Sabercats

'Cats no clearer on playoff opponent

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'Cats no clearer on playoff opponent

Saturday night the San Jose Sabercats wrapped up their 2012 regular season with a come-from-behind 57-48 victory over the Iowa Barnstormers. The win wrapped up a 12-6 regular season for San Jose, complete with a 3-game win streak to round out the schedule.

Now the 'Cats must wait for the rest of the league to finish the regular season to learn their playoff fate.

San Jose is the only team in the AFL to have played all 18 games. The rest of the league will play their 18th games next weekend.

Since the AFL doesn't reward teams with post-season bye weeks the Sabercats can consider themselves fortunate that their second scheduled regular-season bye came in the 20th and final week of the 2012 regular season. They will be the only playoff team with a week to get healthy before the tournament to win the title gets underway.

As for that tournament, the 'Cats could still finish as the 2, 3 or 4-seed in the National Conference. Per the rules listed on the AFL's website San Jose would win a three-way tie with Arizona and Utah to win their division and get the two-seed -- if the both teams lose their season finales. Such a scenario would have the 'Cats playing a home game to open the post-season against 3rd-seeded Utah.

If just one of those two teams lose, San Jose would be the 3-seed and open on the road at the site of the team that wins next weekend.

If both teams win, the 'Cats would be stuck with the 4-seed and open on the road at San Antonio. That game would be played a week from Friday in the Alamodome.

In case you're wondering; Utah (12-5) visits Philadelphia (14-3) next weekend. The Soul have won seven straight.

Arizona has the easier game of the two. The Rattlers (12-5) host lowly Kansas City (3-14). The Command are just 1-7 on the road this season.

SaberCats beat Barnstormers, ride streak into playoffs

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SaberCats beat Barnstormers, ride streak into playoffs

SAN JOSE -- With the playoffs on the horizon for one team, and tee-times set for the other, the San Jose SaberCats (12-6) had playoff positioning on the line, while the Iowa Barnstormers (6-11) were playing for pride. Rational thinking would lead one to believe that Iowa could mail it in on one of their last games of the season; au contraire, they came to play. With San Jose trailing at halftime 28-20, it took a flurry of key defensive plays and 23-unanswered second half points, giving San Jose the 57-48 victory in front of 11,072 at HP Pavilion.

The momentum of winning the last three games and going into the playoffs: That is what you want, SaberCats Owner and Head Coach Darren Arbet said following the win. You have 18 weeks to correct all of the problems. You want to go into the playoffs with momentum, and that is what we are going to do right now.

It was an a-typical offensive performance for San Jose as they managed to only put up 20 first half points. Iowa was able to block an extra point as well as get a defensive stop, propelling them to a surprising 28-20 halftime lead.

With 2012 SaberCats Hall of Fame inductees Sam Hernandez and Barry Wagner having their jerseys retired at halftime, something must have carried over from the celebration because the SaberCats came out to play in the third quarter. After the two teams traded scores to begin the half, the first key momentum swing happened when the Cats had a net recovery on a kickoff with 6:04 to go in the third quarter and the team trailing 35-27. Two plays later quarterback Mark Grieb found James Roe in the endzone for a four-yard touchdown bringing the SaberCats to within one at 35-34. On Iowas ensuing offensive possession, San Jose defensive lineman Jermaine Smith sacked J.J. Raterink in the endzone for a safety to give San Jose their first lead 36-35 since the games opening drive. After receiving the resulting kickoff, the Cats again wasted no time in expanding their lead as Grieb found wide receiver Huey Whittaker for one of his three scores on the night, this, a nine-yard touchdown, capping off the 23-unanswered points. The SaberCats would not relinquish the lead after that point, and finished the regular season on a three game winning streak.

In what potentially could be Griebs last home game as a member of the SaberCats, the future Hall of Famer did what he normally does; throw touchdowns. Grieb finished the game going 30-42 for 285 yards and seven touchdowns, all while finding five different receivers. Wide receiver Samora Goodson finished with 11 catches for 85 yards, Griebs long time target James Roe finished with three catches for 30 yards and three touchdowns, while Huey Whittaker had nine catches for 91 yards, three receiving touchdowns. Whittaker was also awarded National Guard MVP of the Game and Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game.

Although the game was much closer on the scoreboard this time around against Iowa, the fact that the defense was again stellar in the second half didnt change, and it was no coincidence that the defensive line as a whole took home the AFL Playmaker of the Game award. The defense recorded five sacks, a fumble recovery, and a safety; the effort propelled the SaberCats to the come from behind victory. San Jose finished the season with a new AFL single season record for sacks as a team with 42. Defensive back Tanner Varner led the team with seven-and-a-half tackles, and lineman Tim McGill chipped in with two of the five sacks and also took home the Riddell Defensive Player of the Game award.

For the Iowa offense it was a solid performance considering the circumstances. Quarterback J.J. Raterink was able to complete 22-36 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns despite being under heavy duress during the second half. Iowas top receiver Jesse Schmidt caught seven passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns, while wide receiver Marco Thomas caught five passes for 48 yards and a touchdown; Thomas also threw for a touchdown in the second half on a halfback pass.

The Iowa defense played well, holding the SaberCats offense below its season scoring average, but they were unable to force any turnovers or sack Grieb, which does not bode well for stopping an offense as prolific as San Jose. Defensive back Cameron McGlenn finished with a team high 11 tackles and defensive back Jason Simpson finished second with eight-and-a-half tackles to go along with a pass breakup.
Courtesy San Jose SaberCats media services

SaberCats-Iowa: What to watch for

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SaberCats-Iowa: What to watch for

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Watch the SaberCats host the Iowa Barnstormers Saturday night at 7:30 on Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area Plus 2

The 2012 regular season comes to a close Saturday night when the Iowa Barnstormers come to Cats Lair. San Jose back in April demolished Iowa 76-33, holding the Barnstormers scoreless for the final 30 minutes and 45 seconds of the game.

San Joses win last week against New Orleans coupled with a loss by the Chicago Rush, punched their ticket to the Arena Bowl Playoffs for the first time since 2008. Now seeding is on the line Saturday, as they are a game behind Utah for the third playoff spot and two behind Arizona for the division lead.

Here is what to watch for Saturday...

Playoff Scenarios
If Utah and Arizona lose their remaining two games, while San Jose wins Saturday, the SaberCats are nine time West Division Champions and will host a playoff game. If Arizona loses both games, and Utah beats Philadelphia in week 20, San Jose is the third seed and will travel to Utah for a playoff game. If Arizona wins one of its last two games and Utah loses one, San Jose will clinch the third seed. If all three teams finish with identical 12-6 records, San Jose wins the division if Utahs loss in the last two weeks is to Philadelphia, as this is a common opponent that would be used for tiebreakers. San Jose lost to Philadelphia earlier this season. A SaberCats win puts all these scenarios in motion, a loss and San Jose is the fourth seed and will be on the road for the Arena Bowl Playoffs.

Record Breaker
Joe Sykes was credited with a half sack after last weeks win against New Orleans to give him 16 sacks on the season and became the new single season AFL sack king. Mark Grieb threw six touchdowns to set a new career season high with 105 scores. With seven net offensive yards Saturday, the SaberCats will break their 2011 AFL record of 5,786 total yards. And with 25 first downs, San Jose will break its AFL record of 427 also set last season. A win Saturday will give San Jose its 12th of the season for the fifth time in franchise history and will secure the best home record in the AFL at 8-1.

Is this heaven? No its Iowa
There have been a few bright spots this season for the Iowa Barnstormers. Jesse Schmidt, the Barnstormers number one target, leads the league in receptions (158), receiving yards (2,034), receiving touchdowns (52), total touchdowns (53) and points scored (320). Their number two target is former SaberCat Marco Thomas, who has 126 catches for 1,370 yards and 17 TDs. Thomas played the end of 2011 with San Jose appearing in six games while catching 45 passes for 398 yards and five touchdowns. Iowa has thrown the fewest interceptions in the league (11), with their starter J.J. Raternik throwing only nine. In their last meeting against San Jose, Raternik had 303 passing yards and five touchdowns. But was sacked seven times, fumbled twice and threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.

Legends return
Saturday night will be a special night for two former SaberCats who were inducted to the Arena Football Hall Of Fame this season. Barry Wagner and Sam Hernandez will become the first players in team history to have their numbers retired. Barrys 2 and Sams 55 will be hung alongside the teams championship banners in a halftime ceremony. Wagner is the AFLs only six time Ironman of the Year winner and was a key member in two of the three SaberCats Arena Bowl Championships. While Hernandez is the AFLs all-time sack leader and was named as the ninth greatest player in AFL history during this 25th season while also winning two rings with San Jose.