ArenaBowl XXI Preview
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By David Harrison
The San Jose SaberCats will try to close out a successful season with the franchise’s third ArenaBowl championship on Sunday when they take on the giant-killing Columbus Destroyers.
Calling the Destroyers giant-killers isn’t much of an understatement when you examine their playoff run to date. Columbus finished the regular season 7-9 and were basically written off heading into the playoffs. In the opening round the Destroyers edged Tampa Bay 56-55 as a 6.5-point underdog. In the divisional round the Destroyers went up against the Dallas Desperados as huge 12-point underdogs, but somehow came away with an amazing 66-59 victory. Another upset was in the cards for Columbus in the conference championship, as they dismantled the Georgia Force 66-56 as an 11-point underdog.
The SaberCats’ playoff journey was much smoother. San Jose earned a first-round bye after winning the American Western Division. In the divisional round they toyed with the Colorado Crush before dropping them 76-67 as a 12-point favorite. The conference championship game was a romp for San Jose, as they tore through the Chicago Rush 61-49 as a 3.5-point favorite.
San Jose is difficult to contain due to their explosive offense led by quarterback Mark Grieb. Grieb led the SaberCats to victory back in Arena Bowl XVII, and he’s coming off a solid season in which he passed for 4486 yards with 99 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions. The SaberCats’ high-flying offense isn’t their only big weapon, though, as they also sported one of the best defenses in the league this season after allowing the second-lowest point total per game (47.6).
The Destroyers’ chances of continuing their steak of upsets lies in the hands of QB Matt Nagy. This will be Nagy’s second trip to the ArenaBowl. He led Georgia to ArenaBowl XIX two years ago only to lose to Colorado 51-48. Despite the Destroyers’ losing record during the regular season Nagy had pretty good numbers that included 3561 yards passing, 75 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. Nagy has a terrific go-to receiver in AFL veteran Damien Groce, but he’ll likely need another one of his wideouts, such has Josh Bush or David Saunders, to step up to conquer the tough San Jose secondary.
Not surprisingly the Destroyers are the underdog in this game, as the SaberCats are a 6.5-point favorite. The SaberCats have only played Columbus once, but when the Destroyers still resided in Buffalo the two teams clashed five times. In those six combined meetings San Jose is 6-0, including a 68-47 romp as a 4.5-point favorite when they met during the 2006 season.
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