– Coming into this weekend’s game, the Arizona Rattlers wanted to set the tone for the home stretch of the season. With a division title in their sight and home-field advantage in the playoffs still very much a possibility, the Rattlers looked to stay on pace for the National Conference Western Division title. To do so, they’d have to go through the Spokane Shock in their own house. Reigning league MVP Nick Davila would look to take advantage of the AFL’s worst ranked pass defense.
The Rattlers special teams unit made sure the team started off hot by returning the games opening kickoff 34 yards to midfield. Three plays later, Davila opened up the game’s scoring by finding Trandon Harvey for a 25-yard touchdown to make it a 7-0 game. After the Shock countered with their own kickoff return to midfield, four plays led to quarterback Kyle Rowley finding Adron Tennell for a five yard touchdown, evening up the score at seven a piece. That’s the last the Shock offense would be heard from for quite a while.
The Rattlers started their next drive at their own 5 yard line but found the end zone again after a six play drive. This time it was Davila hooking up with Markee White for 4 yards, giving the Rattlers a 14-7 edge. The team wouldn’t look back from there. On the Shock’s ensuing drive, Arkeith Brown intercepted an end zone pass by Rowley and returned it 56 yards for another Rattler touchdown. A missed extra point put the Rattlers up 20-7 but the defense decided that wasn’t enough.
Kevin McCullough celebrated his birthday by making a one-handed, acrobatic interception and putting the team in great field position. The offense capitalized after one play with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Davila to Kerry Reed. Replacement kicker Craig Ratanamorn missed his second extra point on the night but the team still took a huge 26-7 lead. But the defense didn’t stop there. On the Shock’s first play of the ensuing drive, Arkeith Brown recorded his second pick of the game.
After Davila led the team to the Shock’s 7-yard line, it looked like Odie Armstrong was taking a handoff from Davila into the end zone. Armstrong fumbled as he got to the 1-yard line but fortunately, Kerry Reed was in the right place at the right time, recovering the fumble in the end zone and giving the Rattlers a 33-7 lead. With 37 seconds left in the first half, a methodical drive by the Shock ended with only their second score of the night. After an unsuccessful onside kick by the Shock, the Rattlers ended the first-half scoring fury with a Nick Davila to Jason Geathers touchdown pass, making the score 40-14.
Starting the second half, the Rattlers defense again made sure they’d be the story of this game. They forced the Shock offense into a turnover on downs, which ended with the defensive line putting heavy pressure on Rowley and getting a hand on his fourth down pass. Jason Geathers ruled the following offensive drive, recording two catches, and capping it off with a two-yard touchdown run, putting the Rattlers up 47-14.
Kevin McCullough continued the defensive onslaught with his second interception of the night, which led to a 13-yard touchdown run by Odie Armstrong. The team was running away with the game at that point, leading 54-17. But the Shock offense would have a definite say in the final outcome of the game. Kyle Rowley capped two drives with touchdown passes, one to Adron Tennell and the other to Steven Black. The Shock then recovered an onside kick, and one play later, the score was all of a sudden 54-35, courtesy of another Rowley to Black touchdown. The Shock successfully completed another onside kick attempt and with 8:34 left in the game, every bit of moment was in their favor.
Arkeith Brown wouldn’t let his defense go down without him having a say in it. He took things into his own hands by ending the Shock’s drive after one play with his third interception of the game. Nick Davila and the offense took a few minutes off the game clock and finished off the game’s scoring with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Markee White. Marquis Floyd wrapped up the defense’s field day with its sixth interception on the Shock’s next drive.
With the 61-35 victory over the Spokane Shock, the Rattlers improve their season record to 12-3 and will look ahead to next week’s game at home against the Utah Blaze. The Utah contest is set to potentially be the Rattlers division clinching game if Arizona can close the door. A Rattlers victory should secure home field advantage throughout the playoff as the number one seed from the National Conference, giving the franchise their second straight divisional championship!