Rush top rival Sabercats

By Etheria Modacure

New season, same rivalry as the Chicago Rush and San Jose Sabercats squared off again, this time at the Allstate Arena. The Rush were able to top their longtime nemesis, 54- 41.

With the Rush and Sabercats being one of the few unbeaten teams in Arena Football after two games, this contest was one of the marquee slates of March 25. Both teams were led by veteran quarterbacks but the Rush’ signal-caller got the best of the Sabercats in the game.

Rush quarterback Russ Michna threw for 225 yards on 15 passes for five touchdowns. He also ran for two scores, while defensive back Jason Simpson was the defensive player of the game with two interceptions.

The Rush limited the Sabercats quarterback Mark Grieb from developing any consistency throughout the night as he had three turnovers throughout the game.

The game looked as if it would be a low-scoring affair after the first-quarter ended with the Sabercats ahead 8-6 on a scoring drive and returning a failed point after touchdown attempt for a safety.

“Neither team played well in the first half,” said Rush Head Coach Bob McMillen. “I just give our guys a lot of credit, they responded in the second half.”

At halftime, the Sabercats lead 21-20 after they scored on four possessions in the first-half. Grieb passed for a 13-yard score to offensive lineman Mark Lewis and running back Chad Cook scored two touchdowns on the ground.

Michna rushed for a 17-yard score midway through the second-quarter and found wide receiver Reggie Gray for a 39-yard touchdown pass before the period ended.

The third-quarter saw the Rush score three touchdowns with Gray catching a 22-yard pass to begin the third quarter. Michna rushed for a 7-yard score and threw a 7-yard pass to wide receiver Charles Dillon to put the Rush ahead, 40-28.

Gray finished the game with three receiving touchdowns and 149 yards. He was able to accumulate his yardage through eight catches.

“Reggie Gray went out there and they couldn’t stop him,” McMillen said. “They couldn’t press him, they couldn’t play off him [and] he made moves when he had the ball in his hands.”

Gray a Chicago native, went to Western Illinois University with Michna but was a freshman when the quarterback was a junior.

The former Continental Indoor Football League’s Chicago Slaughter member came into the game leading the team with four touchdowns. Nicknamed “Big Play” Reggie Gray, he was asked how he held onto the football through hard hits from the Sabercats defensive backs.

“My job is to catch the ball regardless if it’s in traffic or if I’m wide open,” Gray said. “Russ does a great job of putting the ball [in play].”

After the Rush extended their lead to 47-35 in the fourth-quarter, the Sabercats responded with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Grieb to wide receiver Samora Goodson. The Rush controlled its next possession and scored after five minutes of play for a 54-41 advantage over San Jose.

The Rush will play the Cleveland Gladiators on the road on April 1 and McMillen said the players must focus on their next opponents and not this victory or the bye that comes in two weeks.

“I don’t want [our players] looking forward to the bye week,” McMillen said. “We have a job to do first and that’s to go and take care of business against Cleveland. We’ve got a seven-hour bus ride to Cleveland and that’s the most difficult thing I’m thinking about. What kind of movies am I going to get for the bus?”