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SaberCats claw way to title

It’s their second ArenaBowl win in 3 seasons

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San Jose SaberCats coach Darren Arbet lifts the James F. Foster ArenaBowl trophy above his head after Sunday's victory in Phoenix.

San Jose SaberCats coach Darren Arbet lifts the James F. Foster ArenaBowl trophy above his head after Sunday’s victory in Phoenix.

Paul Connors, Associated Press

PHOENIX — Mark Grieb set a record with eight touchdown passes, James Roe caught five to tie three more records, and the San Jose SaberCats beat the Arizona Rattlers 69-62 Sunday for their second ArenaBowl title in three years.

After nearly an hour of unrelenting offense, the final minute of the Arena Football League championship turned on defense.

Arizona scored with 31 seconds left to get within 63-62, but coach Danny White opted for a 2-point conversion. Sherdrick Bonner rolled left and passed low to Hunkie Cooper, but San Jose's Omarr Smith broke up the pass.

Then San Jose guard Chuck Reed took the ensuing onside kick, lumbering 7 yards to score with 30 seconds remaining.

But Dan Frantz missed the point-after, leaving Arizona within seven points.

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

San Jose's 2002 championship win came in 2002, a 52-14 rout of the rival Rattlers for the biggest win in championship-game history. The victory snapped Arizona's 10-game winning streak, which included two regular-season wins over the SaberCats last month to steal 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 TD passes thrown by Albany's Mike Pawlawski in 1999 and Grand Rapids' Clint Dolezel in 2001.

Aside from Roe, Grieb hit Fred Coleman for 22- and 2-yard scores, James Hundon had a 33-yard scoring reception and Barry Wagner ran for a TD.

Bonner set a record with 367 yards passing (Pawlawski, 327), and tossed seven TD passes — four to Siaha Burley and three to Bryant three.

Cooper and Bo Kelly each rushed for a Rattlers TD.

Roe's scoring grabs went for 8, 11, 3, 38 and 31 yards. Terrill Shaw of Grand Rapids set the records for scoring (30 points), TDs (five) and TD receptions against Nashville in 2001.

Roe had four in the first half, and the threat he posed opened up Hundon and Coleman for go-ahead scores in the fourth quarter, breaking 49-49 and 56-56 ties, respectively.

After Coleman's 2-yard catch made it 63-56 with 3:44 left, Burley returned the kickoff 21 yards to the 17 and capped a short drive with a 9-yard TD reception. But San Jose kept a one-point lead by stopping the two-point try.

Roe's fourth score was a momentum-changer on a play that began with two seconds left in the second quarter and the score tied at 28.

Roe caught the ball at midfield and weaved through arm tackles by Kelvin Hunter and Randy Gatewood to the end zone.

Bonner tied the ArenaBowl record by completing his first six passes, and the Rattlers scored twice in their first three plays — with Burley catching a 29-yard TD pass and Bryant a 33-yarder — to take a 14-7 lead.

But the SaberCats used a fourth-down sack by Sam Hernandez — the sixth in 14 playoff games for the AFL's career sack leader — to set up Roe's 11-yard scoring grab and get the lead for the first time at 21-14 in the second quarter.