Tag Archives: D.J. Stephens

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 vs Portland Thunder Game Preview

All photos by Shawn Jonas

SAN JOSE – Launching their quest for a fourth Arena Bowl Championship, the San Jose SaberCats will host the Portland Thunder in the Arena Football League’s Quarterfinal playoffs on Friday, August 14th with kickoff set for 8:00pm PDT. You can catch the action on ESPN2 or 1220AM KDOW.

This will be the fourth matchup between the Pacific Division foes this season, with San Jose victorious in each of the previous three. In the previous matchup on July 18th at the SAP Center, the Thunder jumped out to an early 20-0 lead in the first quarter, holding a 34-21 lead at halftime. However, the resilient SaberCats went on a
28-7 run to open the second half, ultimately winning in overtime, 55-49 with a fourth down stop of the Thunder’s offense.

San Jose wrapped up the regular season with a 60-38 victory over the LA KISS last week in Anaheim. With the win, the SaberCats tied last year’s Cleveland Gladiators for the best regular season record in league history at 17-1.

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Offensively, the SaberCats were led by receiver Maurice Purify. Scoring the first five touchdowns for San Jose, Purify finished with four receptions for 87 yards and six total touchdowns (three receiving and three rushing.) Meanwhile, D.J. Stephens led all SaberCats with 97 yards receiving yards on five receptions and a 38-yard touchdown.

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Finishing the regular season the league leader in receptions (162) total touchdowns (47) and tied for first in receiving touchdowns (44), receiver Reggie Gray has had a remarkable season. The fifth year player out of Western Illinois surpassed the 40 receiving touchdown mark for the fourth time in his career and also joined the 200 or more career receiving touchdowns club earlier this season. Now the franchise record holder in receptions, touchdowns, receiving yards and scoring, Gray has put his stamp on making plays in this league and “Big Play” Reggie Gray will remain a crucial factor in the SaberCats offense during their run for a fourth Arena Bowl championship.

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In the secondary, Ken Fontenette has also had a record-breaking season. Now the SaberCats franchise leader with 146.5 total tackles this season, the fifth year man out of Houston is also second in interceptions (12) and tied for third in pass breakups (29). Along with the legendary Clevan Thomas, who ranks second all-time in interceptions, San Jose’s passing defense has remained the leader in the AFL.

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Across the defensive front, the tandem of Francis Maka and Jason Stewart has combined for 21.5 of the SaberCats 44 sacks. Maka is tied for second in the AFL with 11.5 sacks, while Stewart leads all nose tackles with 10 and is tied for fourth in the AFL. In his second year in the league, Donte Paige-Moss has improved on his rookie sack total, now with nine sacks, ranking him tied for sixth.

Meanwhile, the Thunder are coming off a 67-39 loss to the Arizona Rattlers where they trailed 50-28 in the third quarter, before scoring 19 points in the fourth with a late rally. Last week saw the return of receiver Jamar Howard to the Thunder’s lineup. Howard led Portland with six receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown and is a piece of the Thunder receiving group that includes Jared Perry and V’Keon Lacey, each with 29 touchdowns and over 1,100 receiving yards.

Defensively, Portland is led up front by the pass rush duo of K.C. Obi and Marquis Jackson. Jackson leads the team with 7.5 sacks, while ranking second on the team with 11 pass breakups. Obi on the other hand has 6.5 sacks and is fourth on the team with 36.5 total tackles.

With a win, the SaberCats would reach the National Conference Championship game for the second straight year and would play host to the winner of the Arizona Rattlers and Spokane Shock’s matchup at Stockton Arena.

Game Preview Courtesy of the San Jose SaberCats Media Relations

San Jose SaberCats Beat LA KISS 60-30 Tie League Regular Season Record (17-1)

August 8, 2015 – 10:07pm

LOS ANGELES – The San Jose SaberCats (17-1) wrapped up the regular season with a 60-38 victory over the LA KISS (4-14) on Saturday night. With the win, San Jose tied last season’s Cleveland Gladiators with a 17-1 regular season record, the best mark in Arena Football League history for the 18 game format.

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The SaberCats outscored the KISS 23-7 in the second half and Maurice Purify scored the first five touchdowns for the SaberCats, including two from quarterback Erik Meyer. Meyer finished with 120 yards and two touchdowns on 7-of-10 passes. Purify paced the SaberCats with six touchdowns total, three rushing and three receiving, while adding 87 yards receiving.

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Getting out to an early 21-6 lead the SaberCats seemed in control; however, LA outscored San Jose 19-7 to pull within three points at 28-25. Replacing Meyer in the second quarter, the SaberCats continued to pounce with quarterback Nathan Stanley connected with Purify on a 14-yard touchdown with less than a minute remaining in the second half as the lead swelled back to 35-25. Stanley finished the game by completing 13-of-24 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns in relief.

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Regaining possession, the KISS scored on a Joe Clancy 10-yard pass to Dorgan Morgan, his third of the first half. LA Kicker Andre Heidari’s PAT kick was blocked and returned by David Hyland, awarding San Jose two points and a 37-31 halftime advantage. Clancy finished with 261 passing yards and six total touchdowns, but also had two interceptions.

LA opened the second half with possession but Francis Maka was able to recover a fumble forced by Donte Paige-Moss on a run by LA FB Hamani Stevens, as San Jose regained possession. The turnover set up the SaberCats for a nine-play drive, capped off with a six-yard touchdown run by Purify, giving San Jose a 44-31 lead.

In the fourth quarter, San Jose scored on a deep, 43-yard touchdown pas from Stanley to D.J. Stephens, yet the KISS would answer with a 44-yard bomb from Clancy to Morgan, cutting San Jose’s lead to 53-38 with 10:52 remaining in the game. Morgan finished with seven receptions for 145 yards and four touchdowns, passing 2,000 yards receiving for the season as well. Stephens led the SaberCats with 97 yards receiving on five receptions.

The opportunistic SaberCats defense would capitalize when Hyland grabbed an interception for the second straight week, this time taking it back for a 47-yard touchdown, extending the lead to 60-38 with five minutes remaining in the game. Hyland also led the SaberCats with seven tackles, while KISS defensive back Shaine Boyle led all defenders with nine tackles.

In his first start of the season, defensive back Kenny Okoro sealed the victory for San Jose, intercepting a Clancy pass with two minutes remaining. Also making his first start of the season, defensive end Chris McAllister recorded his first sack as a SaberCat on a safety with Maka also credited on the sack of Clancy in the fourth quarter.

The SaberCats roll into the playoffs with home field advantage and will host the first round of the National Conference playoffs at the SAP Center on Friday, August 14th at 7:30 pm PDT.

Offensive Player of the Game: SJ WR Maurice Purify
Defensive Player of the Game: SJ JLB David Hyland
J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game: SJ WR Maurice Purify
Cutters Catch of the Game: LA WR Donovan Morgan catch to pass 2,000 yards in a season
AFL Highlight of the Game: SJ David Hyland interception return for a touchdown

Game Recap Courtesy of the San Jose SaberCats Media Relations

San Jose SaberCats Dominate Division Rival Portland Thunder 64-45 To Remain Undefeated (5-0,1-0)

April 25, 2015 11:23 PM PT

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIAThe San Jose SaberCats (5-0, 1-0) defeated the Portland Thunder (2-3, 1-1) 64-45, Saturday Night at the SAP Center, in front of 7,125 fans on “Feed the Community Night”.

The SaberCats went up early and poured it on often, but needed to hold off a late rally by the Thunder to remain unbeaten. With the defense continuing to be the backbone for San Jose, the offense was able to take advantage of great field position and blown coverage by Portland to jump out to a commanding 37-6 lead with three minutes remaining in the second quarter.

Quarterback Erik Meyer found receiver Darius Reynolds early in the first quarter, as Reynolds fought his way through a pass interference call, for a 20-yard touchdown catch. Meyer completed 20-of-30 passes for 283 yards and followed his eight touchdown passes last week with seven against the Thunder on Saturday.

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DSC05350Photos by Shawn Jonas

An immediate impact since joining the team two weeks ago against the Tampa Bay Storm, SaberCats receiver D.J. Stephens continued to shine. Stephens led the SaberCats with 10 receptions for 171 yards and three touchdowns, including deep routes for scores of 35 and 43 yards.

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Photo by Shawn Jonas

“Any one of our receivers can up 100-plus yards any week,” said receiver Reggie Gray. “We just go out there and play to the best of our abilities and take turns.”

With no regard for his safety, Thunder wide receiver Perez Ashford hauled in a 13-yard touchdown reception while flipping over the boards to cut the San Jose lead to 10, at 16-6 as the first quarter came to an end. Ashford was a bright spot for the Thunder, grabbing six receptions for 78 yards and the one touchdown.

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Photos by Shawn Jonas

Pacing the league-leading defense for San Jose was defensive back Ken Fontenette. Fontenette, the team’s leading tackler, added an interception off of an errant Kyle Rowley pass intended for Howard in the second quarter, leading to a nine-yard touchdown reception by Gray. Continuing their defensive prowess, David Hyland also had an interception in the fourth quarter, as the SaberCats defense prevented the Thunder offense from connecting on four of its five third down conversions.

“In order to be one of the best defensives in the league you have to play physical,” said Fontenette. “Rowley makes his reads really quick. We knew if we could anticipate the routes they run, he would throw it to a spot and we could make a play on the ball.”

In the second quarter, Thunder receiver Jamar Howard fell over the wall into the crowd injuring himself and was unable to return to action. The league leader in touchdown receptions (13), finished with two receptions for 25 yards.

Acquired earlier this week, Portland’s Jared Perry grabbed a 26-yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone, his first of the season. His score made it 37-12. Perry, the 2012 AFL Rookie of the Year, finished with six receptions for 54 yards and the touchdown.

With less than a minute remaining in the first half, Quincy Butler intercepted a Meyer pass to give Portland great field position. The Thunder were able to benefit from the turnover, and scored on a one-yard touchdown run by John Martinez, bringing the SaberCats lead to 44-19 at halftime.

Portland came out strong in the third quarter, first on an eight yard touchdown reception by V’Keon Lacey, and again on the ensuing kickoff when Osagie Odiase, a rookie out of Sacramento State University, recovered the fumble in the end zone to bring Portland’s deficit to 51-32 at the end of the third quarter. Lacey hauled in eight receptions for 77 yards and led the Thunder with two touchdowns.

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Photos by Shawn Jonas

 For the second straight week, “Big Play” Reggie Gray ran back a kickoff for a touchdown, this time for 56-yards. He had his second receiving touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter, an 11-yard strike from Meyer to put San Jose ahead, 58-32. Gray finished with 70 receiving yards and three total touchdowns.

“We all can be number one guys on team but we all come together on this team and make it a cohesive unit,” said Gray.

San Jose is off to its best start since starting 4-0 in 2002, when they won the first franchise ArenaBowl Championship. The SaberCats will travel to Arizona next Saturday May 2nd, in a National Conference showdown with the Rattlers.

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Photo By Shawn Jonas

Offensive Player of the Game- SJ WR D.J. Stephens
Defensive Player of the Game- SJ DB Ken Fontenette
J Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game- SJ WR D.J. Stephens
Cutters Catch of the Game- SJ WR D.J. Stephens 43-yard touchdown
AFL Highlight of the Game- SJ WR Reggie Gray kickoff return for a touchdown

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Photos by Shawn Jonas

Game Recap: Courtesy of the San Jose SaberCats Media relations

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 sanjosesabercats.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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