Rattlers destroy Soul, set sights on top seed
PHOENIX -- A 33-point second quarter lifted the Arizona Rattlers past the Philadelphia Soul 80-63 at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
This win put the Rattlers in position to control their own destiny in their quest to earn the No. 1 seed, and with it, host ArenaBowl XXIX.
"We control our own destiny, there is no doubt about it," Rattlers coach Kevin Guy said. "That's what we wanted to get out of it. We'll play an improving L.A. team next week."
Arizona scored on all phases of the game, returning two interceptions for touchdowns, as well as scoring twice on special teams.
"I thought the defense took the game over, offensively we were keeping our foot on the gas pedal. (Jeremy Kellem) had a pick six; (Arkieth Brown) had a pick six. We got a ball off the net, (Dan) Buckner recovered one and ran it in for a touchdown."
Defensive back Jeremy Kellem had a strong performance in only his second start of the season. He led the team with 9 tackles, had one pass breakup, and returned his interception 26-yards for the score.
"It felt like I'm finally settling into last year's form" Kellem said.
Former Arizona Wildcat wide receiver Dan Buckner had a very strong game as well. Not only did he recover a bar ball on the kickoff for six, he also pulled in an interception late in the fourth to help the Rattlers close out the game.
Rattlers quarterback Nick Davila completed 17 of his 27 passes for 201 yards and seven touchdowns, four of which to wide receiver Chase Deadder.
"I thought Deadder had a real nice game," Guy said. "He came out and made some big plays for us. Stuff that we thought was going to be there was there. When we got those three on the field we feel pretty strong about how we match up with other teams, we're a big physical team."
Philadelphia came into the Snake Pit boasting the number one scoring defense. The Rattlers, however, were not deterred, and dropped 80 points on them, the most points scored against the Soul in team history.
"That is the standard that coach Guy wants," Davila said. "That's the standard that I want for myself and for our offense."
The two teams went back and forth in scoring in the first quarter. The Soul started quick, with wide receiver Chris Duvalt returning the opening kickoff for the score. Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh threw two more touchdown passes, both to wide receiver Darius Reynolds.
The Rattlers (9-3) responded to each score, twice with touchdown tosses from Davila to wide receiver Chase Deadder, and a 1-yard touchdown run by fullback Mykel Benson. The Rattlers missed one point after, giving the Soul a one-point lead, 21-20 by the end of the quarter.
The Rattlers took full control of the game in the second quarter. After the Soul (9-3) scored with a one yard rush from fullback Jeramie Richardson, the Rattlers scored four straight touchdowns. Arizona started with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Davila to Deadder.
On the ensuing kickoff, the ball came off the net bar, and was recovered by wide receiver Dan Buckner, who returned it for a score. Three plays later, defensive back Jeremy Kellem intercepted the ball thrown from Raudabaugh and ran back 26-yards for the score. The Soul's next possession ended with another interception thrown by Raudabaugh, this time by defensive back Arkeith Brown, and was returned 21-yards for the touchdown.
Philadelphia would finally get back on the board with 48 seconds left in the half with a 3-yard pass from Raudabaugh to wide receiver Ryan McDaniel. The Soul attempted an onside kick, which was returned by wide receiver Maurice Purify for the final score of the half. The second quarter ended with the Rattlers up 53-35.