ORLANDO, Fla. — The Arena Football League’s annual Arena Bowl has a very familiar feel to it this year.
The Arizona Rattlers and Philadelphia Soul meet Saturday for the second straight year in the league’s annual championship game. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. at Orlando’s Amway Center.
It is the first time in Arena Bowl history two teams have played in the championship game in consecutive years. Coincidentally, that also only happened once in the NFL when the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills faced off in the 1993 and 1994 Super Bowls.
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The Rattlers (17-3) routed the Soul (14-6) 72-54 last year and won both regular season matchups — a 66-52 decision in the March 23 season opener and a 64-57 victory on June 1 in which the Rattlers erased a 15-point deficit.
Philadelphia has been streaking since then, going 9-1 since that loss. But Arizona is still fresh in the mind of the Soul.
“They’ve owned us,” said Philadelphia head coach Clint Dolezel of Arizona. “We’re going to have to find a way to win, but it starts with everyone doing their jobs and keeping the mistakes to a minimum.”
Arizona coach Kevin Guy shrugged off Dolezel’s humble words toward his team.
“Don’t buy that `own’ thing for a minute,” said Guy, whose team is making its third championship appearance and is vying for its fourth Arena championship. “Philadelphia’s a great team that’s prepared hard to be here and it’s very difficult to come back to a championship game. It’s a matter of who is the best team on Saturday.”
The Rattlers are led by quarterback Nick Davila, who has completed 398 of 620 passes for 5,374 yards and 125 touchdowns. Arizona led the league in scoring (66.8 points per game) during the regular season. Defensive back Virgil Gray’s 15 interceptions helped the Rattlers lead the league in turnover margin, getting 1.83 per game more than their opponents.
Davilla’s counterpart with the Soul, Dan Raudabaugh, completed 432 of 634 passes for 5,224 yards and 110 touchdowns. He threw for a season-high eight touchdowns in the semifinals against Jacksonville. He threw two each to four different receivers, including Tiger Jones, who caught 161 passes for 2,246 yards and 39 touchdowns and became the first arena player to reach the 2,000-yard mark in receiving three straight seasons.
Derrick Ross leads the running attack with 175 rushes for 577 yards, with 39 touchdowns. Ross, a fullback, became the league’s all-time rushing leader earlier this season and his 15 touches per game is a relatively anomaly in a version of football where the running back is primarily either a fourth receiver or blocker.
The game also has a little extra buzz after the announcement Thursday that the league is returning to the Los Angeles area with a new expansion team named after the rock band Kiss. Rockers Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora were original owners of the Soul
The CBS telecast of the game will also include a halftime show with Kiss.