Rattlers start slow, cruise into conference final
PHOENIX -- The Arizona Rattlers fell behind by 14 in the first quarter but rallied and moved on to the National Conference championship game with a 72-41 victory over the Spokane Shock on Saturday night.
A safety on the first play in the second quarter turned the game around and the Rattlers eased out of the opening round in front of 10,322 fans at US Airways Center.
"Traditionally we always kind of start slow in the first round," head coach Kevin Guy said. "I was proud of the guys to find a way to overcome it. We were down 14 to nothing. I thought we showed some impressive resilience. "
The Rattlers (15-4) will face the SaberCats in the National Conference championship next week at the Stockton Arena. The Rattlers faced the SaberCats in the National Conference championship last season as well and won 72-56 on their way to a third straight Arena Football League title.
Arizona's first two drives against Spokane ended with turnovers on downs. Spokane (7-12) capitalized by scoring two quick touchdowns. The first was a 34-yard pass from quarterback Arvell Nelson to fullback Deveric Gallington. The second was an 11-yard pass from Nelson to wide receiver Nick Truesdell. The Rattlers were able to finally get on the board with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Davila to wide receiver Chase Deadder with a minute to go in the first. Deadder finished the game with three touchdowns and 121 yards.
The second quarter belonged to the Rattlers. The first play in the second quarter, defensive end Cliff Dukes got to Nelson in the end zone forcing him to throw the ball away, which was ruled intentional grounding and a safety.
"That safety for us was huge," Guy said. "I thought our guys up front did a great job and our guys in the back did a great job."
The Rattlers scored on the ensuing possession with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Davila to Deadder. The Rattlers and Shock traded blows for the rest of the half, with Arizona ending the half with an 11 yard pass from Davila to wide receiver Kerry Reed.
A late attempt by Spokane to close the gap was foiled by defensive back Jeremy Kellem, who intercepted the ball in his own end zone for a touchback with six seconds left in the half. Kellem finished the game with 4 tackles two pass breakups to go along with the interception.
The Rattlers extended their lead when they forced the Shock to turn the ball over on downs, and turned that into a 14 yard touchdown pass from Davila to Deadder. Spokane scored on the next possession with an 8 yard pass from Nelson to wide receiver Braylon Bell. Arizona answered with two more touchdowns, both from Davila to wide receiver Rod Windsor.
The fourth quarter began with a Spokane touchdown from Nelson to wide receiver Jabin Sambrano. This was the last time the Shock would score, as the Rattlers reached the end zone three more times; one a 4 yard pass from Davila to Windsor, and two rushing touchdowns from fullback Mykel Benson.