Phoenix, Ariz. – Saturday’s match-up features two teams that haven’t faced each other since 2010. The Arizona Rattlers (7-2) will try to get closer to clinch the division, while the Tampa Bay Storm (4-5) is just trying to stay alive in the playoff hunt. The game will be played at the US Airways Center Saturday night at 6:00 PDT, a place where the Storm have not played since 1997. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Arizona Plus and can also be streamed online at ESPN3.com. Here is what to watch for in Saturday’s game:
When Nick Davila went on injured reserve in week 5, the knee-jerk reaction was that the Rattlers would suffer. When BJ Coleman quit after the bye week, the quarterback position looked incredibly unstable. However, quarterback Shane Boyd stepped in last week and didn’t miss a step, and now that Davila has been reactivated off IR, the quarterback position in Arizona looks like it is the strongest it has been.
3rd and 4th Down Conversions
Both Arizona and Tampa Bay’s defenses have been steller on 3rd down, both ranking in the top 3. The Rattlers also have been great on 4th down ranking 3rd overall, but on 4th down, the Storm has been middle of the road, ranking 6th in the league. What really separates the teams, is that Arizona’s 3rd and 4th down offense is also highly rated, while the Storm is in the bottom half of the league. This can prove to be the difference in this weekend’s game.
Game of Halves
The Arizona Rattlers have made a habit of turning on the switch in the second quarter, since 2012 when they won their first of three consecutive ArenaBowl championships. The Rattlers have done their most damage scoring their highest number of points in the second quarter, in every season during their reign. At ArenaBowl XXVII, the Arizona Rattlers used that second quarter surge to score an incredible 30 points in the League’s finale to help capture their fifth championship. So far this season, that second quarter ignition has sparked the Rattlers to a 7-2 start with a total of 158 points scored. The Rattlers’ next best quarter is the first with 122 points.
Tampa Bay on the other hand has started slow this season. They have been outscored in each the first (-29) and the second (-1) quarters. The Storm pick it up in the second half by outscoring their opponents by 24.
The Arizona Rattlers’ defense has been strong this season. This is thanks in part to a couple of players who have taken huge strides from last season.
Defensive back Jeremy Kellem is having a career season. He currently leads the league with 27 passes defended on the year. He has seven interceptions this season, which already surpasses his 2014 total. Kellem also leads the Rattlers in tackles with 66.
Linebacker Tyre Glasper has taken his game to a whole new level. He recorded 5.5 sacks already this season which is a sack and a half more than he had all of last season. Glasper also defended four passes and even had a blocked kick.
Cruzin’ on Kickoff
Last season, Arizona was near the bottom on kickoff returns with an average of 15.6 yards per attempt. However, the Rattlers kickoff return has been a highlight reel since the Rattlers acquired defensive back AJ Cruz in week 2. Since Cruz joined the Rattlers, he has 3 kickoff returns for touchdowns and an average of 24.5 yards per attempt. That is almost an astounding 9 yards per attempt increase from last season.
Red Zone Showdown
The Rattlers have been strong in the red zone this season, ranking 2nd in the AFL on Offense, and have scored on every trip while playing at the Snake-Pit (25-25). The Storm on the other hand, rank 1st overall in the league in red-zone defense, stopping them approximately 1 out of 3 attempts. Whoever wins the red zone showdown will likely win this game. The Rattlers will look to find a hole in the Storm’s stingy defense.
Rattlers head coach and general manager Kevin Guy and Storm head coach Lawrence Samuels go way back. In fact, they were teammates when they played for the West Alabama Tigers back in 1991. Lawrence actually mentored Guy when he first arrived at West Alabama. This will be the first time the two face each other as head coaches.
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