By: Krisanne Ryther
The Arizona Rattlers open the 2011 Arena Football season at the US Airways Center against the Jacksonville Sharks on Saturday, March 12 at 7:00 p.m. With the hope of starting the season off with a win, the Rattlers’ ultimate goal is to hoist the Foster Trophy after winning the ArenaBowl Championship in August.
Head Coach and General Manager Kevin Guy returns for his fourth year with the organization, adding offensive play calling duties to his Rattler resume.
“We’ve got a good group of guys – a great locker room,” said Guy, the second all-time winningest coach in Rattlers’ history. “The players are hungry, into it, very disciplined and have great character.”
The Rattlers return nine players from last year’s roster – a roster that produced a 10-6 season, which saw its end with a loss to eventual ArenaBowl XXIII Champion Spokane Shock in the conference semifinals.
Veteran quarterback Nick Davila returns as the signal-caller for the Rattlers after a rookie season where he threw for 4,858 yards and 102 TDs, while completing 67.3% of his passes – etching his name at the top of the Rattler record books. With the help of an offensive line that returns John Booker, Brennen Carvalho and Steve Edwards, Davila is looking to light up the score board and continue his passing precision with this year’s receiving corps.
“We’ve got a pretty good group of receivers,” said Davila. “I can throw it up and they will go get it. As long as we’re on the same-page, it doesn’t matter what the defensive back does.”
One of those receivers is Trandon Harvey, a 5-11 playmaker who has 272 receptions for 3,615 yards and 72 TDs in his three seasons in a Rattler uniform.
Defensively, the Rattlers return an experienced core of linemen including Anttaj Hawthorne, Marcus Pittman and Ron Jones. Leading the team in sacks with 6.5 in 2010, Hawthorne will be counted on to continue his prowess on the defensive side of the ball.
“We have really bought into what the coaching staff is trying to put together for us,” said Hawthorne. “Everybody sees the goal that we are trying to get a championship back here in Arizona.”
Defensive back Riley Swanson, a two-time AFL Defensive Player of the Week last season, returns in hopes to make an encore performance on his 86 tackles, 10 pass break ups and two interceptions in 2010. Marquis Floyd, a newcomer and 2008 First Team All-AFL defensive back, will also look to make an impact in the secondary.
In a division that houses the Spokane Shock, San Jose SaberCats and Utah Blaze, the Rattlers will be involved in plenty of tough bouts throughout the season.
“Out of our whole league, we will have the toughest division,” said Guy. “But if we can stay healthy, we are going to have a chance at making it all the way.”