– Coming into week 20, the Arizona Rattlers needed to end their two-game skid to get on track for a 2012 playoff run. The Rattlers needed to do their part by winning at home in trying to secure the #2 seed in the National Conference and the chance to host a playoff game in the Snake Pit. Not only would a win help their playoff standings, but they also wanted to show the rest of the league that they are still the dominant team that won seven straight games during the season. To have any chance for another game at home, the Rattlers would have to go through the Kansas City Command.
The Command’s first drive had its ups and downs as they converted a fourth and six in Rattlers territory. An endzone pass by former Rattlers quarterback Matt Gutierrez (22-45, 1 TD, 1 INT) was picked off by Rattlers defensive back Virgil Gray, putting an end to the drive. After the Rattlers offense failed to get anything going, the Command got on the board first with a seven-yard touchdown pass from Gutierrez to wide receiver Jackie Chambers (9 Rec, 144 Yds), putting the team up 7-0 with 1:53 left in the first quarter.
The Rattlers offense countered on their next drive. Quarterback Nick Davila (25-39, 363 Yds, 7 TD) led the team down the field, and with the first play of the second quarter found wide receiver Kerry Reed (8 Rec, 116 Yds, 1 TD) for a 13 yard touchdown, knotting things up at seven apiece. Defensive back Virgil Gray made a huge play on the next defensive drive as he picked off another Gutierrez end zone pass. Gray’s interception led to another Rattler touchdown, this time a six-yard hookup between Davila and wide receiver Maurice Purify (7 Rec, 93 Yds, 4 TD). After a missed extra point, the Rattlers led 13-7.
The last six minutes of the first half had plenty of intrigue. The Command scored on a two-yard touchdown run by Chambers, making the score 14-13. The Rattlers offensive then led down to the Command one-yard line. On a quarterback sneak attempt by Davila, he was stripped of the ball and it was returned 49 yards for a score by Command defensive lineman Chris Lyle. The Command led 20-13, with 0:56 left. Davila found Jason Geathers (5 Rec, 72 Yds, 1 TD) for a 20-yard touchdown pass, but after a blocked extra point, the Rattlers went into halftime down by one, 20-19.
Opening up the second half with the ball, the Rattlers wasted little time in putting up a score. Davila threw his fourth touchdown to as many receivers, this time a 25-yard hookup with Chris Carter (4 Rec, 71 Yds, 1 TD). Just over two minutes into the half, the Rattlers went up 26-20. After the Command failed to score on their offensive possession, Davila found a wide-open Purify for a 40-yard touchdown, giving the Rattlers a 33-20 lead. A Command missed field goal ended the action in the third quarter.
With the Rattlers getting the ball back, Davila led the team down the field before finding Purify for their third touchdown connection of the night. That brought the score to 40-20 in favor of the Rattlers with 12:44 left in the game. The Rattlers defense forced another turnover on downs for the Command offense. Soon after though, the Command defense gave the team its first points of the second half by sacking Nick Davila for a safety. Down 40-22 with less than six minutes to go, the Command offense got the ball back. After driving as far down as the Rattler 15 yard line, the Rattler defense proved stout again, forcing yet another turnover on downs.
Davila and the Rattler offense gained possession of the ball with 1:42 remaining in the game. To put an exclamation point on the night, Davila found Purify for a fourth time, this time a nine-yard touchdown. That put the final score of the last regular season game at 47-22 in favor of the Rattlers.
The win put the Rattlers final regular season record at 13-5. The team will have to wait for the outcome of the Utah Blaze and Philadelphia Soul matchup on Sunday night to find out what seed they have earned in the National Conference playoffs. The Rattlers will hope for a Blaze loss, which would give them a second consecutive Western Division title and a first-round home playoff game.
Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game: (Ari) Maurice Purify
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game: (Ari) Virgil Gray
JLS Ironman of the Game: (Ari) Virgil Gray
AFL Playmaker of the Game: (Ari) Virgil Gray
Cutters Catch of the Game: (Ari) Maurice Purify’s catch of the nett
Spalding Highlight of the Game: (Ari) Defensive Effort, Fewest Points allowed
National Guard MVP: (Ari) Nick Davila