SaberCats Weekly UpdateMarch 6, 2012 - Arena Football League (AFL) San Jose SaberCats
This Week: Saturday, March 10 - SaberCats vs. Arizona Rattlers 7:30 p.m. PT at HP Pavilion
Broadcast: The SaberCats home opener will be broadcast live on KNBR 1050, and shown on tape delay on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.
Last Matchup vs. Arizona: Rattlers 64 SaberCats 57 at the US Airways Arena in Phoenix, Ariz.
In front of 9,397 fans at the US Airways Center, the SaberCats suffered their sixth consecutive loss at the hands of the Arizona Rattlers 64-57. Arizona scored with ten seconds remaining as Arizona quarterback Nick Davila found wide receiver Jason Geathers for the winning score. San Jose quarterback Mark Grieb threw for 285 yards on 26-40 passing (65.0%) and six touchdowns in the defeat. After a Davila 12-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kerry Reed, recently signed linebacker Chris Vedder returned the kickoff 56 yards for a touchdown on only his second career return in the Arena Football League, tying the game at seven. The game went into halftime tied 35-35, as both teams looked to take control of the game in the second half. San Jose came out of the gates quickly as defensive back Dwight Mclean forced fullback Odie Armstrong to fumble and the ball was recovered by 2010 Defensive Player of the Year Gabe Nyenhuis. On the next drive fullback Chad Cook found paydirt, punching it in for his 26th rushing touchdown of the season. San Jose then built on their lead with a touchdown catch by wide receiver James Roe, showing his sure hands in the red zone once again putting the team up by two scores at 49-35. On the following kickoff, Arizona's defensive back Virgil Gray returned the kickoff for a touchdown, his second of the game, making it 49-42 heading into the fourth quarter. After another SaberCats turnover, Davila wasted no time finding Reed for a 23-yard score to knot the game at 49. Arizona then forced San Jose to turn the ball over on downs with 1:07 remaining. Rattlers wide receiver Rod Windsor caught his first touchdown of the game, putting the Rattlers up 56-49. With San Jose needing a score, Grieb found Nelson for a 26-yard touchdown. Owner/Head Coach Darren Arbet went for a two-point conversion and Roe made another spectacular catch in the back of the end zone, giving the SaberCats the lead with just 23 seconds remaining at 57-56. The Rattlers found that 23 seconds was just enough time as they scored a touchdown, and added the two-point conversion to seal the 64-57 victory.
"Cats Camp Closes, Finalize 2012 Roster
The San Jose SaberCats training camp closed this weekend, and they announced their final roster on Sunday. In addition to finalizing their roster, San Jose made two trades. They acquired the second position in the Arena Football League's claim order from the Orlando Predators in exchange for offensive lineman Ailao Eliapo and also sent defensive back Kelvin Rodgers and the 13th position in the claim order to the Chicago Rush for the fifth position in the claim order in a separate deal. The SaberCats active roster currently consists of eight players that spent time in San Jose in 2011. Quarterback Mark Grieb, wide receivers Ben Nelson, James Roe and Samora Goodson, offensive linemen Mark Lewis (second team All-Arena in 2011) and Robbie Powell, defensive lineman Gabe Nyenhuis, linebacker/defensive lineman Francis Maka return to the 2012 edition of the SaberCats. New faces in San Jose include first team 2011 All-Arena selection Tim McGill (defensive lineman), second team All-Arena selection Andre Jones (defensive back), first team All-Arena and the 2011 Spalding Offensive Lineman of the Year Rich Ranglin, Vince Hill (defensive back), Huey Whittaker (wide receiver) and Hank Edwards (wide receiver), amongst other key acquisitions. Additionally, the SaberCats placed offensive lineman Ako Poti and wide receiver Taurus Johnson on injured reserve and transferred defensive back Brandon Anderson from the physically unable to perform list to injured reserve.
San Jose Ties San Antonio in Scrimmage
The San Jose SaberCats and San Antonio Talons played to a 34-34 tie in front of 7,841 fans at the Alamodome in San Antonio in a scrimmage last Wednesday night. San Jose opens the 2012 regular season this Saturday, March 10 at HP Pavilion at 7:30 p.m. PT against their bitter division rivals, the Arizona Rattlers. San Jose took an early lead as quarterback Mark Grieb found a familiar target in wide receiver Ben Nelson from 15-yards out to give the SaberCats a 6-0 lead after an efficient three play drive on their opening possession. San Antonio responded with a quick touchdown drive of their own, as quarterback Aaron Garcia found wide receiver Jomo Wilson to put the Talons on top 7-6. Grieb played just two series on Wednesday, and drove San Jose down the field effectively both times, throwing just two incompletions. The Talons held a 14-6 lead after the first quarter. The teams then traded scores in the second quarter, including a 48-yard touchdown pass on fourth down for San Jose from quarterback Danny Southwick to wide receiver Fred Williams. San Antonio took a 28-27 lead into the half, as Talons quarterback Steven Sheffield threw a pair of second quarter touchdowns, matching his San Jose counterpart, Southwick. After a scoreless third quarter, San Antonio struck on the first play from scrimmage in the fourth quarter on a 41-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Carl Moore, which put the Talons up 34-27. After a big defensive stop with under four minutes to play, San Jose took possession deep in San Antonio territory. They would capitalize as SaberCats quarterback Ryan Taggart found Williams for a three-yard touchdown to knot things at 34 with just one minute remaining. The game was called shortly thereafter, as a mutual decision between both sides brought the evening's festivities to a close in what was the Talons first action in San Antonio since the franchise relocated from Tulsa prior to this season.
The 2012 AFL season starts off with a bang as the San Jose SaberCats take on the Arizona Rattlers at HP Pavilion. Historically two of the league's more successful and tenured franchises resume their rivalry as both look to take early control of the competitive National Conference's Western Division. San Jose leads the all-time rivalry (18-17), but Arizona took both meetings last season en route to a 16-2 season and trip to the ArenaBowl.
ArenaBowl History between the Teams
The SaberCats have won three championships in franchise history ("02, "04, "07), and two of those titles have come at the expense of the Arizona Rattlers. The first title came in ArenaBowl XVI in 2002, as the SaberCats defeated the Rattlers 52-14 earning their first ever championship. Defensive back Omarr Smith, now currently a coach with the Rattlers, took home the "Ironman" award for the SaberCats. ArenaBowl XVIII was closer in score (65-62), but the result was the same for Arizona, as San Jose won their second title in three seasons. Quarterback Mark Grieb who took home "Offensive Player of the Game" honors is the only remaining player from the 2004 roster that is still currently with the team.
Adding even more of a sub-plot to the game, both Rattlers Head Coach/GM Kevin Guy and Defensive Coordinator Omarr Smith are former SaberCats. Guy was the Defensive Coordinator for San Jose from 2005-2007 and helped the team win a championship in "07. Smith played defensive back for the SaberCats for eight illustrious seasons, consistently making plays in the defensive backfield. In those eight seasons Smith etched his name into the Sabercats record books becoming the franchise leader in tackles (488), and second in team history in interceptions (27). While handling defensive coordinator responsibilities with Arizona in 2011, Smith helped create a swarming defense that led the league in turnover differential (+34), was fourth in the league in total defense (274.4 per game) and held opponents to the second fewest points per game (46.4).
The league is predicated on scoring and explosive plays and the SaberCats and Rattlers are no exception; so you better get your popcorn ready. San Jose led the league in total offense (321.4 yds/per game), was first in the league in first downs (427), and sixth in scoring offense (56.8) in 2011. Arizona rode its high-powered offense all the way to the ArenaBowl, consistently dominating teams through the air. The Rattlers led the league in passing efficiency (126.9), were second in the league in scoring offense (61.9) and second in the league in first downs (425).
Every college football player has the dream of playing professional football, and for defensive back Brandon Brinkley of San Jose, and offensive lineman Sir Vincent Rogers of Arizona; they have their opportunity in the Arena Football League. Both players attended the University of Houston together, but will now play against each other on Saturday night.
From Tampa With Love
Two defensive standouts from the Tampa Bay Storm have made their way west for the 2012 season. Defensive lineman Tim McGill, who was named first team All-Arena last year with Tampa Bay has joined the SaberCats, bringing his exceptional pass rushing skills to San Jose. Not to be outdone, the Rattlers acquired middle linebacker Cliff Dukes, who was also a first team All-Arena selection. The duo played three seasons together ("08, "10, "11) and combined for 21.5 sacks and six forced fumbles in 2011.
Hill Faces Former Team
Defensive Back Vince Hill is coming off his best season as a professional, recording 86 solo tackles, forcing two fumbles, and recording nine interceptions in 2011 with the Rattlers.
SaberCats defensive lineman Tim McGill, wide receiver Huey Whittaker and quarterback Danny Southwick were teammates last season with Rattlers linebacker Cliff Dukes last season with the Tampa Bay Storm. McGill and Dukes played together for three seasons, in 2008 and from 2010-11 ... SaberCats offensive lineman Robbie Powell and current Rattlers and 2011 SaberCats leading tackler, defensive back Dwight Mclean both attended Purdue, although they never played together ... SaberCats defensive lineman Gabe Nyenhuis was teammates with Rattlers fullback Odie Armstrong in 2010 with the Tulsa Talons ... SaberCats defensive back Brandon Brinkley and Rattlers offensive lineman Sir Vincent Rogers were college teammates at Houston from 2005-08 ... SaberCats offensive lineman Isaac Leatiota played alongside Rattlers offensive lineman John Booker in 2007 with San Jose State ... Rattlers Defensive Coordinator Omarr Smith played for San Jose (2000-02, 2004-08) where he is the all-time leader in tackles (488) and ranks second in passes defensed (67), interceptions (27) and interception returns for touchdowns (six) ... SaberCats defensive line coach Kerry Locklin was on the Fresno State coaching staff when Rattlers offensive lineman Kyle Young was playing under head coach Pat Hill from 2002-06 ... Rattlers defensive back Marquis Floyd spent the first three seasons of his AFL career (2006-08) with the SaberCats, helping them to an ArenaBowl XXI victory in 2007.
The indoor game is built on scoring, and two SaberCats receivers have had no problem finding the end zone throughout their careers. The receiving duo of Hank Edwards and Huey Whittaker are closing in on the 100 career touchdown receptions milestone. Whittaker currently sits at 99 career receiving touchdowns and looks to make it triple digits in the season opener. Not far behind is Edwards who is currently at 96 career receiving touchdowns. Both players look to add to add to their total, while also starting the season off with a win against Arizona.
Making AFL Debuts
SaberCats players who could potentially make their Arena Football debuts this Saturday night against the Arizona Rattlers are wide receiver Fred Williams, defensive lineman and San Jose native Blake Ferras, and defensive linemen Brian Johnston and Anthony Gray.
New Faces on the Sidelines
The San Jose SaberCats bolstered their coaching staff this offseason by bringing in former Milwaukee Mustangs defensive coordinator Cedric Walker, and former New York Jets defensive line coach Kerry Locklin. Walker's Mustangs defense in 2011 ranked at or near the top of the league in numerous categories. Milwaukee ranked first in total defense (266.8 yards/game), fourth in scoring defense (48.2 points/game), second in pass defense (247.6 yards/game), second in takeaways (55) while finishing with 17 touchdowns scored. Locklin brings NFL experience to the sidelines, and he played a large role in developing a great deal of quality defensive line talent under Pat Hill at Fresno State, where he spent nine seasons (2000-08).
2012 Season Tickets are on Sale Now
Season ticket packages for the 2012 San Jose SaberCats season are on sale now with packages starting as low as $90. The SaberCats regular season package consists of nine home games at HP Pavilion, and benefits include: an invite to the SaberCats annual team Barbeque/Meet and Greet with the SaberCats players, coaches and the SaberKittens, an exclusive invitation to monthly meet and greets with Hall of Fame Coach Darren Arbet, a like number of complimentary upper level tickets to opening night on March 10, a special Season Ticket Holders Pin and ID Card, tickets are priced less than individual game tickets, a huge savings over the course of the season, the ability to purchase extra tickets to any game at 50% off the individual game ticket price and season ticket holders receive a 15% discount on merchandise purchased online or at the Sharks Store at the HP Pavilion. For more information or to get your season tickets today, click here, or call 408-673-3400.
Individual Game Tickets are on Sale Now
The San Jose SaberCats announced that individual tickets are on sale now and can be purchased for as low as $12 per ticket. The SaberCats open their 2012 regular season on Saturday, March 10 against their longtime rivals, the Arizona Rattlers at 7:30 p.m. PT at HP Pavilion in San Jose. Individual tickets can be purchased by visiting ticketmaster.com, through the HP Pavilion box office, by phone at 1-800-745-3000, or at any Ticketmaster outlet locations, including those at Walmart.
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AFL Celebrates the "Year of the Fan" in its 25th Year
The 25th Anniversary of the Arena Football League is coined the "Year of the Fan." AFL Commissioner Jerry Kurz stated that the goal of this season is to give back to the AFL's loyal fans that have been following the game passionately over the years. Promotions will run throughout the season to thank fans for their loyalty and passion for Arena Football.
Arena Football League Stories from March 6, 2012
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