Photo Courtesy of Portland Thunder
The Portland Thunder opened up their season in rhythm, completing pass after pass as they moved the ball down for a touchdown on the opening drive of franchise history.
After that drive, however, the San Jose Sabercats took over, defeating the Thunder 64-34 in the final game of Week 1. Starting quarterback Russ Michna threw touchdown passes on three of his first four attempts and the Thunder couldn’t overcome the veteran-laden Sabercats squad.
Michna’s day ended at halftime; he left the game having completed 12 of 16 passes for 166 yards and five touchdowns. The Sabercats’ offense didn’t fall off a whole lot after the break, either – backup quarterback Nathan Stanley completed eight of 14 passes for 89 yards and three touchdowns.
“It’s frustrating to lose, without a doubt,” said Coach Sauk. “But I’m proud of my guys; none of them quit. We’re learning on the fly – I’ve had several players and coaches come up to me and tell me, ‘You have a great group of guys; keep them together. I think that we have the talent to do it, it’s just going to take the reps to get there.”
The Thunder special teams were a bright spot on the evening – kick returner Duane Brooks broke several long returns for a total of 215 yards, including a 54-yard return all the way to the San Jose 2-yard line in the second quarter, a play that served as the AFL Highlight of the Game.
Brooks also led the Thunder in receiving yardage, posting 58 yards on seven receptions and collecting two touchdowns. Rod Harper and Reggie Gray both posted 100-yard days for the Sabercats. Harper led all receivers with 105 yards; Gray led all receivers with four touchdowns.
The Thunder will look to bounce back next week in a home game against the Iowa Barnstormers, who lost 64-35 in Spokane on Saturday.