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ARENA LEAGUE FOOTBALL

Avengers Lose Lead, Then Game to SaberCats, 55-52

March 27, 2004|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

Avenger quarterback Tony Graziani threw 210 passes without an interception. On Friday night, Graziani finally committed an error.

James Roe of the San Jose SaberCats intercepted a pass by Graziani and returned it for a touchdown early in the third quarter. The play helped erase the Avengers' 10-point halftime lead and sent San Jose to a 55-52 victory in front of 13,172 at HP Pavilion in San Jose.

The SaberCats (6-1) remained in first place in the Western Division with their 21st victory in their last 22 home games.

The Avengers (4-3) have lost all five games they have played at San Jose.

"San Jose is a veteran team -- if they get down or they get up, they play pretty efficiently," Avenger Coach Ed Hodgkiss said.

Roe's interception with 11:12 left in the third quarter gave the SaberCats a 35-31 lead.

The Avengers led, 45-42, after Greg Hopkins caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Graziani with 14:07 remaining, but the SaberCats tied the score on a 30-yard field goal by Dan Frantz six minutes later.

On the ensuing possession, the SaberCats stopped Avenger fullback Josh Jeffries on a fourth-and-one play at the Avenger 18.

San Jose quarterback Mark Grieb then connected with Fred Coleman, who eluded three defenders to score, giving the SaberCats a 52-45 lead. Frantz later added a field goal.

Graziani, who completed 24 of 36 passes for 232 yards and five touchdowns, rushed for a touchdown with two seconds left to make it 55-52.

*

Clay Rush's 29-yard field goal with two seconds left gave the Indiana Firebirds a 45-42 victory over the Grand Rapids Rampage in front of 10,569 at Indianapolis.

*

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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