SAN JOSE -- On a night where Johnie Kirtons life was celebrated, the San Jose SaberCats (9-4) got back to their winning ways defeating the Orlando Predators (1-11) by a score of 51-34 in front of 9,345 fans at HP Pavilion. The Cats defense was the story of the game, causing three turnovers, tallying three sacks, and forcing four fumbles. Defensive lineman Joe Sykes made franchise history with a pair of sacks, passing Arena Football League Hall of Famer Sam Hernandez (12 in 2000) for the single season sack record, as he now has 13 on the year, which leads the AFL.
The pass rush was getting to the quarterback and the defensive backs took it personally and did a good job tonight covering their guys, said OwnerHead Coach Darren Arbet. Each game is important, its crunch time now and were in that situation where we need to win and get better as a football team and let everything fall into place. We need to do a consistent job and believe in our team.
It was a tail of two plays in the first half, as SaberCats defensive lineman Gabe Nyenhuis stopped Predators quarterback Chris Leak just short of the goal line on fourth down, and a missed extra point by Orlando sent the SaberCats into the locker room with a 31-27 lead after hitting their first field goal of the year.
In the second half San Joses defense absolutely smothered the Predators, allowing only seven points and forcing three second half turnovers. The SaberCats had an impromptu sack party tallying three sacks and forcing Leak to keep his head on a swivel.
SaberCats quarterback Mark Grieb was solid, completing 20-30 passes for 271 yards and four touchdowns. Wide receivers Huey Whittaker and Samora Goodson carried the bulk of the load for the San Jose. Whittaker caught eight balls for 124 yards, two touchdowns as well as a rushing score, while also earning Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game honors and the JLS Ironman award. Goodson finished with five catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns.
The defense provided consistent play, coming up with key stops throughout the evening. The main man behind the madness was Sykes. He was the catalyst behind the defensive dominance, having a career night which included: five tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble, and a spectacular one-handed interception that he returned 42-yards for a touchdown. The dominant performance also won Sykes five-out-of seven game awards, including: National Guard MVP, Riddell Defensive Player of the Game, AFL Playmaker of the Game, Cutters Catch of the Game, and Spalding Highlight of the game. Not a bad pull for one outing. Defensive back LaBrose Hedgemon also performed well in his first game as a member of the SaberCats, recording nine-and-a-half tackles, which led the team, as well as two pass breakups.
For the Orlando offense it was a forgettable performance. The team only scored seven second half points, being shut down every time it threatened the end zone. Leak finished 25-47 for 316 yards and five touchdowns. The leading receivers for Orlando were; Glen Fox who caught nine balls for 125 yards and a touchdown, and Jarvis Williams who also caught nine balls for 100 yards and three scores.
Orlandos defense played well, holding San Jose to only 51 points and were led by Simeon Castille who recorded six-and-a-half tackles, a pass breakup and two interceptions. Defensive lineman Richard Clebert also chipped in with a tackle and a sack.
Courtesy San Jose SaberCats media services