Tag Archives: Pacific Division

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

Game Preview: San Jose SaberCats vs. Spokane Shock

ALL photos by Shawn Jonas

SAN JOSE, CALIF.The National Conference leading San Jose SaberCats (12-1) will play on the road for the second straight week to take on the Spokane Shock (4-8) on Friday, June 26, with kickoff set for 7:00 p.m. PDT.

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The Pacific Division rivals have squared off twice this season, with San Jose outscoring Spokane by a combined score of 138-54. The third time around will feature quarterback Erik Meyer’s first game at Spokane Veteran’s Memorial Arena as a SaberCat. Meyer, who spent the first five seasons of his career with the Shock, winning the 2013 Arena Football League Most Valuable Player award, has thrown for 61 touchdowns and ranks in the top-five of nearly every passing category this season.

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While San Jose possesses a former league MVP, the starting receivers have been the catalyst for the offense. Setting the pace is Reggie Gray, whose 110 receptions, 1,195 receiving yards and 29 touchdowns leads the SaberCats and is also among the top-five in the league.

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Additionally, Adron Tennell has been critical to the success of the offensive attack. Tennell, who won the 2013 AFL Receiver of the Year as a member of the Shock, is second on the team with 18 touchdowns and has added 586 receiving yards, providing the ability to move the chains as well as be a threat in the red zone.

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A versatile playmaker, Darius Reynolds has excelled as a receiver, on special teams and occasionally, filling in defensively. Reynolds has totaled 13 touchdowns, hauling in nine touchdown receptions adding four on the ground, while notching 12 tackles this season. Averaging 59.4 points per game, the SaberCats’ potent offense remains the best in the league.

Offensively, Spokane has turned to Carson Coffman as the starter under center. Coffman led the Shock to a 69-54 victory over the Portland Thunder, completing 20-of-32 passes for 328 yards and a season-high nine touchdowns.

Last month, Spokane added receiver Jabin Sambrano to go along with Anthony Amos and Nick Truesdell. Sambrano, who has spent the past three seasons in the National Football League, most recently with the Atlanta Falcons, led the Shock last week with eight receptions and 125 yards, adding two touchdowns.

Similarly, Truesdell is coming off his best performance of the season last week against the Thunder. Entering the matchup, Truesdell (6’7” 240) had 12 touchdowns through nine games, but in a breakout performance, he added five touchdowns on seven receptions and 124 yards. Meanwhile, Amos currently leads the team among active players with 70 receptions for 758 yards.

Defensively, the SaberCats are led statistically, by Ken Fontenette, Jason Stewart and Francis Maka. Fontenette has had a nose for seeking out the football, leading the league with 98.5 tackles and is second in the league with 10 interceptions. Meanwhile, Maka ranks third in the AFL with 8 sacks, two safeties and has added 17 tackles his season. The 2014 Defensive Player of the Year, Jason Stewart has been a menace in the middle of the SaberCats’ pass rush. Stewart is right behind Maka with 7.5 sacks and has 17.5 tackles with eight going for a loss. The crushing San Jose defense has allowed just 37.2 points per game, to lead the AFL, though they will be tested against a Shock offense that is coming off a 69 point outing last week.

San Jose’s defense has a league-high 24 interceptions and has only surrendered 48 passing touchdowns, the fewest in the Arena Football League by a margin of 11.

The Pacific Division matchup can be seen live on ESPN3, the Watch ESPN app or on radio 1220AM KDOW.

Game Preview Courtesy of the San Jose SaberCats Media Relations

Game Preview: Los Angeles Kiss vs. San Jose SaberCats

SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose SaberCats (11-0) will play host to the Los Angeles KISS (1-9) on Saturday June 13th at 7:30PM PDT for the second time this season.

The 2015 SaberCats are approaching franchise history, yet their focus remains on each upcoming opponent. In a rematch of San Jose’s home opener against the KISS, the week 12 rendition will provide the SaberCats with an opportunity to improve to 12-0, tying a franchise best start set in 2002.

In the previous meeting in week two, San Jose came out with a 54-28 victory, behind a balanced aerial attack and disruptive defense. In his first game as a SaberCat at the SAP Center, quarterback Erik Meyer paved the way, completing 64.5 percent of his passes for 222 yards and five touchdowns. Meyer connected with four different receivers for a touchdown, while Reggie Gray led all SaberCats with 10 receptions for 97 yards and two touchdowns.

Currently, Gray ranks first in the league with 29 total touchdowns (26 receiving) and eclipsed the 1,000 yards receiving mark for the fifth straight year of his AFL career. With Meyer and Gray firing on all cylinders, the SaberCats’ have remained at the peak of AFL scoring offense and have already clinched the Pacific Division title.

Hinging on its depth and talent on the defensive side of the ball, San Jose has the number one ranked defense and has only allowed an average of 36.8 points per game. Winning by an average margin of 23.8 points, the SaberCats had five sacks, two interceptions and only surrendered 209 total yards against the KISS in week two. The defensive front for San Jose has consistently put pressure on opposing quarterbacks as well. Defensive tackle Jason Stewart is second in the AFL with 6.5 sacks, while Francis Maka and Luis Vasquez rank among the top five.

Combined with a disruptive front is the ball-hawking secondary for San Jose. Defensive back Ken Fontenette leads the way, roaming the secondary for the SaberCats. After adding 13.5 tackles last week, Fontenette’s 85.5 total tackles and nine interceptions ranks first in the AFL. With Fontenette, Eric Crocker and legendary SaberCat Clevan Thomas, San Jose’s secondary will be matched up against a dual-threat quarterback and one of the best receivers in the league.

A mainstay in the AFL, KISS receiver Donovan Morgan is second in the league with 1,148 receiving yards, reaching the 1,000 yard plateau for the sixth straight season. Morgan is coming off a three touchdown performance against the Portland Thunder and with 24 on the season; his ability to make plays will challenge the SaberCats.

Returning to the starting lineup last week, quarterback Adrian McPherson had an immediate impact for the KISS. Against the Thunder, McPherson had 240 passing yards and five touchdowns, adding 32 yards on seven rushes. McPherson leads all quarterbacks with eight rushing touchdowns and against San Jose’s top-ranked pass rush, his legs will be relied upon, as will his arm.

Going through major overhaul on its roster since the last meeting, the KISS is coming off a 52-40 victory over the Portland Thunder last week, the first of the season for them. In a trade with the New Orleans Voodoo a couple weeks ago, Los Angeles acquired defensive back Rayshaun Kizer. A four-time All-Arena defender, Kizer led the way with 8.5 total tackles and added two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown in last week’s win.

Continuing to bolster the defense, the KISS also added defensive end Dajohn Harris (6-4 285) and defensive back Josh Victorian (5-10 190), both of whom have multiple years of experience in the National Football League. The additions have seemed to pay off for Los Angeles, with the 40 points surrendered last week the lowest total on the season.

The game will also have a special number retirement and Hall of Fame celebration for former player and current Assistant Head Coach Omarr Smith. The celebration will include a halftime tribute to Smith, the retiring of his jersey number 14 and a Hall of Fame pin and banner give away to the first 5,000 fans in attendance.

The game can be found on ESPN3 or KDOW 1220AM radio.

Game Preview Courtesy of the San Jose SaberCats Media Relations

San Jose SaberCats Ground Spokane Shock 55-26;11th Straight Win, Remain Undefeated

All photos by Shawn Jonas

SAN JOSE, Calif.– The San Jose SaberCats (11-0) remain unbeaten, as they defeated visiting Pacific Division foe, the Spokane Shock (3-7), 55-26 on Friday night.

“The game tonight was a hard fought game,” said Owner and Head Coach Darren Arbet. “They hung in there, continued to grind and got it done.”

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The SaberCats got off to a quick start, taking two plays to score with quarterback Erik Meyer running into the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown to give San Jose an early 7-0 lead. Meyer completed 27-of-39 passes for 260 yards and five touchdowns, while adding two more scores on the ground. With great field position set up by a 39-yard kickoff return from Anthony Amos, the Shock capped its opening drive off with a quarterback run of its own, as Warren Smith snuck in for the 1-yard touchdown. Meyer completed 27-of-39 passes for 260 yards and five touchdowns, while adding two more scores on the ground.

“If the coverage tightens up a little bit, (Erik) is able to move around and then we go through the scrambling drill,” said receiver Reggie Gray. “It goes back to pop warner, once the quarterback is moving around; forget what is going on, just get open.”

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Striking again, San Jose answered with a 13-yard pass from Meyer to Gray, as the SaberCats held a 14-6 edge in the first quarter. Gray, the AFL Week 9 Most Valuable Player, finished with 10 receptions for 122 yards and two touchdowns to lead the SaberCats.

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Late in the first half, Jeremy Kelley hauled in a 7-yard touchdown reception from Meyer, the first of his AFL career, giving San Jose a 28-13 advantage. Kelley added a 4-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, finishing with three receptions for 17 yards and two touchdowns.

Driving down to the seven yard line, Spokane had an opportunity to score on the last play of the first half, but Ken Fontenette broke up a pass from Smith and the 28-13 mark would stand at halftime. Fontenette, the AFL Week 10 MVP, led all defenders with 15 tackles and is currently leading the AFL in total tackles.

“(Ken) is smart, he’s competitive every day and every down,” said Arbet. “He is just a competitive guy and it carries over to the football field and he’s playing really well right now.”

Spokane was without its leading pass rusher, James Ruffin, on its defensive front; however, it was the secondary for the Shock that was able to play great coverage on the SaberCats’ receivers.
Still, the resilient SaberCats leaned on their ferocious defense to hold an advantage throughout the game. Relying on its depth, San Jose at one point even used receiver Darius Reynolds at the linebacker spot for a brief stint.

“The defense played well,” said Arbet. “We played a lot of different guys on defense and when they got in there, they stepped up and did what they had to do.”

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Leading the way for the Shock was receiver Anthony Amos, who hauled in a 24-yard touchdown pass from Smith in the second quarter, finishing with a team-high 11 receptions for 121 yards and the score. In his second start against the SaberCats’ top-ranked defense, Smith completed 23-of-41 passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns through the air (one on the ground).

Falling over the boards in the corner of the end zone, Spokane receiver Nick Truesdell used his entire six-foot-seven-inch frame to haul in a 4-yard touchdown reception, as Spokane minimized the San Jose lead to 35-20 with 13:41 remaining in the fourth quarter. Coming off a four touchdown performance against the Arizona Rattlers last week, Truesdell was limited against San Jose’s prolific secondary, grabbing just five receptions for 32 yards and one touchdown.

“Anytime you can hold a team under 40 points in arena football, it’s almost unheard of,” said Fontenette. “For us to continue to do that really shows where we are going.”

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The SaberCats answered, with an 18-yard pass from Meyer to Gray, setting up Odie Armstrong for a 2-yard touchdown run, as San Jose pulled ahead 42-20. After trading touchdowns, the Shock held possession, trailing 49-26 with four minutes remaining, but the drive was halted when Mike Williams intercepted a Smith pass in the end zone, ultimately sealing the victory for the SaberCats.

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Mike Williams started in the box, then at defensive back and at the end, he got an interception to close the game out,” said Arbet.

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For San Jose, its next game will be at home in the SAP Center, against the Los Angeles Kiss on Saturday, June 13th at 7:30PM PDT.

Offensive Player of the Game: WR Reggie Gray
Defensive Player of the Game: DB Ken Fontenette
J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game: WR Reggie Gray
Cutters Catch of the Game: SPO WR Jabin Sambrano 4th QT TD
Highlight of the Game: FB Odie Armstrong catch and hurdle defender.

Game Recap Courtesy of the San Jose SaberCats