Rattlers defense answers call in 61-32 win
“Our guys up front were able to get some pressure and that makes a difference,” Rattlers Head Coach Kevin Guy told Comcast SportsNet Northwest after the game. “And what starts in the back will help in the front. Our secondary played well, too, and we were able to get some interceptions.”
The win moved the two-time defending ArenaBowl champs to 8-0 overall this season while Portland fell to 2-6. Arizona now holds a three-game lead over its nearest competitors (San Jose SaberCats and Spokane Shock) in the National Conference.
The Rattlers' defense dominated both on the line of scrimmage and in the secondary, recording four sacks on the night and picking off Portland quarterback Danny Southwick three times. Cliff Dukes had three sacks while Marquis Floyd had a night to remember, grabbing all three Arizona interceptions.
“We played Rattler football,” Coach Guy said.
Following Floyd's first interception, Arizona wasted no time in quieting the home crowd of 8,863.
On the Rattlers' first offensive play from scrimmage, quarterback Nick Davila found receiver Rod Windsor for a 49-yard touchdown. Not only was it Davila's 58th passing TD this season, it marked the 500th touchdown strike in the quarterback's AFL career. Scoring catches by Maurice Purify, Nick Miller, Michael Huey and Windsor combined with Portland turnovers gave Arizona a comfortable 33-14 halftime lead.
Anytime Portland hinted at a second-half comeback, Southwick found life miserable in the pocket. Dukes, Marcus Pittman and Anttaj Hawthorne were wreaking havoc, forcing quick throws and panicked moves that allowed the Thunder no offensive rhythm.
Portland's defense had no answer for Davila all night, as he connected for eight touchdowns with no interceptions. The “Latin Laser” is making a strong case for league MVP with 65 passing scores and just four interceptions so far this season.
Davila again threw more touchdowns (eight) than incompletions (seven). His 500th touchdown pass made him just the ninth AFL quarterback to reach that milestone. Davila reached the “500 Club” in just his 78th career game, fastest in league history.
Backup quarterback Jason Murrietta got into the act as well, completing his lone pass for a touchdown to Kerry Reed. For the second game in a row, the Rattlers scored on every offensive possession except the final one when running out the clock.
Perhaps the only negative on the night was a serious knee injury suffered by starting center Jeff Maddux. Huey shifted to center for the rest of the game.
Following the win, Coach Guy gave kudos to the expansion Thunder.
“I like what they are doing here,” he said. “Give Coach (Matt) Sauk some time and he will get this thing moving in the right direction.”
The Rattlers return home to the Snake Pit on Sunday, May 18, for a showdown with the Spokane Shock. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. Arizona time.