The 2015 season did not end the way the Rattlers had hoped. One controversial call at the end of the Western Conference Championship game in Stockton sent Arizona home early. The Rattlers will look to the 2016 season to get back on track. First up, the Portland Steel.
The Rattlers once again return a veteran group of players. On offense, quarterback Nick Davila will start his 7th season with the five time defending champs. With him returns an incredibly deep wide receiving corps, consisting of Rod Windsor, a perennial All-Arena player, four time ArenaBowl champion Maurice Purify, Arizona’s own iron-man Kerry Reed, and the hard hitting Chase Deadder.
Last season, the Rattlers solidified their running game with the hard nosed fullback Mykel Benson. Last season, Benson rushed for 286 yards, which is second best all time in a Rattlers jersey. The fullback will look to one up his 2015 season this year.
On defense Tyre Glasper, the Rattlers all-time leader in sacks, returns after having the best season of his career. Nose tackle Anttaj Hawthorne also returns for another shot at the title.
The backfield has been shaken up a bit with Marquis Floyd and Jeremy Kellem not returning, however, defensive back Arkeith Brown will try to pick up where Kellem left off. The Rattlers also brought back defensive back Allen Chapman, who was an integral part of the 2014 championship run.
Despite having a strong core, the Rattlers did not stay quiet in the offseason. Arizona picked up the speedy wide receiver Mike Washington, which will add a new dimension to an already deep wide receiving corps. They also added former All-Arena defensive end Luis Vasquez. The Rattlers also traded for the stalwart offensive lineman Jordan Mudge.
Arizona also acquired several intriguing rookies. Defensive back Jimmy Legree showed a lot of promise with the National Football League’s Arizona Cardinals, and now he looks to learn the indoor game. Offensive linemen Hayworth Hicks and Lamar Mady will also look to crack the starting lineup this season.
The Rattlers 2016 campaign begins on Friday against the Portland Steel. The Steel (formally the Thunder) is being led by the 2012 head coach of the year Ron James. The Steel hope to start strong in front of their home crowd. The team is led by veteran quarterback Danny Southwick.
Despite the fact that the Rattlers have never lost to Portland (7-0 all-time), this team is significantly upgraded from last year, and will definitely prove to be a tough first opponent for Arizona.
The game will be held on Friday, April 1st, at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. The game starts at 7:00 pm and will be nationally televised on CBS Sports network.