Champions Find a Way: Rattlers Survive Tough Tests
When you are the two-time defending ArenaBowl champions, you can expect to get every team's best shot each week. The Arizona Rattlers experienced just that in recent back-to-back victories over the San Jose SaberCats and Pittsburgh Power. Both times the Rattlers dug deep and finished strong, remaining undefeated by making big plays at the biggest moments.
Simply put -- champions find a way.
Anyone who follows the AFL knows the Rattlers and SaberCats enjoy a heated rivalry, perhaps second in the league to Orlando and Tampa Bay's "War on I-4." And although the teams are now in different divisions, the fire still burns between the Western Conference rivals.
That was clearly evident in Arizona's 57-51 win at the SAP Center on April 12. The two teams traded scores throughout the game and it appeared whoever had the football last would win the game.
The Rattlers put themselves in position to go up by two scores late in the contest, but Arizona quarterback Nick Davila threw an uncharacteristic interception off the rebound net. San Jose drove the length of the field, but the Rattlers' underrated defense came up huge, forcing a field goal and giving Davila a chance to win the game with a touchdown.
Davila would not make the same mistake twice, hitting the vastly underrated Kerry Reed for a game-winning score with seven seconds left.
Again, champions find a way.
The Rattlers have a target on their collective backs. Opponents want to put a marquee win in their pocket, and it is often said, "To be the best, you've got to beat the best."
The Power took that attitude into the Snake Pit on April 19.
Pittsburgh is one of the surprise teams in the AFL in 2014. Usually at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the Power won three of their first four games, including a thrilling 48-47 home win over San Jose last month.
It appeared the Rattlers would cruise to an easy win, holding a three-score advantage before the Power surged to 35 second-quarter points.
But once again, the champions found a way. Davila threw nine TDs, the defense forced some critical stops, and the Rattlers recovered a late onside kick to move to 5-0 this season.
The Rattlers have now won 33 of their last 38 home games. With the struggling San Antonio Talons now rolling into the Snake Pit, one could assume the Rattlers might let off the gas a bit.
Davila said after the Pittsburgh game that will not happen.
"We know they're going to come in here looking for a win," Davila said on Cox 7 Arizona. "And we're going to go to work this week to make sure that doesn't happen."
It's hard to argue with the champions. They just keep finding a way.