– This meeting between the visiting Utah Blaze and Arizona Rattlers had the makings of a good old western showdown. The Blaze showed up bolstering a team ranked number one in total offense, while the Rattlers sit just two spots below them in third. The shootout in the Snake Pit tonight was reminiscent of the one at the O.K. Corral, except this time it was Rattlers QB Nick Davila (19-35, 316 yds, 4 TD, 2 INT) facing off against Blaze QB Tommy Grady (20-33, 184 yds, 7 TD), and there were 8,381 people to watch it happen.
The first quarter was not exactly what most people were expecting. The touchdowns came from the ground game and special teams. Rattlers RB Odie Armstrong (10 yds, 2 TD) found the end zone twice, and Blaze QB Grady rushed one in as well. The Rattlers then tried to sneak an onside kick by the Blaze, but K Chris Gould’s attempt bounced a little too high, and was returned by LB Antwan Marsh for a TD. It was now Davila’s turn to bring the offense back on the field to make up for the special teams mishap, but instead Blaze DB David Hyland jumped a route and picked off Davila. The Blaze took over inside the Rattlers territory, and the quarter soon came to an end with the Rattlers leading 14-13.
The Blaze had possession to start the second quarter, and then the shootout began. Grady hit WR Tysson Poots (9 Rec, 63 yds, 4 TD) for his first passing TD of the night. Davila quickly answered back with a toss to an unlikely target, LG Sir Vincent Rogers (1 rec, 45 yds, 1 TD), for a 45-yard touchdown. The scoring continued as Grady hit his second target of the night, WR Jeremy Kelley (3 Rec, 47 yds, 2 TD), from 34 yards out. Davila was ready to deliver the Rattlers next blow, but a miscue lead to Blaze DB Will Mulder intercepting the pass at the Rattlers 13 yard line. The Rattlers defense was putting tremendous pressure on Grady, but that didn’t affect him much, as he would find an open WR Aaron LeSue (5 rec, 51 yds, 1 TD) for another score to increase the Utah lead to 34-21. The Rattlers were going to have to do something to stay in this game, and with 39 seconds left in the half Davila dumped it off to OL John Booker for a 1 yard touchdown pass, to cut the lead to 34-28. After another failed onside kick by the Rattlers, Grady found Poots once again as they increased their lead heading into half time, 41-28.
The third quarter was fast, if you blinked you might have missed it. The Blaze and Rattlers combined for a total of three touchdowns; two of those were tossed by Grady. The Rattlers lone touchdown in the third quarter came on a short 3 yard pass from Davila to WR Kerry Reed (5 rec, 77 yds, 1 TD). At the end of the third quarter, the Blaze held a 20-point lead, 55-35.
It was time for the Rattlers to start thinking about how they were going to erase a 20-point lead with just 15 minutes left on the clock. The first thing Davila did was find WR Maurice Purify (7 rec, 130 yds, 1 TD) for a TD to start the comeback attempt. The onside attempt was unsuccessful, and Grady made them pay once again, when he found Poots for his fourth receiving TD of the night. It appeared as if the Rattlers were going to try to pull some fourth quarter heroics after Davila rushed for a TD with just over nine minutes left in the game. Once again the Rattlers failed to recover the onside kick. This time, their defense was able to force a turnover on downs giving the Rattlers another shot to get the deficit within six. On fourth and goal late in the fourth quarter, Davila hit Purify at the 2-yard line, but he would be denied the end zone. The Blaze took over, ran out the clock, and walked away with the win, 62-49. The Rattlers are now 12-4 and still remain in first place in the Western Division. Next week, the team travels to San Antonio to take on the Talons in a game with serious playoff ramifications.