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ArenaBowl Intensity Unmatched

Jeff Sims
Saturday August 23, 2014

Playing for a championship, no matter the sport or the level, seems to bring out the best of those that are participating in it. Whether it’s a recreational softball, little league baseball, or professional (insert sport) team, playing for a championship takes things to a level that is hardly matched in regular season games.

Saturday night’s clash between the Arizona Rattlers and the Cleveland Gladiators for the Arena Football League Championship will certainly be no different.

Arizona is going for its third straight ArenaBowl victory and understands what it takes to be at the top of the mountain in the sport.

Cleveland is the surprise team of the season which has gone from rags to riches going 4-14 last season to an astounding 19-1 this season with six of its victories coming on the last play of each game. It has not lost at home this season, which is coincidently the site for the championship game.

An ArenaBowl title to cap of the season would be something special for either team.  But both know they will have to get through a fight to get it done.

“It’s for all the marbles,” said Arizona Rattlers head coach Kevin Guy. “I would expect our guys to come out and play a very physical style of Arena Football. That’s how we are built and when we watched them on film you can see that they have modeled a lot of how we have been built in the past.”

“I don’t think that there is any way to describe it,” said Rattlers defensive lineman Anttaj Hawthorne. “It is at a whole other level. You’re playing against the other best team. You definitely have to come with your “A” game. It’s your last game of the year. You really don’t have to worry about injuries or what you need to do the next day. You can go in and give over 100%.” 

The Gladiators know that they will have to do everything possible and pull out all of the stop to upend the two-time defending champions.

“It is certainly going to be a physical game,” said Gladiators defensive back Joe Phinisee. “They have a big physical group and we have a big physical group. It is definitely going to be rough game. We will have to play our best game. And we want to win one for the fans of Cleveland.”

Cleveland has had an emphatic fan base this season. A crowd of well over 14,000 is expected to be raucous as this town is looking for a champion in any sport.

Arizona understands what it will be up against playing in Cleveland.

“We just got to lock in and play our game,” Hawthorne said. “The intensity, the crowd noise, and all of that other stuff we will try to block out. We piped in crowd noise throughout the week in practice to make sure that our guys are ready to play.”

A crowd of this size for its championship game would be a major victory for the AFL, which has seen its average attendance for games dip below 10,000. The league and its players can certainly use the boost.

“You always want to play in front of people, said Hawthorne. “Whether its people in the stands or watching on TV, you want to showcase your talents to the world. On this stage tomorrow will be the best stage that this league has ever had to showcase itself.” 

A win for either team would certainly be something special.

“I have been fatigued this year more than any other (year),” Guy stated. “We have overcome so much this year that winning the whole thing would be really special.”

“Every ArenaBowl is special,” said Hawthorne “You want to go out more and more and make it special. You still have to have the drive to go out and make it special.”

A victory for the Gladiators would also be a victory for the AFL. A rejuvenated fan base with a title under its belt can only bring good things going forward.

The ArenaBowl title is on the line and all signs point to what will be an exciting game.

Jeff has been writing for since 2004. Originally from New York, Jeff has been living in the Chicago area for the past ten years and is an avid football fanatic. He holds a BA in communications from Hofstra University in New York and a sports management certificate from Loyola University in Chicago.
The opinions expressed in the article above are only those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, opinions, or official stance of ArenaFan Online or its staff, or the Arena Football League, or any AFL or af2 teams.
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