Phoenix, Ariz. – The World Champion Arizona Rattlers (15-4) moved on to the National Conference Championship game Saturday night when they defeated the Spokane Shock (7-12) at the US Airways Center by a score of 72-41 in front of 10,322 fans.
The Arizona Rattlers made their fans a bit nervous on Saturday night, when they fell down early in the first quarter by 14. However, a safety on the first play in the second quarter turned the game around.
“Traditionally we always kind of start slow in the first round,” head coach and general manager 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. ”
For the second straight week, the Rattlers were perfect on special teams. Rattlers signed kicker Alex Zendejas last week after kicker Fabrizio Scaccia went on injured reserve. Since being signed, he has not missed an extra point.
“Alex has been great for us, not only in his extra points, but his kickoffs have been outstanding,” Guy said. “I have been very happy with him. I think the sky’s the limit with him.”
The Rattlers started slow. Arizona’s first two drives ended with turnovers on downs. Spokane 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 six yard touchdown pass from Davila to wide receiver Chase Deadder with a minute to go in the first. Deadder finished the game with 3 touchdowns and 121 yards, and was the Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game.
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,” said Guy. “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, who earned the J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game award.
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 2 pass breakups to go along with the interception. His efforts earned him the Riddell Defensive Player of the Game award.
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 first of which was a 22 yard catch that was the Cutters Catch of the Game.
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.
The Rattlers’ will travel to Stockton, California to face the San Jose SaberCats in the National Conference championship. The game will take place at the Stockton Arena. The Rattlers faced the SaberCats in the National Conference championship last season as well, defeating them by a score of 72-56. Arizona will try to do it again in Stockton next Saturday, August 22nd at 5:00 pm PDT. The game will be nationally televised on ESPNews, and will also be streamed online at ESPN3.com or on the WatchESPN app on a tablet or smartphone.