SAP CENTER — The San Jose SaberCats had all the motivation they needed heading into their Saturday night matchup against reigning AFL champions and division rival Arizona Rattlers.
Photos by Aris Bernales/SFBay
Not only were the SaberCats in need of a win in order to snap their two-game skid, but the team was out for revenge against their archrival Rattlers — who were responsible for their last two postseason departures.
But in a game that came down to the wire, Rattlers quarterback Nick Davila delivered a venomous last second touchdown pass to take the SaberCats down 57-51.
In a constant back-and-forth affair, it was the Rattlers who were able to strike last to snare the road victory and continue their 4-0 undefeated start to the season.
Boasting the top-ranked offense in the league, the Rattlers notched 346-all-purpose yards against a normally stoic SaberCats defense, with Davila completing 22-of-34-passes for 272 yards and seven touchdowns.
Arizona wide receiver Maurice Purify was Davila’s go-to man throughout the game, finishing with eight receptions for 135 yards and four touchdowns.
SaberCats quarterback Russ Michna completed 27-of-42 passes for 284 yards and five touchdowns, while wide receiver Reggie Gray had yet another solid game, hauling in 13 receptions for 122-yards and three touchdowns.
The loss spoiled what could have been a dazzling first game for newly assigned SaberCat Dominique Curry.
Curry had two touchdowns — one receiving and one rushing — and tallied the only SaberCats takeaway on a crucial interception in the fourth quarter which would go on to put the SaberCats ahead in the final minutes of the game.
Curry’s level of play was even more spectacular considering what he told SFBay afer the game:
“I really haven’t played football in about two years in an actual game. Just to get out there, I had jitters just from the opening rivalry between the teams. I knew the importance of the game.
The SaberCats’ high-octane offense was able to break the Rattlers defense by scoring on the first drive. But Davila and his top-rated offense answered back quickly with a two-play drive of their own. This would set the tempo throughout the entire game.
The SaberCats blinked first, with Arizona causing the first turnover of the game with a little over eight minutes left in the second frame. After gaining the ball on the one-yard line, Arizona would take a 27-21 lead and hold it until the fourth quarter.
After failing to stop the Rattlers throughout the entire game, Curry snared his clutch interception off a Davila pass that bounced off the end zone netting.
Finishing the drive he started with the turnover, Curry made a leaping catch for a SaberCats touchdown to give them a 48-43 lead with 4:35 left in the fourth quarter.
The two teams continued to trade points, with the SaberCats taking their final lead of the game with a 51-49 advantage from a Nich Pertuit field goal with 46 seconds left in the game.
The SaberCats defense, though, couldn’t make the final stop.
Davila slung a seven-yard touchdown pass to Kerry Reed with 7 seconds left, silencing the crowd and effectively putting a dagger in what would have been a hard fought SaberCats win over a fierce division rival.
Despite dropping a heartbreakingly close game — and their last three in a row —SaberCats Head Coach Darren Arbet is encouraged by both the effort of his team:
“This is a 21-chapter book. I mean this is chapter five. Theres a lot of football to be played. I think we’ve grown a lot over the last few weeks as a football team. I’m proud of them.”
With the loss, the SaberCats dropped below .500 with a 2-3 record for the season. But with the season still in the early stages, Arbet does not expect the record to affect their morale:
“We aren’t gonna go in the corner in hide, we are going to come out and play every week. We understand what we’re up against. We’re trying to win a championship, and you’re not gonna win it in April.”
The SaberCats look to snap their three-game skid next week as they hit the road to take on the Portland Thunder Saturday at 7:30 p.m.