PHOENIX — The Arizona Rattlers got back on the winning track Sunday, putting back-to-back losses for the first time since July 2012 behind them by defeating the Portland Thunder 65-55 in front of a season-high crowd of 13,120 at Ak-Chin Indian Community Field at US Airways Center.
In sweeping the three-game, regular-season series with the first-year franchise, Arizona wrapped up the home portion of its schedule undefeated (9-0) for the first time in the 22-year history of the franchise.
The Rattlers close out the regular season at 4:30 p.m. Saturday against the Orlando Predators.
Arizona (15-2) and Portland (5-12) will meet again Aug. 3 in the first round of the National Conference playoffs at US Airways Center. Kickoff will be 3 p.m. on Ak-Chin Indian Community Field, where the Rattlers are 38-5 (including playoffs) since 2011.
Arizona trailed only once, falling behind 26-24 when quarterback Kyle Rowley connected with wide receiver Jamar Howard on a 32-yard touchdown pass on Portland’s first drive of the second half. The Rattlers came right back two plays later and took the lead for good when quarterback Nick Davila threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Rod Windsor, who led all receivers with 171 yards and four touchdowns.
The Thunder turned over the ball on downs on their next possession, which led to another Davila-to-Windsor scoring play, this time a 47-yard bomb down the left sideline that gave the Rattlers a 37-26 lead. Arizona quickly made it 44-26 when defensive back Allen Chapman stepped in front of a Rowley pass on the first play of Portland’s ensuing drive and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown for the AFL Highlight of the Game.
Arizona never would look back, taking 18-points leads late in the third quarter and again in the closing moments of the fourth quarter. Portland provided the final scoring when backup quarterback Darron Thomas connected with wide receiver Douglas McNeil III as time expired.
Windsor not only was the Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game, but he had the Cutters Catch of the Game when he made a spectacular 23-yard touchdown catch, fell over the wall and tumbled into Portland’s bench. Other media award winners included defensive back Arkeith Brown, the J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game (8.5 tackles, three pass breakups) and defensive back Jeremy Kellem, who was the Riddell Defensive Player of the Game (2.5 tackles, four pass breakups).
Davila also made some history when completed a 12-yard pass to wide receiver Tysson Poots early in the second quarter to move into 10th place on the Arena Football League’s passing yards career list. Davila has thrown for 4,464 total yards this season, bringing his career total to 24,585.
The fifth-year player also threw for seven touchdowns against Portland, giving him 121 on the season and a new single-season franchise record. He threw for 117 touchdowns in 2011.