PHOENIX — The Arizona Rattlers came up with the big plays when they needed them Saturday night, outlasting the Pittsburgh Power 73-69 in front of 8,179 fans on Ak-Chin Field at US Airways Center.
Arizona quarterback Nick Davila threw nine touchdown passes – three apiece to his receiving corps of Maurice Purify, Rod Windsor and Tysson Poots. The Rattlers (5-0) needed every one of them, including the last two to Windsor and Poots in the fourth quarter to pull the plug on the Power (3-2), who came to the Valley on a three-game winning streak.
The Rattlers now have won nine straight games dating back to July 27, an 84-45 road victory over the Iowa Barnstormers. It is the third-longest winning streak in the 22-year history of the franchise. Arizona is 33-5 at home since 2011.
Davila has passed for seven or more touchdowns in each game this season. The last time he threw nine was July 6 in an 84-56 victory over the Orlando Predators. "The Latin Laser" already has 38 scoring passes, giving him 473 for his career and leaving him only 22 shy of passing Tony Graziani (494) for ninth place on the Arena Football League’s career passing touchdowns list.
Davila finished 24 of 31 for 325 yards. He was not intercepted. Purify finished with seven catches for 123 yards, while Windsor had eight for 81 yards. Poots caught eight balls for 97 yards, including a dazzling 15-yard touchdown grab that sent him and defensive back Virgil Gray crashing over the dasher boards.
Poots now has caught at least one touchdown pass in 11 consecutive games. He had two last week in Arizona’s 57-51 win at San Jose.
But the best wide receiver on the field was Pittsburgh’s Aaron Lesue, who set a franchise single-game record with six touchdown catches to go with his 15 receptions (four short of tying the single-game record) and 168 yards (27 shy of tying the single-game mark).
Arizona and Pittsburgh combined for 89 points in the first half, as Davila and Pittsburgh quarterback Tommy Grady both threw five touchdown passes. Davila could hardly miss, throwing only two incomplete passes against the AFL’s top-ranked scoring defense. Lesue had 10 catches for 130 yards and two scores heading into the locker room.
Arizona defensive back Arkeith Brown returned a kickoff 54 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter — as did Gray, also in the second quarter. Gray, who had played for the Rattlers the last three seasons, did not have an interception against his old team. That ended the All-Arena player’s streak of having at least one interception in eight straight games, including three last week against the New Orleans VooDoo. He has six picks on the season.
It looked early like the Rattlers would cruise, taking their biggest leads of 34-14 and 41-21 in the second quarter before the Power surged for 35 points to close out the first half trailing only 47-42. Lesue gave Pittsburgh its first lead of the game when he caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Grady on the opening drive of the third quarter. Grady finished 26 of 44 for 339 yards and nine touchdowns.
From there, the Rattlers and Power traded leads the rest of the way. Arizona scored on every possession. Pittsburgh was stopped on all but three of its turns with the ball, twice on plays by defensive back Jeremy Kellem, and once on a sack by defensive lineman Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, a rookie who was making his first start in place of Anttaj Hawthorne.