The Arizona Rattlers returned to action after an extended 13 day layoff due to a bye week. After showing some signs of rust in the first half, the Rattlers found a way to grind out another road victory in the Bradley Center while on the road against the Milwaukee Mustangs. It is a given that Arizona General Manager and Head Coach Kevin Guy expects his troops to play at a high level regardless of the circumstances or environment. Tonight was no different.
“A win is a win…it wasn’t pretty but we’ll take it. We need to play a more disciplined brand of football. That’s what it is going to take.” There is still work to do and improvements to be made but the Rattlers ran their win streak to six straight games. They have also won 8 out of their last 10 contest and they have done so against all comers at home or as was the case tonight, on the road.
The night’s match up against the Milwaukee Mustangs was an important game for both teams. The Mustangs needed this win to keep their playoff dreams going and the Arizona Rattlers needed it to keep the San Antonio Talons from taking their top spot in the AFL Power Rankings. The Rattlers and Mustangs have already faced off once this season in March where the Mustangs had a close loss. They were looking to prove themselves in this shoot out.
The Rattlers took possession of the ball after the opening kick was returned by recently named AFL Ironman of the Month, Trandon Harvey. Harvey has really stepped into the role left behind by Maurice Purify who has missed his second straight game. Harvey finished the day with 6 receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown.
As has been the case recently the Rattlers struck fast. The collection of receiving talent and depth was demonstrated again tonight, early and often as evident from the first play of scrimmage when Rattlers QB Nick Davila (25-30-320-3/2) hit Kerry Reed (7 recs for 88 yds) for a huge gain that took the Rattlers down to the Mustang 1 yard line. After a bit of sputtering Rattlers WR Markee White (7 rec for 55yds & 2 TDs) snatched a 4th down pass from Davila for the first TD of the game. A successful PAT by Chris Gould gave the Rattlers a quick 7-0 lead.
Milwaukee immediately began their offensive attack and answered with their own touchdown when Mustang QB Gino Guidugli, who finished the night 14 of 30 for 245 yards with 4 Tds & 3 INTs, sailed a 38 yard pass into the end zone and the awaiting arms of receiver Dwayne Eley Jr. However Milwaukee failed to capitalize on the PAT and the score stood at 7-6.
Davila and the Rattlers quickly struck back. Reed made a one handed circus grab that placed the ball inside of the Mustang inside the 15 yard line. Reed’s one-handed grab & run paved the way for another Rattler strike after Davila connected with Markee White for the second Rattlers touchdown. Another PAT later and Arizona had an eight point lead at 14-6.
The Mustangs received stellar play in their return game all night. They finished the contest with a hefty 119 yards in returns. Regardless of the special team effort Guidugli and the Mustangs failed to convert after the Rattlers All-Everything DB Virgil Gray helped to snuff out the Mustang drive with an interception in the end zone to end the Milwaukee offensive threat.
The game moved to the second quarter with the Rattlers leading 14-6 and in possession of the rock following the Gray interception. However, after a few attempts to get in the end zone the Mustangs ended the Arizona run with an interception of their own from Marcus Everett. Despite the turnover, the Rattlers, who have seen a surge in their pass rush over the past several weeks, held strong and forced a Mustang field goal bringing the score to 14-9. The Rattlers answered back with a series of quick hits that ended in a rare Nick Davila rushing touchdown to push the Rattlers lead to 21-9.
A few short plays later Mustang QB Guidugli attempted a pass that ended up bouncing off a referee directly into the hands of LB Tyre Glasper and the Rattlers were back in business. Unfortunately, on the very next play Davila was intercepted by the Ryan McFoy of the Mustangs with 41 seconds left on the clock.
Milwaukee WR Andrae Thurman (3-19-1) caught a wide open pass off of a great route and lunged into the end zone. The kick was good leaving the score at 21-16. Harvey returned the ensuring kickoff to the 22 yard line but the Rattlers failed to end it in a touchdown. Instead, the first half ended with a Chris Gould 18 yd FG and a 24-16 halftime lead.
The Mustangs started the 3rd quarter with the ball and quickly moved it down the field ending in another Thurman touchdown and bringing the game within reach with a stop and a Mustang score. Milwaukee decided to gamble with an onside kick, but it back fired as the Rattlers Tyre Glasper snatched the kick out of mid air and rumbled into the end zone with his first touchdown of the year. Gould added another PAT and all of a sudden the Rattlers were back in control, 31-23.
The Mustangs struck back with a highlight reel catch by Jared Jenkins that was impossible to truly see as his momentum took him over the wall, but the reception and touchdown trimmed Arizona’s lead to within a point at 31-30. The Mustangs defense persisted in pressuring Davila but a quick pass to FB Odie Armstrong brought in another Rattler touchdown. The 3rd quarter came to a halt at 38-30 with a successful kick by Gould.
The fourth quarter began with the most valuable asset any AFL defense can have…a stop of the opposing offense which forced the Mustangs to turn the ball over on downs. Shortly afterward, Harvey grabbed another nitro fueled pass from Davila for his only receiving touchdown of the night. Gould and the Rattlers PAT team did their job and just that quick Arizona surged ahead by 15 points.
After another stellar Mustangs return, Guidugli and his crew countered with another touchdown. This set the score to 45-37. After a controversial onside kick call, Davila plunged into the end zone for his second rushing TD of the night. The Mustangs had one more chance to make it close but were disappointed after another Gray interception killed their hopes for a wild comeback.
Arizona moved into the victory position and Davila ran the clock down with a series of QB keepers and sneaks to seal the victory with a 52-37 win. The Rattlers got the big play when they needed it from a pesky Milwaukee club to keep their top spot in the Western Conference and continue towards their goal of home-field advantage in the National Conference Playoffs.
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game: Arizona DB Virgil Gray
Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game: Arizona QB Nick Davila
JLS Ironman of the Game: Milwaukee LB/WR Marcus Everett
AFL Playmaker of the Game: Arizona WR Markee White
Cutters Catch of the Game: Kerry Reed’s one-handed catch in the first quarter
Spalding Highlight of the Game: Jared Jenkins’s touchdown catch over the boards in the third quarter
National Guard MVP of the Game: Arizona QB Nick Davila