After an emotional rollercoaster of a week that saw San Jose come from behind in the final seconds to win 84-77 in overtime against Chicago, to the tragic news of the death of Johnie Kirton, who scored the game winning touchdown, the SaberCats this week travel to Milwaukee to face a Mustangs team that has one win in its last seven games.
Here is what to watch for.
Milwaukee, which is Algonquin for the good land
San Jose will try to improve their 3-3 road record in a city they have not seen in eleven years. The last time San Jose was in Milwaukee was May 18, 2001. Darren Arbet was in his 3rd season as head coach while Mark Grieb was playing for the Las Vegas Outlaws of the XFL.
John Dutton, who the following year stepped in for Grieb and led the SaberCats to their first ArenaBowl, was behind center.
A young man named James Roe, playing ironman football, scored three touchdowns and returned an interception for another one. Now a broadcaster for the team, Steve Papin had just another day at the office with 163 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns.
The SaberCats won that game 69-55, and would go on to a 10-4 record and their second consecutive west division title. Now they all return in somewhat different roles to try and get the same result.
Big Game James
Already the greatest receiver to ever wear the SaberCats logo, James Roe last week passed the legendary Barry Wagner with his 267th career touchdown reception. He was voted as the sixth best wide receiver in AFL history this past week, but in most people minds he should be in the top three.
With the loss of Ben Nelson four weeks ago, James Roe has been the go to guy for Grieb in the endzone as he has scored two or more touchdowns in five of the last seven games. In his eleven seasons, all with San Jose, James has surpassed 1,000 receiving yards six times. He is 325 yards away from 11,000 career receiving yards, which on his current pace, he should pass this season.
San Jose SaberCats defensive coordinator Cedric Walker knows a little about the Milwaukee Mustangs. For the two years previous he was their defensive coordinator and helped them in 2010 to their first division title with an 11-5 record and a trip to the conference title game. The Mustangs would lose to the eventual ArenaBowl champion, Spokane Shock.
Walker has been a major part of the success this season for San Jose, as the defense has stepped up when needed to help win games. Case in point was Vince Hills interception of Russ Michna in overtime to seal the win last Saturday. Walker has to be excited at the opportunity of facing a Mustangs squad led by Gino Guidugli, the 4th rated quarterback in the AFL.