Phoenix, Ariz. – The five-time World Champion Arizona Rattlers (11-3) clinched the National Conference title with a win over the Jacksonville Sharks (5-8) by a score of 69-67 at the Talking Stick Resort Arena, in front of 11,874 fans.
The Rattlers had already clinched the National Conference title just prior to taking the field, when the Cleveland Gladiators (7-7) lost to the Philadelphia Soul (11-3) earlier in the day. Arizona’s win was significant, however, since it sets up a battle for the first seed next weekend against the league leading Orlando Predators (11-2).
This win has personal significance to general manager and head coach Kevin Guy. He now has 115 wins in his AFL career, which ties him with Mike Dailey for fifth all-time in wins.
The game was a seesaw battle throughout the entire second half of the game. A missed extra point by Jacksonville’s kicker Lindsey Wolfe late in the fourth and a missed two-point conversion proved to be the difference.
“It was a battle and we found a way to win,” said Guy. “In the end we made enough plays to win it, we got that turnover early in the first half and had a lead, and then we turned the ball over and made it get back into a back and forth game. It was one stop a piece and that two point play was another stop that won us the game.”
Wide Receiver Rod Windsor had a huge night offensively, hauling in six touchdown receptions and 108 yards. He was named the Under Armour Offensive Player of the Game. Even though he had a big game statistically, it was just enough to get the win.
“Coach said all week that we had to have a game where we scored on every drive,” said Windsor. “We only got stopped once today, one too many, but it was just enough to win the game.”
Quarterback Nick Davila also had a big night, completing 25 of 34 passes for nine touchdowns. He did throw one interception.
The Rattlers started the game off with a seven-yard screen pass from Davila to fullback Mykel Benson for the score. The Sharks responded with a 17-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tommy Grady to wide receiver Anthony Jones. The point after by Lindsey Wolfe was missed.
Arizona scored again on their second possession from a 35-yard touchdown pass from Davila to Windsor.
On Jacksonville’s next possession, Grady fumbled the ball on a sack by defensive end Rodney Fritz. The ball was scooped up by Rattlers’ defensive end Dimetrio Tyson, which was the AFL Highlight of the Game. The quarter ended with the Rattlers leading 14-6.
The Rattlers took advantage of the extra possession early in the second with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Davila to Windsor. The Sharks returned the favor with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Grady to wide receiver Joe Hills. Davila, on Arizona’s next possession, was intercepted by defensive back Alvin Ray Jackson. The Sharks would drive the length of the field and score on a six-yard touchdown pass from Grady to wide receiver Reggie Gray.
After the one-minute warning, Jacksonville and Arizona traded punches, both scoring twice to end the half. Both of Grady’s touchdown passes were to Hills. Davila’s first touchdown pass was to Purify, his second to Windsor as time expired, which was the Cutters Catch of the Game. The half ended with the Rattlers leading 41-34.
“That was a big situation for us and we practice those all the time,” Davila said. ”We wanted to get down there to get one last shot at the end zone and Rod did an excellent job of reaching out and making the play and coach has preached that the whole time I’ve been here, situation football is huge.”
Both teams continued to alternate scoring throughout the second half. In the third quarter, Sharks quarterback Grady threw two touchdown passes, the first, a nine-yard pass to Gray, the other, a 13-yard pass to wide receiver Andrew Robustelli. For the Rattlers, Davila threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Windsor, and Benson ran the other one in on a two-yard score.
The fourth quarter began with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Grady to Hills. The PAT, however, was missed, which was the turning point of the game.
Davila threw two more touchdowns to Windsor. Grady threw two more touchdowns, one to Jones, the other to Hills. The two point conversion attempted by Grady flew in the stands and the game ended, 69-67 Arizona.
The Rattlers will attempt to earn the top seed in the playoffs on Monday, July 18th, when they face the Predators, at the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. The Predators extended their win streak with a victory over the Portland Steel on Saturday. The game will be nationally televised on Univision Deportes, or streamed online on ESPN3.com or the WatchESPN app on a tablet, smartphone or streaming device.
|Score by Quarters||1||2||3||4||Score|
Under Armour Offensive Player of the Game: Rod Windsor (AZ)
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game: Damien Borel (AZ)
J.Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game: Maurice Purify (AZ)
Cutters Catch of the Game: Rod Windsor (AZ) dives for last second TD end of 2Q
AFL Highlight of the Game: Rodney Fritz (AZ) Sack on Grady, recovered by Dimetrio Tyson
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.
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