– With both teams at 6-3, the Rattlers and the Blaze knew the importance of their Saturday night matchup. With only San Jose ahead of them in the standings at 7-2, the winner gets within a half game of the Western Division lead. With Tommy Grady and Nick Davila as two of the games top gunslingers, the game would without a doubt turn into a shootout.
With Utah getting possession of the ball first, it gave the Blaze a chance to jump on the scoreboard early and put pressure on the Rattlers. After a first down tipped pass that ended up incomplete, Grady was hit by defensive lineman Marcus Pittman, resulting in the ball on the turf and the referees ruling an incomplete pass. Arizona head coach Kevin Guy challenged the ruling on the field, saying the play resulted in a fumble. After review from the refs, they overturned the incomplete pass and ruled a fumble recovery by Arizona’s defensive lineman Cliff Dukes.
The Rattlers wasted little time in getting on the board. After a quick pass to Glen Fox, and one incompletion, Davila hit Kerry Reed for the first score of the night. After a made PAT, the Rattlers were up 7-0. The defense wasted little time in making sure they’d have a big say on the outcome of the game. On Utah’s next offensive possession, defensive back Arkeith Brown jumped in front of a Tommy Grady pass at the 2 yard line for an interception. After a 33 yard return set up great field position for the Rattler offense, a four play drive ended in a Nick Davila to Trandon Harvey touchdown and a 14-0 Rattler lead.
With a 14 point lead, the Blaze needed to strike quickly before the game turned into a lopsided contest in favor of the Rattlers. Tommy Grady attempted a pass into the end zone where defensive back Marquis Floyd picked it off for the Rattlers’ third takeaway in as many possessions. But on the return, Floyd was hit from behind, fumbled, and the ball was recovered by the Blaze’s Tysson Potts at the Arizona 7 yard line. The next play was a 7 yard Utah Blaze touchdown, from Tommy Grady to Aaron LeSue. With the Blaze missing the extra point, the Rattlers held a 14-6 lead.
A three play Rattler drive followed, ending in a Davila to Maurice Purify touchdown. A 21-6 lead diminished almost instantly on the last play of the first quarter as Tommy Grady threw a quick strike to Tysson Potts and one missed tackle later, the Blaze were back on the board with a touchdown. The back and forth was only beginning as the first offensive play of the second quarter was another hookup between Nick Davila and Kerry Reed, this time for 39 yards giving the Rattlers a 28-13 lead.
The teams traded scores twice, both of Arizona’s scores coming from Maurice Purify, and one of Utah’s coming on an Alvance Robinson kickoff return for touchdown. With under three and a half minutes left in the half, Arizona led 41-34 and had possession. After a very strange series of plays, including incompletions, penalties, timeouts, and the Rattlers attempting to run down the clock, Arizona walked away with a field goal and a 44-34 halftime lead.
The story of the first half would have to of been the domination by Arizona in the time of possession. The Rattlers controlled the ball for over 18 minutes in the first half. But while they were controlling the clock and racking up points, they also committed 7 penalties for 49 yards, which hurt them in some instances. With three takeaways on defense leading to 14 points, they did fumble one of those takeaways, resulting in a Utah touchdown. Nick Davila tossed 6 touchdowns in the half, but the Rattlers only led by 10 points.
Opening up the second half with the ball, Arizona had a prime opportunity to extend their lead. They did just that two plays into their first possession with Maurice Purify’s fourth touchdown reception of the game. Utah countered with their own two play drive, also resulting in a touchdown. The back and forth went back one more time as Nick Davila again hooked up with his favorite target, Maurice Purify, for the fifth time on the night. The Rattlers were now leading 58-41.
On Utah’s next possession, Marquis Floyd picked off his second pass of the game, this time holding onto the ball on the return. With an already-comfortable 17 point lead, Maurice Purify added onto his numbers with a 20 yard circus catch that resulted in yet another touchdown. The Blaze countered with a touchdown of their own, and the score now stood at 65-48 in favor of the Rattlers, but it seemed as if the Blaze could only play catch-up the rest of the night.
This night belonged to the Rattlers offense and wide receiver Maurice Purify. He proved that on the following possession with his sixth touchdown of the night, which happened to be Nick Davila’s ninth touchdown throw. With the score now at 72-48, the game was all but wrapped up. The Rattler defense stopped a Blaze drive with another Arkeith Brown interception. The Rattlers’ first play on the next drive was the offenses first physical mistake of the night when Nick Davila was intercepted by Utah’s defensive back Al Phillips. The Blaze’s offense countered with a touchdown of their own, now making the score 72-54.
The Rattler offense took some time off the clock with a nice drive which was capped off by an Odie Armstrong touchdown run. Being down by 25 points late in the second half, Tommy Grady could only pad his stats on the Blaze’s offensive possessions. Utah added a touchdown and a two point conversion, now making the score 79-62. The final scoring of the night for Arizona would be Maurice Purify’s seventh touchdown reception. The touchdown had record setting ramifications for both Purify for Nick Davila. Purify tied the AFL record with seven touchdown receptions in a single game while Davila also tied a single-game AFL record, his being ten touchdown passes.
The Blaze wrapped up their night with a final touchdown and two point conversion by their offense, making the score 86-70. With the offense getting the ball back with a little time left, their victory was already in the books. They kept the ball on the ground to run the clock until a fourth down incompletion gave the ball back to Utah. Two Tommy Grady incompletions later, the Arizona Rattlers improved their record to 7-3 with an 86-70 victory.
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