SaberCats-Shock: What to watch for

SaberCats-Shock: What to watch for
May 22, 2014, 5:45 pm
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Arbet on Spokane: 'We have to win this game'

 


 

Russ Michna threw for 150 yards and seven touchdowns against Portland on May 17. (PHOTO COURTESY SABERCATS.COM)

Nick Laino

Programming Note: Watch the SaberCats take on the Spokane Shock Friday night at 7:00 on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

The SaberCats seem to have their swagger back as they have reeled off four consecutive wins to vault into first place in the Pacific Division. The team that is now chasing them is this week’s opponent the Shock, who have fallen on hard times since the loss of their start Quarterback Erik Meyer. The SaberCats start the second half of the season with a stretch where they will see Spokane or Arizona in four of the next five games.

Here are some things to watch for Friday night:

Back on top in the Pacific:
The SaberCats started the 2014 campaign with an uncharacteristic 2-3 record. But have strung together 4 wins in a row to vault back into sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division.
Although it is only three team division, San Jose has not won a division title since 2008 which is the longest span they have gone without winning a division title in their history.

Shocked back to earth:
The Spokane Shock got out of the blocks fast winning five of their first seven games. But on May 4th against the LA KISS, Spokane got a big blow when their leader Quarterback Erik Meyer was sacked and ended up with a broken collarbone. Spokane was able to still win the game using Rashaad Carter, a wide receiver, running a wildcat style offense. But the damage was already done and without a competent back-up the Shock has dropped two games in a row including a 70-38 drubbing by the two-time defending Arena Bowl champion Arizona Rattlers. Enter Brian Zbydniewski who returns to the Shock after stints with the team in 2006 and as a part of the 2010 ArenaBowl XXIII championship team. Following that he has had stops in Tampa Bay, New Orleans and Cleveland. In his four-year AFL career he has thrown for 5,010 yards and 93 touchdowns with a passer rating of 95.58 while adding 25 rush attempts for 40 yards and six touchdowns. Zbydinewski can cause some damage especially with the talented receiving corps Spokane has in Brandon Thompkins, Mike Washington and Rashaad Carter who combine have 27 touchdowns.

Road Warriors:
San Jose has a 3-1 record on the road this season. Their only loss was a tightly contested 48-47 game in Pittsburgh that came down to an incomplete pass to Reggie Gray with time expired. Winning in Spokane is another matter as San Jose has only one win which came back in 2012. Since then they have lost in every way imaginable, from blow outs to a game winning touchdown being allowed when replays show the player was in the stands when he caught the ball. One of the most hostile environments to play in all the AFL is “Deaf Valley”. Spokane doesn’t lose there often as they sport an all-time record of 31-12.

No experience necessary:
Since the loss Reggie Gray and Huey Whittaker, San Jose has had their depth tested at the wide receiver spot. Enter first year players Rod Harper, Dominique Curry and Doug Williams. Replacing a playmaker like Gray whose 17 touchdowns still lead the team is no easy feat, but these three have more than done the job. Harper leads the team with 64 receptions and is second on the team with 13 touchdowns, while Curry has amassed 9 touchdowns since he has been put in the lineup. And Williams while only scoring three times has become a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses.

Good guys wear white:
Back in 2012, the SaberCats introduced white helmets to be worn only on the road. After going 2-2 on the road to start the campaign including wins at Spokane and Arizona, they proceeded to lose the final five road games of the season including a playoff loss to Arizona. The helmets were retired and lock away in the equipment room never to be seen again. Until now, as Friday the white helmets return with hope that bad mojo that accompanied them has be exorcised.

Quoteables:
“We have to cover them, something we haven’t done in a long time. We have to get open against them be very good on offense they have a lot of interceptions against us. We need to play a lot better, like I said we need to win this football game.” – Darren Arbet on the keys to a win in Spokane.

“Our number is six stops, no matter how even if it is just a field goal. Six stops in our mind we feel will get the job done for a win.” – Ken Fontenette on how many stops does the defense need to make to give the team a chance to win.

“Tough place to play no doubt about it, their fans do a great job and their team always plays outstanding there. We have to go in there and be discipline and don’t give them too much to cheer about.” – Russ Michna on playing in Spokane

Nick Laino is operations technician for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and also the PA Announcer for the San Jose SaberCats

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