(ANAHEIM)- The San Jose SaberCats (17-1) wrapped up the regular season with a 60-38 victory over the LA KISS (4-14) on Saturday night. With the win, San Jose tied last season’s Cleveland Gladiators with a 17-1 regular season record, the best mark in Arena Football League history for the 18-game format.The SaberCats outscored the KISS 23-7 in the second half and Maurice Purify scored the first five touchdowns for the SaberCats, including two from quarterback Erik Meyer. Meyer finished with 120 yards and two touchdowns on 7-of-10 passes. Purify paced the SaberCats with six touchdowns total, three rushing and three receiving, while adding 87 yards receiving.
Getting out to an early 21-6 lead the SaberCats seemed in control; however, LA outscored San Jose 19-7 to pull within three points at 28-25. Replacing Meyer in the second quarter, the SaberCats continued to pounce with quarterback Nathan Stanley connected with Purify on a 14-yard touchdown with less than a minute remaining in the second half as the lead swelled back to 35-25. Stanley finished the game by completing 13-of-24 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns in relief.
Regaining possession, the KISS scored on a Joe Clancy 10-yard pass to Dorgan Morgan, his third of the first half. LA Kicker Andre Heidari’s PAT kick was blocked and returned by David Hyland, awarding San Jose two points and a 37-31 halftime advantage. Clancy finished with 261 passing yards and six total touchdowns, but also had two interceptions.
LA opened the second half with possession but Francis Maka was able to recover a fumble forced by Donte Paige-Moss on a run by LA fullback Hamani Stevens, as San Jose regained possession. The turnover set up the SaberCats for a nine-play drive, capped off with a six-yard touchdown run by Purify, giving San Jose a 44-31 lead.
In the fourth quarter, San Jose scored on a deep, 43-yard touchdown pas from Stanley to D.J. Stephens, yet the KISS would answer with a 44-yard bomb from Clancy to Morgan, cutting San Jose’s lead to 53-38 with 10:52 remaining in the game. Morgan finished with seven receptions for 145 yards and four touchdowns, passing 2,000 yards receiving for the season as well. Stephens led the SaberCats with 97 yards receiving on five receptions.
The opportunistic SaberCats defense would capitalize when Hyland grabbed an interception for the second straight week, this time taking it back for a 47-yard touchdown, extending the lead to 60-38 with five minutes remaining in the game. Hyland also led the SaberCats with seven tackles, while KISS defensive back Shaine Boyle led all defenders with nine tackles.
In his first start of the season, defensive back Kenny Okoro sealed the victory for San Jose, intercepting a Clancy pass with two minutes remaining. Also making his first start of the season, defensive end Chris McAllister recorded his first sack as a SaberCat on a safety with Maka also credited on the sack of Clancy in the fourth quarter.
The SaberCats roll into the playoffs with home field advantage and will host the first round of the National Conference playoffs at the SAP Center on Friday, August 14th at 7:30 pm PDT.
Offensive Player of the Game: SJ WR Maurice Purify
Defensive Player of the Game: SJ JLB David Hyland
J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game: SJ WR Maurice Purify
Cutters Catch of the Game: LA WR Donovan Morgan catch to pass 2,000 yards in a season
AFL Highlight of the Game: SJ David Hyland interception return for a touchdown