– This game had a little of everything. There were fumbles, interceptions, safeties, blocked kicks, as well as a dramatic last minute drive for the win in the rattlers 57-53 win over the Spokane Shock. The Rattlers started out like they were playing a scrimmage. They were in the plays, but their heart didn’t seem to be in it. “We didn’t come out ready to play mentally and I ripped their (expletive) early,” said Coach Kevin Guy, he went on to say “Mentally, we were going through the motions. I could tell in warm-ups and it carried over to the first quarter when we got ourselves in a hole. We’ll look it over on tape. We’ll make adjustments and get it cleaned up.”
In the first half for the Shock, newly acquired Kyle Rowley was having his way with the Rattlers defense, using quick drops and short passes to march down the field and score early. On the other side, Nick Davila, the league’s most efficient passer was having a rough start getting sacked for a safety and throwing two picks (twice his season total to this point,) but Coach Guy felt Davila’s interceptions may have been more a function of the receivers running wrong routes than Nick making bad passes. Then to top off the bad news, DB and run back specialist Virgil Gray was knocked out of the game with an ankle injury at the end of the first quarter. This was really bad news to an already banged up defense that has 2011 leading sack master Cliff Dukes as well as Kevin McCullough, and Da’Mon Merkerson sidelined with injuries. The Rattlers went into the locker room at half time down 32-20, their worst halftime deficit in recent history.
Coach Guy and his team righted the ship with adjustments and came out firing right out of the gate in the second half. Davila hit Maurice Purify for a huge 45 yard gain and the drive was capped off with a 2 yard TD run by Odie Armstrong. The Rattlers quickly cut the halftime deficit and even went ahead until another interception was run back for a touchdown by Spokane.
The defense, for the second week in a row, made huge adjustments and started to put pressure on Rowley. Coach Guy was happy with how the defensive played especially with Anttaj Hawthorne really stepping up in the second half to hold Spokane to only 21 points. In contrast to the first half, Rowley threw two picks and fumbled twice in the second half in response to the Rattlers resurgent defense. The Rattlers coaching staff had to make some defensive changes because of injuries and the Rattlers also lost defensive lineman and long-snapper Jabari Fletcher, who was ejected in the second half. They moved Arkeith Brown, just back from IR, to Gray’s spot on safety and he was able to deny some big pass attempts.
Wide receiver Glen Fox stepped into the jack linebacker role and came up with a game changing fumble recovery that started the winning drive. The Spokane was driving down the field and had the ball inside the Rattlers 5 yard line with less than a minute and a half to play. If the Shock scores, the game would most likely be out of reach for the Rattlers. The defense turned up the heat once again and made Rowley cough up the ball at the Rattlers 5 yard line with 1:21 left on the clock. With Coach Guy’s masterful clock management skills and Davila’s cool composure, confidence was high with the Rattlers and everyone in the US Airways arena was on their feet for the entire final drive. Davila sliced the Shock defense apart with precision passes and capped the 45 yard winning drive rifling a ball into the hands of a waiting Kerry Reed in the end zone with only 5 seconds left on the clock. After a 17 yard run back by Spokane, Rowley was left with two seconds and one desperation attempt at the end zone, but Marquis Floyd ended that dream with a leaping interception, his second of the game, to seal the win.
Coach Guy after the game “You come together as a team,” Guy said. “It’s a learning process. This isn’t like last year (when the team was basically injury free for the most part). We’re working on chemistry. We’re playing with nagging injuries.”
Linebacker Tyre Glasper said the players have been good at responding to adversity. “When the bell rings, you’ve got to answer the bell,” he said. “That’s what we did. Everybody had to step up.” He went on to say “We were down but we didn’t get down on ourselves, we had guys moving around, new guys put in there, and everybody pulled through. Glen had a key fumble recovery. He did a great job.”
Next week the team travels to Iowa to take on the Barnstormers on Saturday April 14 at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
About the Arizona Rattlers
The Arizona Rattlers are a proud member of the Arena Football League (AFL). Season tickets are on sale now and start at just $10. For ticket specials and information please call (602) 514-TDTD (8383) or online at www.azrattlers.com.
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