AFL Playoffs highlights: Rattlers 59, SaberCats 49
The SaberCats last won the ArenaBowl in 2007.
PHOENIX – The San Jose SaberCats (13-6) fell in a closely contested battle with the top seeded Arizona Rattlers (16-3) 59-49 at the US Airways Center in Phoenix on Sunday night. SaberCats quarterback Russ Michna completed 20-of-36 passes for 238 yards with five total touchdowns (four passing) and one interception. Arizona now hosts the Spokane Shock in the National Conference Championship Game on Saturday, Aug. 10 with a trip to ArenaBowl XXVI in Orlando on the line.
The Rattlers opened the scoring after forcing a turnover on downs by San Jose on the opening drive and quarterback Nick Davila found Rod Windsor in the back corner of the end zone to give Arizona an early seven point lead. San Jose responded quickly, as Michna picked out wide receiver James Roe in the back of the end zone for an eight-yard strike to level the score at seven. Davila and Windsor hooked up again, this time on a 32-yard touchdown pass to pull in front 14-7 midway through the first. The SaberCats answered right back as offensive lineman Rich Ranglin hauled in an incredible catch on a six-yard screen pass to knot things at 14, which is how the first quarter came to an end.
Arizona scored again early in the second quarter, as Davila and Windsor connected on another big play, a 36-yard scoring toss on third and ten to regain their seven point advantage, 21-14. San Jose responded again, tying things at 21 after Michna connected with Huey Whittaker on a 17-yard strike midway through the second. The back and forth continued on the next drive as Rattlers wide receiver Tysson Poots made a tremendous 17-yard touchdown reception after a deflection, and wound up in the Arizona bench after going over the boards to reinstate their seven point lead, 28-21. Following another SaberCats turnover on downs, San Jose’s defense stood tall and forced a missed field goal as time expired in the half.
The SaberCats defense came out strong in the second half and forced a field goal try by Garrett Lindholm. His 22-yard attempt missed wide left and defensive back Clevan Thomas returned the miss 49-yards to tie the game at 28. After an unsuccessful onside kick attempt, Arizona wrestled the lead back, as wide receiver Maurice Purify made an impressive catch in the back corner of the end zone to bring the Rattlers into the lead, 35-28 midway through the third quarter. The SaberCats came right back and scored quickly as Fred Williams caught a Michna pass on the left sideline and powered his way into the end zone to tie things at 35 with 5:58 to play in the third. The momentum shifted on one play, when Whittaker intercepted Davila from his jack linebacker spot and returned it 22 yards for the touchdown, giving San Jose their first lead of the night, 42-35. Arizona tied things yet again late in the quarter as Davila and Poots hooked up on a quick two-yard touchdown pass, and the third quarter concluded with the game tied at 42.
San Jose drove deep into Rattlers territory, but a fumble near the goal line gave Arizona possession back. They capitalized quickly, as fullback Odie Armstrong bulldozed his way into the end zone to give the Rattlers the 49-42 lead with 9:32 to play in the fourth. A kickoff off of the bar bounced Arizona’s way on the ensuing kickoff, and Poots recovered the ball on the SaberCats’ seven yard line. Davila then found Purify in the back of the end zone for a two-yard touchdown, stretching the lead to 56-42. San Jose would not go away, and after a big fourth down conversion, Michna capped off the scoring drive with a 12-yard scramble to pull the SaberCats within seven at 56-49 with 3:27 remaining. Arizona recovered the ensuing onside kick, and were held to an 18-yard field goal, stretching their lead to 59-49 with 0:54 to play in the fourth. San Jose was unable to complete the comeback, and fell 59-49 in Arizona, wrapping up their season at 13-6.
Courtesy San Jose SaberCats media services