The Arizona Rattlers have been here before, and having a strong veteran core will do that. The team, centered around the likes of Nick Davila, Rod Windsor, Anttaj Hawthorne, and Tyre Glasper have taken them to their fifth Arena Bowl appearance in six years. However, on a 24-man roster, it takes more playmakers.
The Rattlers this season have turned over more than an astounding 50 percent of their roster. In order to return to their Arena Bowl form they added major key pieces that helped solidify them in all three phases. The key additions include: Damien Borel, Rodney Fritz, Jordan Mudge, Anthony Amos, Michael Simons, KJ Morton, Dimetrio Tyson, Nich Pertuit, Luis Vasquez, Hayworth Hicks, Keiron Jones, Al Phillips, and Dionte Savage.
When adding the sheer number of people the Rattlers did, it can prove to be difficult to manage all of the different personalities and egos that come along with them. However, the players have spoken to the welcoming atmosphere and seamless transition they encountered when coming to the Rattlers.
“The environment is different, good hospitality and great organization,” wide receiver Anthony Amos said. “Nick (Davila) was the first one to call me and congratulate me on coming to the team, and was happy and ready to work with me.”
The Rattlers offense had a record year, being the only team in the league this season to score over 1,000 points, and averaged an AFL record 66.8 points per game. Nick Davila exploded for 110 touchdowns, as he was given a clean pocket that allowed him to pick apart opposing defenses through much of the season. The offensive line allowed only eight sacks all year, which was impressive considering that the entire starting offensive line was replaced. Mudge centered the line, and his efforts earned him the Offensive Lineman of the Year award.
“They said it couldn’t be done, and it was done,” said Mudge upon winning the award.
Wide receiver Anthony Amos and Nich Pertuit have provided major contributions to the Rattlers success on special teams. Amos makes plays on both kickoff and kickoff return teams, finishing the season with 13.5 tackles in addition to his 1219 return yards with four return touchdowns. Amos has also added depth at wide receiver, adding 432 yards and five touchdowns to the team’s total. The 2014 AFL Kicker of the Year, Nich Pertuit, was picked up for the playoffs and wasted no time making his presence felt going 22/24 on point after attempts and kicking several bar balls, one that was recovered for a touchdown.
Although huge contributions have been made on offense and special teams by their new pickups, the biggest difference has been on defense. Half of the defensive starters are new to the team this year. The Rattlers secondary has benefited from the consistent play of KJ Morton who has tallied 46 tackles and a pick six. Phillips has also provided depth adding 34 tackles. New additions to the defensive line have contributed to 24 of the team’s league high 29 sacks this season.
General Manager and Head Coach Kevin Guy has been pushing all the right buttons with the Rattlers new personnel this season and fans should expect more of the same heading into Arena Bowl XXIX.