Week 9 Preview: Arizona at Tampa Bay

The second half of the season begins on Sunday, and the Arizona Rattlers (6-2) will once again hit the road when they face the Tampa Bay Storm (0-7).  The game will be played at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay, Florida on Sunday, May 29th at 11:00 a.m. PDT.  The game can be seen on ESPN3.com or on the WatchESPN app on a tablet, smartphone or streaming device.

The Rattlers moved one step closer to clinching the Conference title last Saturday with a win over the second place LA KISS (3-4).  Not only did they put an even wider gap between the two teams (2.5 games), but Arizona now holds the tie-breaker as well over the KISS (Rattlers also beat LA in week two).  The Rattlers also remain two games ahead of the now second place Cleveland Gladiators.

The Rattlers relied on their defense Saturday night to secure the 47-34 victory. Not only did Arizona hold the KISS to 34 points, but they added to their own tally with two pick sixes.  One was a 48-yard scamper from defensive back Allen Chapman, which was the AFL Highlight of the Game, the other was a ten-yard return from wide receiver / linebacker Chase Deadder.  Defensive back KJ Morton also had a big night breaking up six passes to go along with two tackles.  Defensive end Chris McAllister added a sack as well.

Offensively, the Rattlers relied heavily on newcomer wide receiver Joe Matthews to score all three offensive touchdowns in the first half, and Deadder to add both touchdowns in the second.  Matthews earned the Under Armour Offensive Player of the Game award in his first ever professional game, while Deadder earned the J. Lewis Small Defensive Player of the Game award for his significant contributions on both sides of the ball.

The Rattlers will face the Tampa Bay Storm for the second and final time this season.  The Storm look to be much improved from the last time the two teams faced each other back in week three.  Despite their record the Storm have been playing much better, taking the Gladiators to overtime on Monday night, and losing to the league-leading Orlando Predators (7-1) by two.

Tampa Bay quarterback Jason Boltus had a big night on Monday, completing 30 of 46 passes and eight touchdowns.  He did have two interceptions, however, the last one occurring in overtime which decided the game.

This is a big game for both teams.  The Rattlers need to keep pace with both the Predators and the Philadelphia Soul (7-1) for the number one seed in the postseason, while the Storm look to notch their first win of the season, and attempt to get the second half of their season started on the right foot.

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