Arena titles keep coming for San Jose
NEW ORLEANS – It was just like old times in New Orleans with another championship decided.
It was just like old times for the San Jose SaberCats with another title won.
The SaberCats beat the Columbus Destroyers 55-33 in Sunday’s ArenaBowl to earn their third Arena League title in six years. It was the first team championship decided in the city since Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005.
“We don’t want to call ourselves a dynasty,” said wide receiver James Roe, who scored two touchdowns. “That’s for you to do. We’ll take it, though.”
Former South Tahoe High football player Garrett McIntyre earned a championship ring, even though the defensive lineman didn’t play because he had been on injured reserve since earlier in the season because of a high ankle sprain.
The SaberCats (16-3), the most successful AFL franchise this decade, capped a 3 1/2-month winning streak. Columbus (10-10), seeking its first ArenaBowl title, won three consecutive road games to reach the final.
“Everyone was talking about Columbus and how they had beaten a one, two and three seed,” said SaberCats coach Darren Arbet. “All we did was keep our mouths shut and play.”
San Jose was held to its lowest scoring total of the playoffs, but the SaberCats’ defense offset that by holding Columbus 30 points below its postseason average.
San Jose quarterback Mark Grieb passed for 218 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Columbus quarterback Matt Nagy completed 24 of 43 passes for four touchdowns and 203 yards. He was intercepted twice.
“Safe to say, the last five weeks we were in a really good rhythm,” Nagy said. “We just weren’t able to get in that rhythm tonight. We wanted to keep it going for another week, but San Jose wouldn’t let us.”
San Jose took the lead for good in the second quarter when Trestin George returned a kickoff 56 yards for a touchdown to break a 14-14 tie.
Then, on a fourth-and-1 play, Grieb found George Williams with a shovel pass, giving the SaberCats a 27-14 halftime advantage.
The San Jose defense – second in the AFL in points allowed – kept the Destroyers out of the end zone for nearly 11 minutes to end the first half. Columbus averaged 50.1 points a game this season, 63 points in the playoffs.
Nagy hit Cole Magner with a 3-yard touchdown pass to pull the Destroyers within 27-21 with 8:09 remaining in the third quarter.
A 4-yard scoring pass from Grieb to Ben Nelson gave the SaberCats a 34-21 lead. But Damien Groce caught a 39-yard touchdown pass from Nagy to pull Columbus within 34-27 as the third quarter ended.
A 1-yard run by Phil Glover five minutes into the fourth quarter put San Jose up 41-27. Grieb found Roe for a second time with 5:57 left, hitting him for a 20-yard touchdown to make it 48-27.
The game, which sold out weeks in advance with 17,056 tickets purchased, was the first ArenaBowl sellout at a neutral site for the league’s championship, with the tickets snapped up almost nine weeks ahead of time.
The 2005 game drew 10,822 and the 2006 ArenaBowl had a crowd of 13,476. Actual attendance Sunday was 15,147.