SaberCats open 2012 AFL season with high hopes


SaberCats open 2012 AFL season with high hopes

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Watch the SaberCats take on the Arizona Rattlers on Saturday night at 9:30 p.m. in HD on Comcast SportsNet California.

The SaberCats open their 2012 campaign with the goal of returning to the top of the Arena Football League. Last year San Jose returned from a two-year hiatus with high hopes but a six-game losing streak in the middle of the season resulted in a disappointing 7-11 record. For the first time since 1999 the SaberCats were unable to compete for an Arena Bowl title.

The road to redemption begins with Saturdays opening night matchup against the Arizona Rattlers.

Here are some things to watch for Saturday night:

QB Matchup - Mark Grieb vs. Nick Davila

Grieb, a two-time Arena Bowl MVP, set the league record last season with 5,312 passing yards. The 2011 AFL MVP led the league in pass efficiency with 127.6 yards. Grieb has passed for over 42,000 yards in his 12-year career, Both Arizona and San Jose finished in the top-10 in scoring in 2011, with the SaberCats finishing No. 1 in total offense. Expect more fireworks Saturday when these two gunslingers battle it out for QB supremacy in 2012.
San Jose's New Defense Philosophy

New defensive coordinator Cedric Walker may have the toughest job in Arena Football. In a league that promotes offense, he has to find ways to stop it. The SaberCats allowed a league-worst 320.4 yards per game in 2011 and gave up a third-worst 60 points per game. The Cats also brought in former NFL assistant coach Kerry Locklin, who helped the 2009 New York Jets defense post a league-low points allowed per game (14.7), while recording 32 sacks. Newly signed Tim McGill, who last year with Tampa Bay, became the first nose tackle in Arena Football history to post 10 sacks in a season, joins the returning two-time All Arena and 2010 Defensive Player of the Year Gabe Nyenhuis to form what could turn out to be the most feared front line in the league.

A New Beginning with Some New Faces

The SaberCats are used to attracting the top players in the game. Last season they had to adjust to being an expansion team with expansion players. Head coach Darren Arbet hit the recruiting trail hard this season and it paid off with the signings of two-time All-Arena WR Huey Whitaker, 2011 All-Arena DB Andre Jones, 2011 All-Arena DL Tim McGill, 2011 AFL Offensive Lineman of the Year Rich Ranglin and 2010 All-Arena DB Vince Hill. WR Hank Edwards broke numerous school records on his way to a DII All-American First Team selection. WR Taurus Johnson brings three years of NFL experience to an already deep receiving corps. Aligning all the stars on both sides of the ball will be the key to making this a successful season.
Looking In the Mirror

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The Rattlers are led by former SaberCats defensive coordinator Kevin Guy, the AFLs 2011 Coach of the Year. Omarr Smith, who won three of his four Arena Bowl rings with San Jose, coaches the Arizona defense. They brought the SaberCat Way to the desert and it paid off with a 16-2 record and a trip to Arena Bowl XXIV. It is always tough to beat a rival, and in this case, it is even tougher to beat an image of yourself.

As it is every year, expectations are high in San Jose. This organization expects nothing but the best from its players and coaches. That is why players come here. That is why coaches want to coach here. And that is why the fans pack the Pavilion on game nights. The San Jose SaberCats begin their 16th season Saturday night with every hope of a trip to New Orleans and another Arena Bowl championship.
Nick Laino is a tape playback operator with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and the HP Arena public address announcer for the San Jose SaberCats.

Sharks win second straight, beat Devils to start road trip

Sharks win second straight, beat Devils to start road trip


NEWARK, N.J. — Martin Jones made 28 saves for his first shutout of the season and 16th overall in the San Jose Sharks' 3-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.

Melker Karlsson, Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi scored and Justin Braun had two assists to help the Sharks open a five-game East Coast trip.

Keith Kinkaid, the top goalie for New Jersey with Cory Schneider on injured reserve, stopped 30 shots as the Devils' three-game winning streak came to an end.

The Devils couldn't muster a strong push in the later stages against the rested Sharks. It was New Jersey's second game two nights following a 5-4 overtime victory in Ottawa. And it showed against the Sharks, who played a solid road game, pressed their advantage and solidly supported Jones.

Karlsson scored the lone goal of the opening period at 14:11 on a close-in shot following a slick behind-the-net setup pass from Tomas Hertl.

The shots were 13 for each team in the evenly played period. The Devils came close on several occasions as former Shark Mirco Mueller and Blake Coleman both hit the crossbar and Jones robbed Drew Stafford on a dead-on drive from the slot.

Pavelski and Donskoi got second-period goals as the Sharks steadily tightened their grip on the game.

Pavelski tipped in Braun's point shot at 5:49. Joe Thornton got the second assist, his 1,395th point, to pass Luc Robitaille for 21st on the career list.

Donskoi backhanded a rebound shot with 1:10 left in the period in which the Sharks outshot the Devils 11-6.

The remaining drama centered on Jones' shutout bid.

NOTES: The Devils placed Schneider on injured reserve Friday with a lower-body injury and recalled Scott Wedgewood from Binghamton of the American Hockey League to serve as Kinkaid's backup. ... Mueller, a healthy scratch in three of the previous four games, returned for the Devils to face the Sharks, the team that drafted him in the first round, for the first time. He was dealt to New Jersey over the summer.


Sharks: At the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

Devils: Host Ottawa on Friday night.

Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch suspended one game


Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch suspended one game

Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch watched most of Thursday night’s game versus Kansas City from the stands after getting ejected for making contact with an official.

He’ll also be a spectator next week.

The NFL suspended him one game for unsportsmanlike conduct stemming from an incident where left the sidelines to join an on-field scuffle and ended up pushing an official.

The league announced the suspension Friday afternoon. Lynch has already appealed the suspension, per multiple reports.

He was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct and automatically ejected by rule.

Punishment after the fact has gotten expensive.

By rule, Lynch will be fined $30,387 for making contact with an official. He could get hit with other penalties, including entering a fight unnecessarily.

Lynch is also suspended without pay, meaning he’ll forfeit a $79,411 game check and a $31,250 per-game roster bonus.

The Cal alum won’t play a Week 8 contest in Buffalo, against a Bills team that drafted him No. 12 overall in 2007.

Lynch was on the sidelines during a third down draw play where quarterback Derek Carr incurred what officials called a late hit from Kansas City cornerback Marcus Peters.

The Raiders offensive line took offense, and came after Peters in a scrum. Lynch and Peters, both Oakland natives, are extremely close. Lynch ran on the field to get between his teammates and his friend, but ended up inadvertently pushing an official. The league has zero tolerance for that, and sent him off the field.

Lynch watched a dramatic 31-30 victory over Kansas City from the stands and screens near the field, and congratulated his teammates after a big win.

Lynch did not explain why he entered the fray, though he seemed to be trying to get Peters out of harm’s way.

“They can say what they want but one thing’s for certain: Family do come first,” Peters told Bay Area News Group’s Logan Murdock.

His Raiders teammates and coaches must carry on without the 31-year old power back. They’ll roll with Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington and fullback Jamize Olawale against the Bills, as they did against the Chiefs.

Lynch had two carries for nine yards before getting tossed. He has just 266 yards and two touchdowns on 72 carries through seven games.

If the suspension is upheld, Lynch will be eligible to return in Week 9 against Miami.