Arena Football League
SaberCats Take Down Predators, 65-62
The San Jose SaberCats (2-0) opened their 2013 home slate by defeating the visiting Orlando Predators (0-2) 65-62 in thrilling fashion on Friday night at HP Pavilion in front of 11,263 fans. Quarterback Aaron Garcia completed 22-of-36 passes for 288 yards and seven touchdowns in his home debut for San Jose. Riddell Defensive Player of the Game, defensive back Clevan Thomas led the team in tackles with seven, and posted an eye-popping three interceptions, including one that sealed the game in the endzone as time expired.
"I'm proud of the guys, I told them let's stay the course, whatever happens forget about that play and let's look forward to the next one," said Owner/Head Coach Darren Arbet. "No one was in doubt, even when they took the lead late, everyone was still focused until we won that football game."
A chippy first quarter didn't stop these two prolific offenses from putting up explosive numbers. The SaberCats reached the endzone on all three of their first quarter possessions, led by two touchdown grabs from wide receiver Jason Willis. The Predators found paydirt on both of their first quarter possessions with Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game, wide receiver Amarri Jackson scoring both touchdowns, but still trailed 21-14 after one quarter.
After Thomas' second interception in as many games, Garcia and Willis hooked up for a third time, pushing the SaberCats lead to 14. However, Orlando stayed in the game with two touchdowns from quarterback Kyle Rowley to wide receiver Prechae Rodriguez, sandwiched around San Jose wide receiver Jamarko Simmons' second touchdown of the game, which brought the half time score to 35-28, in favor of the SaberCats.
Opening the second half with possession of the football, the Predators struck quickly, with Rowley finding Jackson for his third score to tie the game at 35. The teams then traded touchdowns as well as interceptions before Garcia fired a bullet to wide receiver Huey Whittaker for a 35-yard scoring strike to take the 49-42 lead into the final quarter.
The Predators again countered San Jose's attempts to put them away, starting the fourth quarter with two touchdowns and a pair of defensive stops to take the lead for the first time, 55-49. After a sack by San Jose defensive lineman Jabari Fletcher that resulted in a safety made the score 55-51, the teams traded touchdowns in the final minute. With just 27 seconds left on the clock, defensive back Mervin Brookins took the ensuing kickoff 58-yards for the score, putting the SaberCats ahead for good. Thomas intercepted a last-ditch attempt by Rowley in the endzone, his third interception of the game, to seal the 65-62 victory for San Jose.
For the SaberCats, their deep and dangerous receiving corps lived up to its name in the win. In the balanced attack, Willis led the way with eight catches for 98 yards and three touchdowns. Whittaker finished with six catches for 75 yards and a score while Simmons came through in the clutch with four catches, three for touchdowns and 35 yards. On defense, Thomas, the Hall of Fame selection put his ball-hawking skills on display once again, finishing with the three interceptions.
For Orlando, whose losing streak on the road stretched to 11 games, their gaudy offensive statistics weren't enough to deliver a victory. Rowley finished his impressive night 26-of-46 passing for 373 yards and nine touchdowns. On the outside, Jackson snagged 12 catches for 209 yards and five scores, while running mate Rodriguez ended with eight catches for 98 yards and three touchdowns. On defense, cornerbacks Simeon Castille and Marcus Everett each registered one interception and fellow defensive back Dominic Jones led the team with five tackles on the night.
With the win, the SaberCats improved to 2-0 on the young season. Next week, San Jose takes its perfect start on the road in a matchup with their bitter rivals, the Arizona Rattlers (2-0), who knocked the SaberCats out of the playoffs en route to winning the 2012 ArenaBowl Championship. Next week's game can be found at 5:30 PM PT on Saturday, April 6 on the CBS Sports Network and on the radio at KNBR 1050.
Sharks Shut Down Power, 61-35, on Friday Night
Led by an impressive defensive effort and turnover-free football from quarterback Bernard Morris, the 2012 South Division Champion Jacksonville Sharks defeated the Pittsburgh Power, 61-35, at CONSOL Energy Center on Friday night.
A week after recording just one sack in the season opener in Tampa, the Jacksonville (2-0) defensive line generated consistent pressure throughout Friday's game, bringing down Pittsburgh (0-2) quarterback Jordan Jefferson on several occasions. Jerry Turner led the charge with 2.5 sacks and a fumble recovery in the first half, finishing the game with a total of three sacks. Overall, the Sharks racked up seven sacks in Friday's contest, as Turner, Justin Parrish, Aaron Robbins and Matt Marcorelle recorded at least a partial sack each.
Though Jacksonville led from wire-to-wire, the game remained close into the third quarter. The Sharks led 34-21 at halftime, but Pittsburgh opened the third with a scoring drive capped by a two-yard touchdown run by P.J. Berry. From there, though, the Sharks scored four of the game's final five touchdowns to take control.
With his team up by just six points midway through the third, defensive back Micheaux Robinson stepped up and delivered the first interception of the Sharks' season. Morris capped the ensuing drive with a one-yard touchdown run to put the Sharks up by two scores. On the ensuing Power possession, Terrance Smith intercepted Jefferson in the end zone to turn the ball over. Several plays later, Shark fullback Dusty Bear plunged in for his second rushing touchdown of the game. At that point, the Sharks led 42-28 and never looked back.
Earlier, Jacksonville had an opportunity to take control, as they forced a turnover on downs while already up by a 20-6 count. However, Morris was called for intentional grounding in the end zone, resulting in a Pittsburgh safety. The Power scored on the ensuing drive to pull within a single score at that point.
Overall, Morris delivered a second consecutive strong performance for Jacksonville. He completed 26 of his 37 passes for 248 yards and four touchdowns, adding 33 yards and two scores on his six rushing attempts. Morris has now totaled 11 touchdowns in without throwing a pick in the Sharks' first two games of 2013.
At fullback, Bear ran the ball six times for 13 yards and two touchdowns while contributing to a pass-protection unit that allowed just one sack. Jeron Harvey piled up 12 receptions for 93 yards and a touchdown, while Jeff Hughley caught two touchdown passes for the second straight week and racked up 174 all-purpose yards. Markee White added 3 catches for 54 yards and a touchdown, while Maurice Avery grabbed 3 receptions for 18 yards.
For Pittsburgh, Jefferson ended the game 12-of-22 for 171 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, briefly leaving the game with what was announced as a rib injury. Jefferson returned for the fourth quarter, but in his absence backup Shane Austin completed seven of his 11 attempts for 85 yards and an interception.
With the win, the Sharks improve to 2-0 for the first time in franchise history. Jacksonville puts its perfect record on the line against the Cleveland Gladiators in Week 3, with kickoff from Cleveland set for 7:00 on Saturday, April 6. The game will air live on AM 600 WBOB and may also be watched online via the "AFL Live" video player.
Rattlers Top Blaze in Home Opener, 77-49
The Utah Blaze showed there is still work to be done before it reaches its ultimate potential, as the team dropped its home opener to the Arizona Rattlers on Friday, 77-49. Throughout the night, an inexperienced offense put its youth on display, struggling to maintain its rhythm.
The night was full of bizarre moments, beginning with Utah's first offensive snap. After DB David Hyland halted Arizona's opening drive with a diving interception, QB Tommy Grady had his first pass tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by Rattlers DL Cliff Dukes, who returned it two yards to the end zone for a quick score.
Utah turned the ball over again during its second drive, as Grady was intercepted by DB Jeremy Kellem. Arizona converted the turnover into point off a two-yard touchdown pass from QB Nick Davila to WR Tysson Poots, putting Utah in an early 13-0.
Grady answered back on the ensuing possession, finding rookie WR Mario Urrutia for a 10-yard scoring completion to end the first quarter.
Arizona opened the second quarter with a five-play drive that ended in a 27-yard scoring toss from Davila to Poots, but the Blaze responded as Grady fired a four-yard touchdown pass to WR Brandon Thompkins to cut the deficit, 20-14 midway through the quarter.
Rookie DB Maurice Leggett stepped in front of a Nick Davila pass for an interception on the ensuing drive and Grady made quick work of the turnover, hooking up with WR Chase Deadder on a three-yard score to give Utah a 21-20 lead with 3:29 remaining in the half.
The teams traded score to close out the quarter, as Davila found Jared Perry on a 30-yard touchdown pass and Grady hit Urrutia on a 14-yard scoring completion. The Rattlers got the final score of the half, as Poots hauled in his third touchdown of the game to take a 33-28 lead at the midway point.
The third quarter proved disastrous for the Blaze, beginning with a 22-yard interception returned for a touchdown by Rattlers DB Virgil Gray on the opening drive. Utah failed to convert a fourth down on the following possession, leading to a one-yard touchdown run by Arizona FB Odie Armstrong.
Utah's third drive ended in yet another odd turnover, as Grady fired a pass over the middle that ricocheted off an official into the arms of an Arizona defender. Davila found Perry for a 23-yard score to give Arizona a 53-28 lead.
Tommy Grady finished the night completing 19-of-37 attempts for 195 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions. Mario Urrutia led all receivers with 11 receptions for 172 yards with three scores, while Chase Deadder hauled in six passes for 66 yards and three touchdowns of his own.
The Utah Blaze return to EnergySolutions Arena on Saturday, April 6th to take on the Tampa Bay Storm.
Champions Professional Indoor Football League
Haymakers Fall Short To Bandits In First Home Game
The Haymakers fell in their home opener 42 to 20 to the Sioux City Bandits. The atmosphere was exciting for the New Victorian Suites Kickoff Classic despite the loss. Turnovers plagued the Haymakers throughout the game. The Haymakers gave the ball away three times, and the Bandits capitalized on the mishaps.
Quarterback A.J. Toscano had a pass intercepted on the opening drive which lead to a touchdown for Sioux City on the ensuing drive. Following the Bandits touchdown Cortney Grixby returned the kickoff for a touchdown to tie the game. The Haymakers recovered a fumble on the Bandits following drive but failed to score off of the turnover.
Sioux City scored on a 12 yard touchdown run to go ahead 14 to 7 late in the first quarter. The Haymakers answered back with a 5 yard touchdown pass from quarterback A.J. Toscano to Rickie Simmons but failed on the PAT. The first quarter ended with the Haymakers trailing by one.
Sioux City opened the 2nd quarter with a touchdown pass and went ahead 21 to 13. Toscano had another pass intercepted but the Haymakers' defense held strong and prevented a score off of the touchdown. Sioux City scored again, but the Haymakers answered back with a 10 yard touchdown pass from Toscano to Rhodes to end the half with the Haymakers down 28 to 20.
Sioux City opened the second half with a touchdown run to go ahead 35 to 20. The Haymakers and Bandits went back and forth throughout the quarter. The Haymakers gained some momentum when DL Kevin Cyrille had a tackle for loss on third down. The following play the Bandits missed a field goal to keep the score at 35 to 20 to end the third quarter.
To start the fourth quarter the Haymakers looked to close the gap. When the Bandits botched a field goals snap on fourth down the Haymakers took over on downs. The Haymakers were driving and relied on a fourth down conversion from Toscano to Rhodes. Toscano was sacked during the drive which knocked him out of the game.
Backup quarterback Blake Bolles came into the game and continued the drive. The Haymakers entered the red zone late in the fourth and looked to bring the game to a one score deficit. The Haymakers though failed to convert on fourth down attempt on the five yard line.
The Bandits followed the failed fourth down conversion with a touchdown pass to extend their lead 42 to 20. Bolles looked to bring his team back. He threw a touchdown pass to Shane Scott but the play was negated by a penalty flag. A final pass intercepted with a minute left in the ball game sealed the game.
The atmosphere was exciting for a crowd of over 1,600 inside the Pershing Center for the Haymakers home opener. Despite the loss, the Haymakers hung tough with the Bandits who extended their 31 game winning streak. Turnovers turned out to be a deciding factor in the game, as the Bandits scored on two drives following turnovers.
The Haymakers will be in action again against the Bloomington Edge, Friday April 5th. The team will look to continue their season as they stand 1-1 in the CPIFL.
Indoor Football League
Texas Revolution Increase Win Streak, Defeat Tri-Cities Fever
The Revolution (2-2) won Friday night against the Tri-Cities Fever (1-3) to even their record on the season. No team ever really was able to extend their past 7, until late in the game. The scoring went back and forth, likely because these same two teams played each other just one week ago in Allen. It wasn't until late in the 4th quarter when the Revolution were finally able to build up, and hold, a double-digit lead.
The Revs won 54-43 behind Quarterback Marcus Jackson's 16-28 and 4 TD performance, all without an interception. Jackson also added on 2 rushing touchdowns of his own and showed an ability to escape the Fever pressure and make something positive happen out of seemingly dead plays over and over again.
Jordan Jolly caught 2 touchdown passes and Mon Williams and Phillips Barnett each added one apiece. Williams also rushed for a score.
The defense was led by Frankie Solomon Jr., who has a knack for making big plays this season. Solomon Jr. intercepted Fever quarterback Kasey Peters twice and forced a
fumble, to go along with his game high 10 tackles.The Revolution are on the road again next week, when they take on the Nebraska Danger on Saturday, April 6th.