PHOENIX, AZ – In front of 13,192 fans at Talking Stick Arena, the Arizona Rattlers dominated the Portland Steel on all aspects of play in the first round of the Arena Football Playoffs to set a franchise record for most points scored at home with the final score being 84 to 40.
During the week, Alex Zendejas got injured and Arizona signed former San Jose Sabercats kicker Nich Pertuit. Pertuit made an impact with the first kick of the game as the ball hit the framework of the net and Wide Receiver Dan Buckner recovered the ball on the Portland 2 yard line. Portland had a hard time fielding a lot of Pertuit’s kicks due to the kicks hitting the framework most of the game. The next play, Mykel Benson ran the ball in for Arizona’s first points of the game. Pertuit was perfect on PATs for the night, going 12 for 12. On the next kickoff by Pertiut, the ball was recovered by Arness Ikner who returned the kick to midfield. With the ensuing drive, Portland’s Starting Quarterback Shane Austin (21 of 33 for 257 yards with 2 touchdowns and 4 interceptions) found Wide Receiver Rashaad Carter on a quick pass.
The play was ruled dead by the referees, but Arizona’s Coach Guy challenged the ruling on the field that the ball came out of Carter’s hands by Jeremy Kellem punching the ball out before Carter was considered down by contact and it was an Arizona touch back due to the ball being recovered by Dimetrio Tyson in the end zone. The referees reversed the original call and Arizona got the ball at their 5 yard line.
Arizona’s Starting Quarterback Nick Davila (12 of 17 for 209 yards with 6 touchdowns) lead Arizona on a 6 minute drive that concluded with Davila finding Rod Windsor (7 catches for 79 yards and 4 touchdowns) on a short 3 yard pass for a score. Pertuit’s next kick was ruled a touchback and Portland got the ball on their 5 yard line.
On Portland’s next drive, Austin found Nick Truesdell on a short 5 yard pass,but Truesdell got an ankle injury on the play and was ruled doubtful for the rest of the game. Truesdell did get more playing time for Portland. Portland drove down the field and ended up with a third and goal situation as the first quarter ended.
Portland got most of the yards back from a previous flag with Austin finding Tom Gilson or a 13 yard pass that was short of the goal line. Portland then attempted a running play with Bryson Kelly, but Arizona’s Rodney Fritz made Kelly lose a yard and Portland turned the ball over on downs. Arizona quickly capitalized with Davila passing to Anthony Amos (3 catches for 90 yards and 2 touchdowns) who broke a tackle and used momentum of a push for a Portland defender to gain speed for a 47 yard strike.
Portland’s next drive started with touch back from Pertuit’s kick. Austin drove his offense down the field and Kevin Myers scored a rushing touchdown from 1 yard out to put the Steel on the board.
Portland’s kicker Ernesto Lacayo made the follow-up PAT. Arizona started their next drive on their 22 yard line from a decent kick return by Amos from Portland’s Lacayo. The next play had Amos catching Davila’s pass for a 28 yard score. Portland got the ball on the 3 yard line due to Shaine Boyle unable to return Pertuit’s kick for positive yards. Austin lead Portland on a 4 minute drive that ended with him finding former Arizona player Jared Perry for a 12 yard score. Lacayo made the follow-up PAT, and Portland was trailing Arizona 14 to 28. Amos made a short return from the following kickoff, but Arizona got the ball further down the field with Portland’s Bryce Peila being off-sides. Davila made the drive short by finding Maurice Purify (5 catches for 129 yards and 3 touchdowns) for a 18 yard strike.
Portland’s Boyle got a decent return to start Portland on their 11 yard line. Austin pass the ball to Carter for 20 yards and Arizona’s Luis Vasquez tackled Austin after the pass was thrown, so Portland had the ball on Arizona’s 9 yard line. The drive ended with Austin throwing the ball and Arizona’s Arkeith Brown intercepted the ball in the end zone on fourth and goal and brought it out to the Arizona 5 yard line. Arizona forced Portland to use all three of their time-out, and Arizona used one of their own. Davila found Windsor in the end zone with 8 seconds left in the half. Portland started their last drive of the half on their 12 yard line, and Austin’s last pass of the half was intercepted by K.J Morton who ran it 33 yard for an Arizona touchdown. Pertuit made the PAT, and Arizona was firmly in control, leading Portland 49 to 14.
Arizona started the third quarter with the ball and Davila found Purify for a 36 yard score. Portland started their drive on the 9 yard line, but ended quickly as Arizona’s Kellem intercepted Austin’s pass. Davila was pulled for Backup Quarterback Shane Boyd (5 of 10 for 103 yards with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception) and Boyd’s first pass of the game was intercepted by Portland’s Peila who returned the ball 41 yards to score.
Portland attempted an onside kick to get possession back, but Purify batted the ball out of play at the Portland 9. Arizona ended up being pushed back to the Portland 19 due to a pass interference flag, but Boyd hit Windsor with a quick pass for a 19 yard score. Gilson fielded Pertuit’s next kickoff and got tackled on the Portland 6. Austin constructed another 4 minute drive which had Austin find Gilson for a long 31 yard catch which got Portland into Arizona territory. Austin eventually found Carter for a 6 yard touchdown, but Lacayo’s PAT hit the post and was no good. Portland had Lacayo do a pouch kick and Arizona’s Brown dropped back from his position on the onside recovery to smother the ball on the 21 yard line of Arizona.
The drive ended in the fourth quarter with Boyd finding Purify for a 34 yard score. Portland got the ball on their 6 yard line via Gilson’s return. Portland didn’t get too far on the drive before Austin’s pass was complete to Gilson, and Gilson fumbled the ball attempting to score with help from Arizona’s Brown. Brown recovered the ball in the end zone for a touch back. Portland’s Coach Ron James challenged the call and after a short review the refs confirmed the call of the fumble and Arizona got the ball on their 5 yard line. Portland’s Dexter Davis Jr got pressure on Boyd on the first play of Arizona’s drive, but Boyd found Purify for a 26 yard catch, then found Windsor for a 19 yard score. Windsor had one foot in the goal line and one foot out, but the ball hit the orange goal line on the board for the touchdown.
Portland started on their 17 yard line and made it as far as Arizona’s 19 yard line with a short Austin pass to Carter and Arizona’s Morton getting flagged for Pass Interference, but Austin’s last pass of the night was intercepted by Brown and returned 42 yards for another Arizona touchdown. Portland pulled Austin for Back up Quarterback Darron Thomas. Thomas (4 of 6 for 56 yards with 1 touchdown) made an impact with his first drive on the field by helping Portland drive down the field and rush the ball for a 2 yard score. Lacayo missed the follow-up PAT. Arizona started their drive with a touchback under 1 minute left in the game.
Arizona attempted to kill time with a Benson rush, but he got into open field and ended up fumbling the ball at midfield and Portland’s Matt Pierce recovered the fumble he caused. Portland was pushed back 10 yards due to an Unsportsmanlike Conduct flag on Brandon Sesay, but Thomas found Perry for a 35 yard score. Lacayo made the PAT and Portland was down 40 to 84. On the following kickoff, Brown again smothered the hard to field kick off from Lacayo and Boyd ran a small gain rush to keep the clock running and end the game.
Offensive Player of the Game: Nick Davila – Arizona Rattlers
Defensive Player of the Game: KJ Morton – Arizona Rattlers
Playmaker of the Game: Anthony Amos – Arizona Rattlers
Catch of the Game: Anthony Amos 17 yard TD catch in the Second Quarter – Arizona Rattlers
Highlight of the Game: KJ Morton’s Pick Six at the end of the Second Quarter – Arizona Rattlers