Phoenix, Ariz. – The five-time World Champion Arizona Rattlers (14-3) advanced to the National Conference Finals with a win over the Portland Steel (3-14) by a score of 84-40 at the Talking Stick Resort Arena, in front of 13,192 fans.
The Rattlers took control early, taking advantage and forcing mistakes by the Portland Steel. In the end, the match-up was the highest scoring Rattlers’ home game in team history.
“We talked about being a dominant team all week long, and it starts with preparation,” said General Manager and Head Coach Kevin Guy. “I thought our guys prepared really well, they were dialed in. Our goal is to win a championship and we want to play 60 minutes, and tonight we played about 59.” Guy was referring to the fumble at the end of the game by fullback Mykel Benson.
The Rattlers’ defense set the tone of the game. Arizona ended up with four interceptions, two by defensive back Arkeith Brown, and one from defensive backs Jeremy Kellem and KJ Morton. Morton’s pick occurred at the end of the half, which he returned 33-yards for the score, which was the AFL Highlight of the Game. Morton was also the Riddell Defensive Player of the game. The Rattlers also recovered three fumbles.
“The defense was just swarming all night,” said Guy. “We had four interceptions, took two of them to the house. We put relentless pressure on them. We got a pressure pick, cover sack. We were getting our hands on some balls, had some nice break ups as well, caused some fumbles, and had eight defensive stops overall.”
Special teams played a huge part in the win. Newcomer, kicker Nich Pertuit, was a perfect 12 of 12 in PATs and also hit the bar on the kickoff several times, the first which resulted in a turnover.
“It started with the first play of the game on special teams,” said Guy. “Nich did a great job of kicking the ball off the net it hit the bar and we recovered. We got the heavies down there and punched it in.”
This win also gives General Manager and Head Coach Kevin Guy sole possession of fourth place in all-time postseason wins, passing Mike Hohensee (12) with 13 wins.
The first quarter was all Rattlers. Arizona won the coin-toss and differed, but a bar ball kicked by new kicker Nich Pertuit was recovered by wide receiver Dan Buckner. The Rattlers would score on the next play with fullback Mykel Benson rumbling two yards for the score. On Portland’s first offensive play, Steel quarterback Shane Austin completed a pass to wide receiver Rashaad Carter, who had the ball stripped by defensive back Jeremy Kellem and recovered by defensive end Dimetrio Tyson. The Rattlers capitalized with a three-yard pass from Davila to wide receiver Rod Windsor. The quarter ended with Arizona leading Portland 14-0.
The second quarter was not much kinder to the Steel. After a turnover on downs early in the second, the Rattlers again capitalized and scored off a 47-yard touchdown pass from Davila to wide receiver Anthony Amos. Portland would finally get on the board with a 1-yard touchdown run from fullback Kevin Myers. Arizona responded with another 28-yard touchdown pass from Davila to Amos.
The Steel scored their only other points of the half on their next drive when Austin threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jared Perry. Arizona however, would score three more times in the half, the first two from touchdown passes by Davila, one to Purify, the other to Windsor. Then on the last play by the Steel, Austin threw a pass which was intercepted by defensive back KJ Morton and returned for the score. The half ended with a 49-14 Rattlers lead.
The Rattlers scored first in the second half with a 36-yard touchdown pass from Davila to Purify. This would be Davila’s last play of the night.
Portland turned the ball over again when Austin threw a pick to Jeremy Kellem, which he caught off the wall. The next play, Rattlers’ quarterback Shane Boyd threw a pick six to defensive back Bryce Peila, who returned it 41-yards.
Both teams would score one more time in the third. Arizona scored from a 19-yard touchdown pass from Boyd to Windsor. Portland scored off a 6-yard touchdown pass from Austin to wide receiver Rashaad Carter.
The fourth quarter started with the Rattlers scoring three straight times. The first two were passes from Boyd, one to Windsor, the other to Purify. The final score was a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown by Arkeith Brown.
The Steel would score two more times at the end of the game, a 2-yard rush by quarterback Darron Thomas, the other, a 35-yard pass from Thomas to Perry. The final score was 84-40
The Rattlers will return to the Snake Pit next Saturday, August 13th for the conference finals. Their opponent will be determined Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. PDT when the LA KISS (7-9) try to defend their territory against the Cleveland Gladiators (7-9). The Cleveland/LA game will be on ESPN2.
“Whoever shows up, that’s who we’re playing,” said Guy. “It is what it is. We have to get through them all to get to the championship game, so we’ll play anybody, anywhere, at anytime.”
The Rattlers’ game on Saturday will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.
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Under Armour Offensive Player of the Game: Nick Davila (AZ)
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game: KJ Morton (AZ)
J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game: Anthony Amos (AZ)
Cutters Catch of the Game: Anthony Amos (AZ) 17-yard TD catch in the 2nd Q
AFL Highlight of the Game: KJ Morton (AZ) TD INT to end the Half
About the Arizona Rattlers
The Arizona Rattlers have won five ArenaBowl championship games and are proud members of the Arena Football League (AFL). ArenaBowl XXVII marked the team’s ninth appearance in the Championship game, winning in 2014, 2013, 2012, 1997 and 1994. For tickets, call 602-514-TDTD (8383), or visit www.azrattlers.com.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 6th, 2016
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