two receptions away from breaking Rodney White’s franchise record of 134 receptions in a season, also set in 2008.

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“We work very hard as a receiving core to be where we need to be when we need to be there,” said Gray. “Just getting that chemistry to where Erik can trust us and we get into the game and try to execute.”

Leading the league with 40 sacks on the season, the SaberCats added three, led by defensive lineman Jason Stewart, who had two. Stewart brought his season sack total to 10, joining teammate Francis Maka (10.5) as the two lone SaberCats with double-digit sacks on the season.

“They are as good as there is right now,” Owner and Head Coach Darren Arbet said about his defensive front. “It’s tough for quarterbacks to sit there and try to throw the ball downfield with those guys barreling down on you.”

Rich Ranglin, the 2014 AFL Offensive Lineman of the Year, added a 13-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter, bringing his total to six touchdowns on the season, doubling his total of three a year ago.

“Rich is a versatile tight end, which he self-proclaims,” said Gray about his teammate. “He is one of the best blockers in the league and his ability to come out of the backfield and catch the ball it allows teams not to key in on the receivers we have.”

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Next week, the SaberCats will host Pacific Division foe the Portland Thunder on Saturday, July 18th in the third and final regular season games between the two teams.

Game Recap Courtesy of the San Jose SaberCats Media Relations

San Jose SaberCats Improve To Arena Football League Best 13-1 With 62-27 Win Over Spokane Shock

SPOKANE, Wash. – The San Jose SaberCats (13-1) scored 42 straight points to defeat the Spokane Shock (4-9) 62-27, Friday night at the Spokane Veteran’s Memorial Arena.

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Behind the efforts of defensive back Ken Fontenette, the SaberCats jumped out to an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Fontenette recovered an Arvell Nelson fumble, leading to a 15-yard touchdown pass from Erik Meyer to Reggie Gray. On the ensuing drive, Fontenette broke up a pass in the end zone on fourth down, intended for Jabin Sambrano, allowing for Meyer and the SaberCats’ offense to take over. Meyer found Gray again, this time on a four-yard touchdown pass. One of the leading quarterbacks in the Arena Football League, Meyer completed an efficient 26-of-34 passes for 277 yards and seven touchdowns against his former team.

Spokane got on the board to open the second quarter, when Nick Truesdell made a one-handed catch in the back corner of the end zone, as the Shock cut the SaberCats lead to 14-7 with 13:46 left in the first half.

Late in the second quarter, Spokane tied the game 20-20 on a fumble recovery for a touchdown, while San Jose scored on a 14-yard touchdown reception by Jeremy Kelley, as well as a five-yard touchdown reception by Ben Nelson, as the SaberCats held a 27-20 advantage over the Shock at halftime. Nelson, a seven year veteran, grabbed 10 receptions for 91 yards and touchdown.

The SaberCats opened the second half with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Meyer to Reynolds. San Jose continued to control the momentum, as David Hyland recovered the ensuing kickoff, which bounced off the cross bar.

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Taking over on possession, Reggie Gray capitalized on an 11-yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone, getting one foot in bounds as the play was reviewed by the officials and confirmed the touchdown reception. Continuing to score in the third quarter, Meyer added a 15-yard quarterback run; pump faking as he found pay dirt, extending the SaberCats lead to 48-20 in the third quarter. Gray had a game-high 14 receptions for 154 yards and four touchdowns, continuing to be among the league leaders with 33 touchdown receptions.

Shock quarterback Carson Coffman threw for two touchdowns before leaving the game in the second half with an injury. Arvell Nelson took over under center, but was unable to find success against the SaberCats’ defense.

The best defense in the league responded with great coverage in the secondary, allowing Francis Maka recorded back-to-back sacks of Nelson, bringing his total to 10 sacks on the season. Leading the Arena Football League in tackles, Fontenette added seven more to his total of 105.5 tackles on the season.

With two interceptions last week, defensive back Fredrick Obi followed the Maka sacks by drifting into the end zone, grabbing the interception, giving the SaberCats’ offense an opportunity with good field position to start the fourth quarter. For the second-straight week Obi led San Jose nine tackles.

Recording his fifth touchdown of the season, offensive lineman Rich Ranglin scored on the 19-yard reception, as San Jose scored 25 unanswered points to 55-20.

The Shock scored with under a minute remaining on a nine-yard touchdown pass from Nelson to Truesdell, cutting the SaberCats’ lead to, 62-27. Truesdell led Spokane with 12 receptions for 99 yards and two touchdowns.

The SaberCats will return from the 4th of July bye week to host the New Orleans VooDoo on Friday, July 10th at the SAP Center, with the game televised live on ESPN2.

Offensive Player of the Game: SJ QB Erik Meyer
Defensive Player of the Game: SJ DB Ken Fontenette
J. Lewis Small Playmaker: SJ WR Reggie Gray
Cutters Catch of the Game: SPO WR Nick Truesdell 1st half
AFL Highlight of the Game: SPO DB Mike McMillen fumble recovery for TD

Game recap by Matthew Dziak 

Courtesy of San Jose SaberCats Medial Relations

The San Jose SaberCats Take Down The Expansion Las Vegas Outlaws In Season Opener 59-41

March 30, 11:15 PM

Courtesy Of The San Jose SaberCats Media Relations

Las Vegas, Nevada – The San Jose SaberCats (1-0) rode a colossal first half to defeat the Las Vegas Outlaws (0-1) 59-41 at the Thomas & Mack Center Monday night.

Taking the ball under center, SaberCats’ quarterback Erik Meyer looked across the middle of the field and found the always reliable Ben Nelson for a 14-yard first down, his first completed pass as a SaberCat. The SaberCats shook off the season opener jitters en route to a 21-0 first quarter lead. The SaberCats got on the board first, when Odie Armstrong took the handoff in for a two yard touchdown. Meyer followed that with 32-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Gray, after an offside penalty on Outlaws’ defensive end Terrance Carter allowed for a free play.

On the Outlaw’s opening drive, SaberCats defensive backs Virgil Gray and Eric Crocker were both flagged for defensive holding in the secondary. The ball hawking Gray found his redemption though, picking off Outlaws’ quarterback J.J. Raterink in the end zone two plays later. On the ensuing two Outlaw possessions, Gray and the rest of the SaberCats’ defense forced a turnover-on-downs, including a goal-line run stop.

On the contrary, Meyer led the San Jose offense on six straight first half scoring drives. The former Spokane Shock duo of Meyer and wide receiver Adron Tennell were officially reacquainted, as Tennell hauled in a one-handed reception, as he crashed over the boards for a 29-yard touchdown, giving the SaberCats a 21-0 first quarter lead. Tennell hauled in five receptions for 84 yards in his SaberCats debut.
In his debut with San Jose, the 2013 AFL Most Valuable Player distributed the ball around, throwing for 294 yards on 18-of-29 passes and six touchdowns, while tossing at least one touchdown pass to each of his four receivers. Gray led all SaberCat receivers with seven receptions for 89 yards.

The ageless wonder, SaberCats’ wide receiver Ben Nelson got into the fray as well, catching two first half touchdowns from Meyer, to bring his AFL career total to 172 touchdown receptions. Nelson totaled four receptions for 60 yards.

Scoring the first points for the Outlaws’ franchise, Raterink was able to run in two touchdowns to cut the SaberCats lead to 42-13 at halftime. The Outlaws’ maneuvered the ball into the redzone on five separate occasions in the first half, but only capitalized twice.

On the opening drive of the second half, the Outlaws marched down the field and scored when Las Vegas native, Tysson Poots, caught a four yard touchdown reception from Raterink, his first of three touchdowns on the night. Poots finished with seven receptions and 123 yards to lead all receivers. After the SaberCats offense surrendered their first turnover on downs, the defense answered the call. After defensive end Luis Vasquez stripped Raterink, David Hyland scooped up the ball and was tripped up at the five yard line. The SaberCats would extend their lead to 49-20 after Meyer found Tennell for the second time in the end zone. There was a bit of a scare for the SaberCats after the pass, when Meyer was taken down by a host of Outlaw defenders and was seen icing his hand between possessions.

Similar to the 2014 season, where he took over for starting quarterback Russ Michna, Nathan Stanley assumed the role from Meyer but was unable to find the same immediate success. Coming off of the edge, Terrance Carter sacked Stanley on fourth down to force a turnover. Taking over on downs, Raterink connected with rookie wide receiver LaDon Hudson on a seven yard touchdown pass, to bring the Outlaws to their closest mark at 49-34.

After the SaberCats recovered an onside kick and scored on Armstrong’s second rushing touchdown, the Outlaw’s answered when Poots climbed the ladder, snagged a one-handed reception, broke a tackle and raced into the end zone. The score cut the SaberCats lead to 56-41 midway through the fourth quarter. After Meyer returned to the lineup, the SaberCats extended their lead to 59-41 on the leg of 2014 AFL Kicker of the Year Nich Pertuit, who connected on a 25-yard field goal.

Despite being outscored 17-28 in the second half, San Jose held on thanks in large part to the arm of Erik Meyer and their havoc creating, opportunistic defense. .

ABOUT THE SAN JOSE SABERCATS
The ArenaBowl XVI, XVIII and XXI champion San Jose SaberCats finished their 19th season in the AFL with a Pacific Division Title after making their return in 2011. Fans and sponsors can go to thesanjosesabercats.com or call 408-673-3400 to sign up to receive the latest news and updates about the SaberCats, as well as to purchase 2015 season tickets. Make sure to follow the SaberCats on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest news on the team.
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