SAN JOSE -- Nathan Stanley dealt with some pre-game jitters and let it carry over into the game for a few plays. After overthrowing on his first three attempts, Stanley connected with Jason Willis on a fourth-down play.

Stanley, a rookie making his first career start, completed seven of his next eight passes and finished 18 of 28 for 249 yards and six touchdowns in helping the SaberCats win their Arena Football League home opener, 70-33, over the Philadelphia Soul on Sunday night.

"There were definitely some nerves," Stanley said. "I never expected to be playing so soon. I got the first few plays out of the way and we rolled from there."

Stanley started in place of veteran Russ Michna, who suffered concussion-like symptoms during the first half of the SaberCats' 64-34 victory over the Portland Thunder in San Jose's season opener a week earlier.

Michna did not practice all week and his status remains uncertain. SaberCats coach Darren Arbet wasn't revealing any future plans about the quarterback position.

"He has a lot of potential," Arbet said when asked if Stanley deserved another start. "We'll have to watch the tape and see what we want to do."

Receiver Reggie Gray, who played with Michna at Western Illinois and with the Chicago Rush, caught five passes for 77 yards and three touchdowns.


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"I talked to Nate before the game and told him to put the ball where it's supposed to be," Gray said. "It's up to us to get to the ball. He was great. We have two great quarterbacks."

Arbet could not have asked for a better performance from Stanley, who also ran for a touchdown.

"He played great. He was phenomenal," Arbet said. "What he did tonight, he's been doing in camp and in the second half last week."

Gray and Rod Harper, who caught six passes for 77 yards and a pair of touchdowns, helped Stanley with some dazzling catches. Huey Whittaker also caught a touchdown pass.

"You reap what you sow," SaberCats' defensive back Clevan Thomas said. "By the time I got here in January, Nate was the first one in and the last one out. He worked hard without knowing he'd be playing."

Thomas, the reigning AFL Defensive Player of the Year, returned an interception 31 yards for a touchdown during the third quarter. It was Thomas' 66th career interception, second all-time to Kenny McEntyre's 98. He's returned 15 for a touchdown.

"It was really just great coaching," Thomas said. "I was just there."

The Soul handed the SaberCats one of their two home losses last season en route to reaching their second straight Arena Bowl.

"This was a statement game," Stanley said. "We need to keep the momentum and continue the intensity."

The SaberCats broke the game open following intermission, scoring five unanswered touchdowns after taking a 35-27 edge into halftime.

Thomas led a defensive effort that limited the Soul to two total offensive yards and zero points in the third quarter. Dan Raudabaugh was 1 of 9 in the period.

Ken Fontenette led the SaberCats with eight tackles, seven solo, while Whittaker and David Hyland each added another six tackles. Marc Schiechl recorded a sack that ended one drive.

Saturday's game

SaberCats (2-0) at Pittsburgh (0-1), 2 p.m.

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For a slideshow of the SaberCats' home opener go to photos.mercurynews.com