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Rattlers, Shock, Sharks, Soul Are AFL's Final Four

Sunday August 4, 2013

After 130 Arena Football League games, there are only four teams that are left standing with a chance to win the Foster Trophy. The Spokane Shock, Arizona Rattlers, Philadelphia Soul, and Jacksonville Sharks are the four teams that are going to be playing on Saturday night with the winners moving onto Orlando for ArenaBowl XXVI.

The American Conference Championship Game will kick off at 7:00 p.m. ET at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena between the Sharks and the Soul. This is a rematch of last season's conference title game in Philly, a game that the Soul won 89-34. That game was one of the ugliest playoff games in football history, as the 55-point margin of victory was the biggest in a playoff game in AFL history.

Jacksonville though, did get a small measure of revenge during the regular season this year. A 55-53 victory proved to be pivotal for the Sharks. Jacksonville held a two-score lead for most of that game, but Philly had a chance to tie with 18 seconds left in the game. However, a QB Dan Raudabaugh pass fell incomplete on a two-point conversion play that would have tied it, and the Soul never got the ball back.

The Sharks reached this game after staging one of the best comebacks in AFL history. They trailed the Tampa Bay Storm by 22-points on Saturday before staging the biggest comeback in a playoff game in the AFL since at least 2000 to win 69-62. Philadelphia held off a hard-charging Orlando Predators outfit 59-55.

Both Jacksonville and Philadelphia finished at 12-6 in the regular season, and the Sharks earned the right to be the #1 seed in the conference and host this game thanks to the win in the regular season meeting.

Two hours later at 9:00 p.m. ET at the US Airways Center, the Rattlers and the Shock will kick it off for the third time this year. These two teams have met in the playoffs twice before. Arizona won the game here in the desert in 2011 in the opening round of the playoffs 62-33, while the Shock scored a 57-49 triumph when these two teams met in Spokane in the first round of the 2010 playoffs.

This season, the home team was able to win both games. QB Erik Meyer tossed eight touchdowns, four of which went to WR Adron Tennell in the first game of the year between these two, as the Shock held Arizona scoreless in the last 8:50 of the game to win 66-49. The Rattlers returned the favor in the second clash in the desert, using a 21-0 run late in the game to put aside Spokane 59-42.

The final scores will say that both teams won by double digits in the opening round of the playoffs, but anyone who watched the games know just how close both efforts were. Spokane was only up 48-47 on the Chicago Rush with 7:20 to play in the game before scoring the final three touchdowns of the game, two of which were INTs returned for touchdowns to win 69-47. Arizona was down 42-35 late in the third quarter before going on a 24-7 run to end the game to beat the San Jose SaberCats 59-49.

There is a lot of drama between the Shock and the Rattlers. These two teams were in the thick of a battle in the Western Division all year long. Arizona celebrated a division championship following a Week 17 win when the Rattlers were up two games on both Spokane and San Jose with two to play. In Week 19 though, the Shock challenged the ruling on the playoff tiebreakers, causing the league to essentially strip Arizona of its division title going into Week 19. The Rattlers beat the Iowa Barnstormers on the last day of the regular season though, to give them the #1 seed and the home field advantage in this very crucial game.