By: Joe Lami
The San Jose Sabercats wrapped up their dream season on Saturday night with a 68-47 victory over the Jacksonville Sharks to capture Arena Bowl XXVIII. It marks their fourth arena bowl championship and their first since 2007.
The championship game was played at Stockton Arena in place of the Sabercats’ usual home of SAP Center at San Jose due to an event conflict. Stockton is also the birthplace of Sabercats’ head coach, Daren Arbet, making this championship even more special. “To bring it back here is extra special. I will never forget this day for the rest of my life. It means everything to win here and to bring it back here is huge,” added the coach.
San Jose started the game slow and finished the first quarter trailing the Sharks 14-6. The catch of the night finished with Jacksonville’s second touchdown of the night. Tommy Grady threw to the side of the end zone towards Anthony Jones who was able to bring it in before going over the boards while maintaining possession of the ball to complete the touchdown.
The Sabercats also trailed going into the half after Joe Hills gave the Sharks the 33-27 lead with just 15 seconds remaining. Hills had a monster night in the loss, as he caught nine passes for 133 yards and four touchdowns.
The third quarter was when San Jose finally broke the game wide open, as their defense led the charge contributing in three turnovers that led to 28 points. The bombardment started when David Hyland picked off a Grady pass and returned it ten yards for the score. On the next drive, Cleveland Thomas recovered a Xavier Brewer fumble. Sabercats quarterback, Erik Meyer, used the turnover to his advantage and found Dairu Reyonalds for the touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff, the ball hit the left upright and create a live ball. After a mad scramble for it, Ken Fontenette recovered the ball for the Sabercats’ touchdown for the 55-33 lead and eventually iced the championship for San Jose.
The fourth quarter ended up being a blur, as Sabercat fans were counting down the minutes left in the season. The final score was 68-47, as the Sharks push wasn’t good enough to make the comeback.
Meyer finished the night 17 of 29 for 204 yards and four touchdowns. Erik also took off on the ground as he kept the ball three times for 26 yards and two scores. Arbet commented on Meyer’s ground game, “That’s something that when we got Erik, we knew he could do it. We didn’t want him to do it, but this one was for all the marbles and we told him hey if you need to take off, take off and get it”.
With the victory, San Jose finishes the season with a 20-1 record, the best record in league history. “Not only did this team break the league record, but they way they did it. The margin of victory. An average of 22 points, that’s just amazing,” added a smiling Arbet. Cornerback, Thomas added “you have so many great guys that put their personal accolades aside for the better of the team”. Grey also commented, “100% the best team I’ve ever been on.”
It also marks the fourth time Arbet has coached his way to an AFL Championship. The two-time coach of the year is expected to make it three after this outstanding season. His players had nothing but nice words for their coach. Thomas said, “he’s everything man”. Grey praised the hall of fame coach, “that’s coach of the year there. Everybody in that locker room knows he’s coach of the year. He pushed us and this was our outcome. This is where he was from and it meant something for us to win this one in his hometown”.