Las Vegas Outlaws press release
LAS VEGAS — The Las Vegas Outlaws (1-1) stunned the three-time defending ArenaBowl champion Arizona Rattlers (1-1), 70-53, to earn the first victory in franchise history Saturday night.
The Outlaws, who entered the game as 19-point underdogs, were buoyed by near-flawless play from quarterback J.J. Raterink, big plays from their veteran defense, and two hair-raising missed field goal returns for touchdowns by Gerald Young that sent the crowd at Thomas & Mack Center into a collective frenzy.
In the first-ever meeting between the new division rivals, Young proved to be the difference-maker. His scintillating gallop as time expired in the first half gave the feisty Outlaws their first lead of the game, 35-34, a lead they would never relinquish.
“[Coach Aaron Garcia] just said before the game, ‘To get to where we want to be … we’re going to have beat the top teams. So we have to beat them because they are where we want to be,'” said Outlaws quarterback J.J. Raterink, who finished the game with five touchdowns and 201 yards passing despite his most explosive playmaker, former Arizona wide receiver Tysson Poots, sitting out the game due to injury.
The Rattlers flexed their fangs early. AJ Cruz, who led the League with 22.5 yards per return last year, danced and darted for 37 yards on the game’s opening kickoff; three plays later, quarterback Nick Davila lobbed a 10-yard touchdown to 6-foot-7 target Markee White.
Mindful they could ill-afford a repeat of the lethargic start they had last week against San Jose, when the team trailed 42-13 at half-time, the Outlaws offense answered immediately. Raterink looked particularly sharp while marching his troops down field, punctuating the drive with an 11-yard scamper for the touchdown.
The Rattlers got on the board again when fullback Mykel Benson rumbled untouched for a 29-yard touchdown run. On the Outlaws next series, Raterink engineered a 45-yard drive that culminated with a ball he threw behind receiver LaDon Hudson, who nevertheless got his finger tips on the ball, bobbled it, and turned it into an eight-yard score. Outlaws defensive back Donovan Henley broke up a potential touchdown pass to Markee White on one play, but got juked later on the same drive when White raced 22 yards into the end zone. Rattlers kicker Jeremy Shelley missed the ensuing extra point, keeping the Rattlers lead at 20-14 with 51 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Down 13 against the League’s most potent offense following another Davila-to-White touchdown, Raterink surgically carved up the Rattlers defense on the next series. The University of Wyoming graduate hooked up with Jomo Wilson for a 20-yarder, then connected with Clint Solomon for 12 yards. A 12-yard touchdown pass to Wilson narrowed the gap to 27-21.
Arizona’s Benson rummaged for another 29-yard run midway through the second quarter and a Davila two-yard lob to Markee White stretched the margin to 34-21.
Gerald Young, a thorn in the Rattlers side throughout the contest, gave the Outlaws splendid field possession with a 23-yard kickoff return. Raterink threw a deep ball to LaDon Hudson that drew pass interference and put the Outlaws in business with an automatic first down. Raterink zipped a perfect 9-yard touchdown to Jomo Wilson that closed the gap to 34-28.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Rattlers tried to retake the lead with another failed 31-yard field goal attempt by rookie kicker Jeremy Shelley that again was returned for a touchdown by Young.
The Rattlers next possession ended with Davila throwing an interception to defensive back Dwight McLean. The Outlaws were able to drive down and score on an eight-yard pass from Raterink toTerrence Campbell.
Arizona was able to score once more with a touchdown pass from Davila to White, but with the failed 2 point conversion and with 2 minutes to go, the game was out of reach.
“Any time you open up a franchise that first win is always huge,” Raterink said. “So this win has a soft spot in my heart.”
Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game: Las Vegas WR Landon Hudson
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game: Las Vegas DE Terrance Carter
J Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game: Las Vegas WR Gerald Young
Cutters Catch of the Game: Arizona WR Markee White touchdown Catch over the boards
AFL Highlight of the Game: Las Vegas WR Gerald Young second missed field goal return for a touchdown