San Jose Shocks Spokane in Playoff Blowout, 55-28
Sunday August 3, 2014
The Spokane Shock came to town with last year's MVP quarterback behind center, a five-game winning streak that fueled momentum, a solid defense that allowed less than 50 points per game on average, and minds filled with nothing but vengefulness. The result? Complete and utter dominance by the San Jose SaberCats in the franchise’s most critical victory since 2008.
“They are simply unbelievable,” head coach Darren Arbet
said following Saturday night’s postseason win. “Their will, and the way they play together, it’s all unbelievable. There are still a lot of things we can clean up, but we’re going to enjoy this one for tonight.”
At first, it seems unbelievable why San Jose would have many things they can “clean up.” The defense played an essentially flawless and absolutely outstanding first half, completely shutting out Erik Meyer and his squad with three interceptions, two fourth down stops, and six sacks. Spokane appeared to have some competition going as it quickly progressed down the field on the first drive of the game, but a wacky third down interception in the end zone by David Hyland turned out to be the key play that sparked San Jose’s momentum. That momentum remained throughout the first two quarters en route to a 28-0 halftime lead. Back in Week 4, the SaberCats allowed 49 points in the first half to a healthy Shock offense, a performance that doesn’t even hold a candle to Saturday night’s shutdown.
“It was the fastest we’ve ever started, but I think our best is still to come,” said defensive back Ken Fontenette, who had two interceptions in the first half. “It was really a complete effort as a group.”
Fontenette’s teammate on the defensive line agreed with his statement. “When we play as a team with all eight guys together, it’s hard to beat us,” Jason Stewart, who tallied four sacks, explained. “I really tip my hat off to my teammates. I simply can’t make plays without them.”
While the defense showed off its typical, consistent vibe that it demonstrated throughout the regular season, it wasn’t the only component that lifted San Jose over Spokane. The offense, scoring on all but one of its drives, executed solid clock management and turned the ball over a mere single time that ultimately resulted in no points for the Shock. Quarterback Nathan Stanley made his first career start in the postseason despite the recent activation of Russ Michna and went 18-of-35 for 193 yards and five touchdowns. No interceptions were thrown, and the only turnover was a Reggie Gray fumble picked up by Terrence Carter in the final seconds of the first half.
“I felt really good about tonight,” Stanley stated when asked how he felt coming into his first playoff game. “I was ready to play; when you’ve got such a great offensive line in front of you, it takes off a lot of pressure. It’s really great to have those guys.”
Gray (six receptions for 64 yards plus two touchdowns), Dominique Curry (three receptions for 28 yards plus two touchdowns), Jason Willis (five receptions for 45 yards), and the returning Ben Nelson (four receptions for 56 yards plus one touchdown) were all key components to Stanley’s receiving corps. Odie Armstrong also tacked on two rushing touchdowns, with 25 yards in nine attempts.
Just by looking at the statistics, it becomes more and more noticeable how much a team effort it truly was to pull out the franchise’s first postseason victory in six years. Not only was it the first since 2008, but it was also the most convincing in quite a while. San Jose’s 27-point margin of victory over Spokane is the largest in SaberCats’ playoff history since their first ArenaBowl victory in 2002, a historical 52-14 domination over the Arizona Rattlers
. Similarly, San Jose shut out its opponents throughout the entire first half. One could say that history repeated itself in a number of ways on Saturday night.
After convincingly ending the road for the Shock, this is, without a doubt, San Jose’s most successful season since league suspension. No matter what happens next week, fans can always lean back on that fact throughout the offseason.
At the same time, being the most successful year in recent memory is probably not good enough given the goals set by this team at the start of the season. While it is certainly enlightening to finally reach the second round of the postseason, the SaberCats have a much deeper objective in mind. Their mentality is set on a fourth championship for this franchise.
The one thing that stands in their way? The two-time defending ArenaBowl champions in the desert. The same team that ended San Jose’s season over the past two years. Granted, the Arizona Rattlers still have to defeat the Portland Thunder
on Sunday before they lock in their spot for the conference championship. But barring an upset filled with miracles, these two teams are more than likely going to meet next week. If there is a season where San Jose can finally stop their arch-rivals in the postseason, however, it is this one. Arizona arguably lost some of its momentum in the final four weeks of the season, going 1-3 after a perfect 14-0 start. The SaberCats, on the other hand, are beginning to click after losing devastatingly to Philadelphia two weeks ago. Since then, they have blown out a mediocre Iowa team on the road, and have now smashed a red hot Spokane team out of the playoffs.
Of course, there’s also a chance San Jose gets to host the conference championship against Portland. If that happens, you can pretty much punch the SaberCats’ ticket to the ArenaBowl, because the odds of the Thunder striking twice in a row are miniscule.
Griffin Aseltine is an 18-year-old high school student and freelance writer who resides in San Jose, California. He has been fond of watching sports ever since experiencing the culture in his area shift a strong focus towards the San Francisco Giants following their World Series victory in 2010. Griffin became a San Jose SaberCats fan on the opening week of the 2012 season and has been a season ticket holder since 2013. He has contributed to First Stop Fantasy as a San Francisco 49ers writer since the start of the 2013 NFL season and has written for ArenaFan since the start of the 2014 AFL season. You can follow Griffin on Twitter @superduperm1
The opinions expressed in the article above are only those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, opinions, or official stance of ArenaFan Online or its staff, or the Arena Football League, or any AFL or af2 teams.