Defense Carries Arizona To 5th Straight Conference Championship
PHOENIX, AZ – In front of 10,322 loud fans, the Arizona Rattlers had a strong 2nd half to put away the Spokane Shock 72 to 41 to advance to the Conference championship.
Arizona got the ball to start the game, and Nick Davila (26 of 43 attempts for 315 yards and 8 touchdowns) started off the game by rushing multiple passes and in turn overthrew receivers. Davila ended up fumbling the ball on 4th down, and Chase Deadder recovered the ball, but it wasn’t enough for a 1st down. With a little over half the field to work with, Spokane’s Arvell Nelson (18 of 42 attempts for 256 yards, with 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions) found Deveric Gallington for a 34 yard touchdown (Gallington’s only catch and touchdown for the evening). Upon Arizona’s Offense returning to the field, Davila found Chase Deadder (9 catches for 121 yards and 3 touchdowns) for an 11 yard pass, but that was the only catch of the drive as Arizona turned the ball over on downs. Spokane responded with a quick 2 play drive with Nelson finding Nick Truesdell (4 catches for 59 yards and 2 touchdowns) for paydirt. When Arizona’s offense was on the field for their 3rd drive, Davila started to click and spread the ball around to Kerry Reed (6 catches for 65 yards and 1 touchdown) once, Rod Windsor (9 catches for 112 yards and 4 touchdowns) once, and Deadder twice (one for 22 yards, and the touchdown being a 6 yard pass).
Arizona’s Defense amped up their pressure on Nelson starting in the 2nd Quarter. Upon the 1st play of the quarter, Nelson came under pressure and attempted to throw the ball away and the referee called Intentional Grounding on the throw, thus giving Arizona a safety and a kickoff. Arizona used the kickoff to their advantage with a 1 play drive that had Davila call an audible at the line of scrimmage and find Deadder open for a touchdown. Spokane’s Nelson started to spread the passes around, finding Jabin Sambrano (8 catches for 131 yards and 1 touchdown) once, Anthony Amos (2 catches for 3 yards) once, and Truesdell once for a 25 yard strike.
Upon Arizona’s next possession, Davila drove Arizona down the field and found Windsor for a touchdown pass. When Spokane got the ball back, Nelson had 2 complete passes (one to Truesdell and the other to Sambrano) and Spokane also had Roy Nixon and Bryson Kelly between the passes run for short gains before Nelson ran the ball in himself for a rushing touchdown. Arizona ran the clock down from the 1 minute warning to 19 seconds when Davila found Reed in the endzone for a touchdown. Spokane attempted to respond to the score, but Jeremy Kellem made his presence felt by intercepting the ball in the endzone for a touchback. Arizona ran the clock out by Davila passing the ball to Mykel Benson who gained 5 yards.
Spokane received the ball to start the 2nd half, and drove down the field a bit with Nelson finding Sambrano and also having Arizona be offsides once, but the drive stalled at the Arizona 15. Davila responded passing the ball to Winsdor, handing the ball off to Benson, and finding Deadder for another touchdown. Spokane responded with a short drive of their own, with Nelson passing the ball to Sambrano for a 39 yard gain, then passing the ball to Braylon Bell (3 catches for 29 yards and 1 touchdown) for his only touchdown of the night. The game was then at Arizona’s pace, which is track meet fast. Davila found Reed for a 17 yard catch, then followed up with a 22 yard touchdown catch. Nelson then drove Spokane down the field, finding Bell and Truesdell for short gains, but Ben Wells intercepted his 1st pass of the season and ran the ball back to the Spokane 1. Davila responded with a 1 play pass to Windsor for a touchdown.
Spokane shot back with a 2 play drive by Nelson passing the ball to Bell for a 19 yard gain, and Sambrano for a 11 yard touchdown, but Spokane went for a 2 point attempt and failed at the conversion. Upon the Arizona kickoff return, Reed returned the ball 36 yards into Spokane territory, then Davila passed the ball to Reed on the 1st play of the drive for 13 more yards. Benson rushed for 4 more yards and Davila found Windsor in the endzone.
Spokane’s next drive was Nelson throwing 4 incomplete passes and gave Arizona the ball at the Spokane 5 yard line. Davila handed the ball of to Benson who rushed for 5 yards for a touchdown. Spokane made progress on their next drive, with Nelson finding Sambrano twice and rushing once, but the Arizona pressure ended up casing Nelson to throw the ball away on 4th down.
On Arizona’s next possession, the game got very physical. Davila found Windsor for a short gain and Benson rushed for more than enough yards for a 1st down. After the 1 minute warning Davila threw an incomplete pass. On the next play, Ruschard Dodd-Masters of Spokane was covering Quintin Sims of Arizona and Dodd-Masters broke up the play. Dodd-Masters got into Sims’ face and hit Sims with his helmet, which got Dodd-Masters a 10 yard Personal Foul flag.
Spokane called a time out to regroup and Arizona ended up stalling at the Spokane 18, where tempers flared up again, with Dodd-Masters getting a flag which was declined and also Terrance Taylor getting a flag plus being ejected from the game. Spokane ended up getting the ball at their 1 due to the flag and Nelson proceeded to throw four more incomplete passes.
Arizona regained control of the ball with 9 seconds left and had Benson run it in for his 2nd touchdown of the night. Arizona’s kicker Alex Zendejas kicked the ball to Spokane’s Anthon Amos who ran 26 yards with it, and time expired as he was tackled. Arizona faces San Jose in the Conference Finals in Stockton, CA due to the circus being at the SAP Center where San Jose usually plays.
Offensive Player of the Game: Chase Deadder (Arizona)
Defensive Player of the Game: Jeremy Kellem (AZ)
Playmaker of the Game: Kerry Reed (AZ)
Catch of the Game: Rod Windsor 22 yard catch for a touchdown in the 3rd Quarter (AZ)
Highlight of the Game: Ben Wells Interception in the 3rd Quarter (AZ)