San Jose SaberCats hold off Portland Thunder, 61-42
Saturday May 30, 2015
In the second of three meetings this season for the Pacific Division rivals, the SaberCats got off to a slow start, but took over the reins with a momentum shifting second quarter, propelling them to victory and remaining unbeaten.
It did not start well for San Jose, after they fumbled the opening kickoff, allowing a safety; Portland drove down the field and scored on a Jared Perry touchdown reception, jumping out to an early 9-0 lead.
The SaberCats responded though, getting on the board with an Odie Armstrong bruising 4-yard touchdown run, to cut the Thunder lead to 9-6. Armstrong added another touchdown in the final minute, the 96th of his career, passing Bo Kelly for third most in AFL history.
On the ensuing kickoff, David Hyland stripped Duane Brooks and defensive back Clevan Thomas dove on the ball for the recovery. Thomas also had an interception in the first half and San Jose capitalized on the turnover with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Erik Meyer to Reggie Gray, taking a 13-9 lead.
Meyer, last week’s AFL Offensive Player of the Week, had another stellar performance, completing 31-of-40 passes for 264 yards and seven touchdowns.
Following a Kyle Rowley 1-yard touchdown run for the Thunder, the SaberCats scored 20 unanswered points on Adron Tennell and Reggie Gray touchdown receptions, leading 33-15 at halftime. Earning AFL Most Valuable Player of Week 9, Gray had 15 receptions for 137 yards and five touchdowns, matching his mark of five touchdowns from last week’s game against the Cleveland Gladiators.
Trailing 40-15 in the third quarter, Portland scored on a kickoff return for a touchdown by Duane Brooks, who made several SaberCats miss en route to the end zone. Brooks added another kick return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, bringing his total to four on the season.
Leading all defenders with nine tackles on the night, Ken Fontenette added two second half interceptions in the end zone, now with nine on the season to lead the AFL. Acquired from the Jacksonville Sharks earlier this week, Portland quarterback Alex Carder took over for Rowley following the interception in the third quarter and connected with Perry on a deep, 39-yard touchdown, cutting the San Jose lead to 40-29. Rowley struggled to find consistency, completing 9-of-21 passes for 75 yards before Carter took over. After completing his first two passes in a Thunder uniform, Carter finished strong, completing 5-of-8 passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns.
The Thunder receiving duo of Perry and V’Keon Lacey continues to be a bright spot this season. Lacey led the Thunder with five receptions for 59 yards and his one touchdown brought his season total to 14. Meanwhile, Perry hauled in four receptions for 58 yards and two touchdowns, including a 39-yard touchdown from Carter.
For San Jose, receiver Adron Tennell had his third straight multi-touchdown game. The 2013 AFL Receiver of the Year hauled in eight receptions for 57 yards and added two touchdowns. Making his first appearance of the season, SaberCats’ receiver Jeremy Kelley added eight receptions for 70 yards.
The SaberCats defense came into the game leading the AFL, surrendering only 37.4 points per game and with two special teams’ touchdowns for the Thunder; the defense held the Thunder offense to only 28 points scored, continuing to dominate.
San Jose will be at home at the SAP Center on Friday, June 5th to take on its other Pacific Division foe, the Spokane Shock; kickoff is at 7:30PM PDT.
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 Twitter and Instagram for all the latest news on the team.