San Jose SaberCats comeback, defeat Cleveland Gladiators, 70-58
Sunday May 24, 2015
In a matchup between two of the top teams in their respective conferences, the SaberCats and Gladiators traded blows back-and-forth, in a tale of two half’s.
The Gladiators got on the board first, when Shane Austin found Amari Jackson running deep down field, hauling in a 46-yard touchdown reception. On the ensuing drive, Tim Cheatwood sacked and stripped SaberCats’ quarterback Erik Meyer, recovering the fumble deep in San Jose territory. Austin found Colin Taylor in the back of the end zone for a seven yard touchdown as the SaberCats faced their largest deficit of the season, at 14-0.
“In the first quarter it was a little bit of nerves, I was anxious and had to shake off some rust,” said Meyer. “It took about a quarter for me to settle down.”
Like any championship caliber team answering the call, San Jose scored on an Odie Armstrong 3-yard run and again with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Meyer to Adron Tennell, cutting the Gladiator lead 21-14 to end the first quarter. Tennell hauled in six receptions for 87 yards and two touchdowns.
Cleveland and San Jose traded scored in the second quarter, with San Jose getting two touchdowns from Reggie Gray (9 and 22-yards), while Jackson (6-yards) and Taylor (4-yards) scored for Cleveland. Gray was able to make key plays down the stretch and led the SaberCats in receiving once again, finishing with 14 receptions for 201 yards and five touchdowns.
“Reggie’s been doing it all year, he comes up with big catches and makes things happen,” said Owner and Head Coach Darren Arbet.
Trailing 52-42 at halftime for the first time this season, San Jose received the second half kickoff, taking two plays to score on a 17-yard touchdown reception by Diondre Borel, the first of his AFL career, as the SaberCats cut the Gladiator lead, 52-49. Borel finished with eight receptions, 79 yards and one touchdown.
The receiving duo of Jackson and Taylor erupted, scoring all seven of Cleveland’s touchdowns in the first half. Taylor led the Gladiators with 11 receptions for 152 yards and four touchdowns, while Jackson had three receptions for 61 yards and three touchdowns.
In his return to the lineup after missing the past two weeks, Meyer completed 30-of-42 passes for 406 yards and a season-high nine touchdowns. Meyer completed touchdown passes to four different receivers, including a 15-yard pass to offensive lineman Rich Raglin, which gave San Jose its first lead at 56-52 in the third quarter.
“Erik’s a great quarterback and he’s going to go down as one of the best,” said Arbet. “He’s been an MVP in this league and having him back and healthy is a big plus for this team.”
After forcing a Cleveland turnover on downs on their own seven yard line, San Jose drove the length of the field, with Reggie Gray scoring on a 14-yard touchdown catch and run to give the SaberCats its biggest lead, 63-52.
The SaberCats defense came through once again, as last week’s AFL Defensive Player of the Week Ken Fontenette intercepted Austin’s pass in the end zone late in the fourth quarter, his seventh on the season to lead the AFL.
San Jose successfully mounted a comeback with their ferocious defense holding Cleveland to six points in the second half, on a Taylor 1-yard run with four seconds left in the game.
“At halftime we said we are going to come out and score and the defense would get a stop and we did exactly that,” said Gray. “Cleveland is a tough team, but we just took it to them when we needed to.”
The SaberCats will head to Portland to take on Pacific Division Rival Portland Thunder, in a rematch of a week five, 64-45 San Jose victory.
Offensive Player of the Game: SJ QB Erik Meyer
Defensive Player of the Game: SJ DB Ken Fontenette
J Lewis Small Playmaker: SJ WR Reggie Gray
Cutters Catch of the Game: SJ WR Reggie Gray 14-yard TD 4th QT
Highlight of the Game: SJ DB Ken Fontenette interception 4th QT
ABOUT THE SAN JOSE SABERCATS
The ArenaBowl XVI, XVIII and XXI champion San Jose SaberCats finished their 19th season in the AFL with a Pacific Division Title after making their return in 2011. Fans and sponsors can go to sanjosesabercats.com or call 408-673-3400 to sign up to receive the latest news and updates about the SaberCats, as well as to purchase 2015 season tickets. Make sure to follow the SaberCats on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest news on the team.