The Arizona Rattlers are looking to fill a huge void in the AFL. They feel they can be the team to beat in the National Conference in 2016. And why not? Their toughest opponent, San Jose, ceased all operations following the 2015 season and is no longer in the league. The Sabercats absolutely dominated 2015 going 17-1 in the regular season, and 3-0 in the postseason on their way to an ArenaBowl XXVIII Championship. It was their 4th in franchise history, and the best overall AFL season ever in terms of number of wins (20). Arizona would seem to have a relatively clear path to ArenaBowl XXIX without that kind of headache in their way. Crushing LA 69-28 on Saturday night, Arizona let the rest of the league know who the new National Conference bully is going to be this season.
Los Angeles came in to Saturday’s game against Arizona at 1-0 on the strength of an impressive 64-39 home win vs Jacksonville last week. The Sharks were in the ArenaBowl last season, and LA didn’t even get their first win until week 10. Arizona was one score away from the ArenaBowl last season, and thumped Portland last week 80-28. Something had to give this week, and it was LA’s defense that cracked.
The Rattlers got the scoring started on the opening drive as Nick Davila hit Rod Windsor for a 4 yard TD. LA had a chance to tie it up early, but OL, Travis Bond dropped a wide open screen on 4th down that could have gone for six. Arizona scored just 2 minutes later when big Mykel Benson rumbled in for his first of three TD’s. LA would answer with an 8 yard Donovan Morgan TD reception.
The 1st half was an offensive display as both teams traded touchdowns. LA drew within one score as the 1st half drew to a close, but Davila again found Windsor in the endzone with only 9 seconds remaining to put Arizona up 35-21 at the half.
Nick Davila (20-26, 193yds, 5 TD’s) was in complete control of his offense from the opening kick. Not that it was easy, but having the luxury of throwing to Rod Windsor does help things quite a bit. Windsor finished with 13 receptions for 151 yards and 4 TD’s, while hauling in 65% of Davila’s completions.
The only KISS score of the 2nd half came on an 8 yard Nathan Stanley pass. Stanley finished with 3 TD’s, but also had 3 interceptions. The score cut the Rattlers lead to 41-28, but Anthony Amos took the ensuing (short) kickoff 54 yards for another Arizona TD. From there, the Rattlers just pounded LA into submission. Passing touchdowns gave way to punishing Mykel Benson rushing touchdowns, as he accounted for the next two Arizona scores. Benson finished the game with 3 TD’s on just 9 carries.
LA was 1-0 and looking to prove that they are a contender in the National Conference after a 4-14 season that was best remembered for being the 1 in the Sabercats 17-1 record. They still have a lot of work to do
Arizona was 3 points away from an ArenaBowl appearance, and the only thing that stopped them (SJ) is gone. They seem to be on a mission this season, and have all three phases of their team firing at a high level.
Los Angeles (1-1) will get their first road test of the season next week as they head to Cleveland to face the Gladiators. Arizona will open their home schedule against the Tampa Bay Storm.