Rattlers advance to Arena Bowl XXV with a 75-69 Victory over the Blaze
Fans were up on their feet cheering with 2 seconds left in the game, with the Arizona Rattlers leading the Utah Blaze 75-69. With the Blaze on the Rattlers 19 yard line and 2 seconds left, there was a flashback of last years arena bowl loss to the Jacksonville Sharks. Would the Blaze throw the ball for a TD and kick the extra point for a last second win? Blaze quarterback Tommy Grady, who broke nearly every single-season passing record, and led the AFL in nine statistical categories took the snap, throwing at the net in the end zone, hoping for a bounce, and a miracle catch that did not happen. The Rattler fans exploded with relief and excitement, as the Rattlers beat the Blaze 75-69 this past Saturday night at US Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona.
The Rattlers led through most of the first half, until the Blaze took the lead with 1:03 remaining in the second quarter 35-33, and didn’t relinquish the lead until 9 second left in the game.
Arkeith Brown continued his outstanding play, with two picks on the night. Virgil Gray went down with a knee injury early in the second quarter. Cliff Dukes showed why he was the 2011 Defensive Lineman of the Year in the AFL, as he blocked or tipped 4 Grady passes, and kept the pressure up all night on the Blaze quarterback.
What was surprising for the Rattlers is that Maurice Purify did not have a reception in the first half. Purify who was named first team all arena honors for 2012 a few days before the game, came back in the second half with 9 receptions, 142 yards and 5 TD’s. Nick Davila, who was named second team all arena honors for 2012 showed why he was the MVP for 2011. A quiet first half for Davila, who was 6 for 11, with 98 yards and 2 TD’s, came back in the second half, and completed 15 out of 18 passes for 233 yards with 6 TD’s. A simply outstanding game for Davila, who is clearly the leader of this team.
The Rattlers had four turnovers in the game including an interception, three fumbles (two of those were on onside kicks.) The interception was on a trick play in which Davila tossed it to Purify, who then attempted a pass resulting in an interception by Utah. A team that has 4 turnovers usually will lose the game, however the Rattlers are a team of destiny, and once again played through adversity to find a way to win.
With the Rattlers trailing 69-67, the highlight of the game came with 35 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, when Kevin McCullough intercepted a Grady pass in the Rattlers end zone. This lead to the winning drive, as the Rattlers drove down the field to score with 9 seconds left. The rest is history as the Rattlers will go to their second consecutive arena bowl and take on the Philadelphia Soul in New Orleans on August 10th.