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San Jose nabs title in record outing

Associated Press
Published June 28, 2004

PHOENIX - Mark Grieb knew it would take an extraordinary performance to win an Arena Football League championship on the road - and that's what he and the San Jose SaberCats gave.

Grieb set an ArenaBowl record with eight touchdown passes in a 69-62 win over the Arizona Rattlers on Sunday.

"Guys talked all week long about it wasn't going to be easy to come in here and get it done, that we'd have to play four quarters of football, and that's what we did," he said.

James Roe caught five TDs to tie three records, and the SaberCats won their second title in three years.

"All year long they hung in there and never gave up," SaberCats coach Darren Arbet said. "I knew they weren't going to give up there at the end."

After almost an hour of unrelenting offense, the final minute of the ArenaBowl turned on defense. Arizona scored with 31 seconds left to get within 63-62, but coach Danny White opted for a two-point conversion. Sherdrick Bonner rolled left and passed low to Hunkie Cooper, but San Jose's Omarr Smith broke up the pass.

San Jose guard Chuck Reed took the ensuing onside kick, lumbering 7 yards to score with 30 seconds left. But Dan Frantz missed the point-after, leaving Arizona within seven points.

As the clock ticked down, Bonner found Orshawante Bryant for three first downs - the last a 15-yard catch setting up the Rattlers on the 2 with two seconds left. Rashied Davis smothered Cooper on Arizona's final play, knocking down Bonner's pass as time expired.

"We had a zone route called, and Hunkie made the read and got tripped up by the guy when I was throwing the ball," Bonner said. "The route was there; he just got tripped up."

San Jose's 2002 championship came in a 52-14 rout of the rival Rattlers for the most lopsided win in ArenaBowl history. The victory snapped Arizona's 10-game win streak, which included two regular-season wins over the SaberCats last month to take the No. 1 playoff seed.

It also halted a three-game string of losses to Arizona, which knocked San Jose out of last year's playoffs.

Grieb eclipsed the seven TDs thrown by Albany's Mike Pawlawski in 1999 and Grand Rapids' Clint Dolezel in 2001.

Bonner set a record with 367 yards passing (Pawlawski, 327) and tossed seven touchdowns. He tied the ArenaBowl record by completing his first six passes.

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