Defense lifts the Rattlers Over the KISS, 64 - 49
Monday June 27, 2016
Phoenix, Ariz. – The World Champion Arizona Rattlers (10-3) sweep the three game regular season series with a win over conference foe, the LA KISS (5-7) by a score of 64-49 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Cali., in front of 7,090 fans.
The Rattlers had a big first half, outscoring the KISS by 21. A big, 27-point, third quarter by LA made the game interesting, but the Rattlers held the KISS scoreless in the fourth, extending their win streak to four.
“We were up by 21 and we turned the ball over twice in the third quarter, a turnover on downs and a pick,” said general manager and head coach Kevin Guy. “We need to make sure to take care of the ball.”
Arizona’s defense played a critical role in today’s 15-point victory. They were led by the J.Lewis Small Playmaker of the game defensive back Jeremy Kellem, who had two critical interceptions, and returned a fumbled PAT (point after touchdown). Defensive backs Arkeith Brown and KJ Morton also each had a pick, Morton returned his for a touchdown. The Rattlers defensive front also caused some commotion, with defensive end Damien Borel getting 1.5 sacks, and defensive end Rodney Fritz also getting in there with a half a sack.
“I thought our defense did a nice job closing them out,” Guy said. “We finished with three straight stops at the end. I thought our pass rush started taking the game over; our (defensive backs) started making plays on the ball. We had four interceptions tonight, so nice job by those guys.”
Offensively, Rattlers quarterback Nick Davila looked strong in the first half, but struggled down the stretch. Overall he completed 20 of 33 passes for five touchdowns. He did throw two interceptions, both in the second half.
“We can’t play that way offensively,” said Guy. “The last two times we played (the LA KISS) we turned the ball over.”
The Rattlers are now one win away to clinch the National Conference title, and with it, home field advantage for the first two games of the post season.
The Rattlers took it to the KISS early, with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Davila to wide receiver Chase Deadder. On the KISS first possession, defensive back KJ Morton intercepted a pass by LA quarterback Pete Thomas, and returned for six, and just like that, the Rattlers led 14-0.
LA finally reached the endzone late in the first, with a 2-yard touchdown run by Thomas, however the extra point was missed by kicker Joey Cejudo, and Arizona led after one, 14-6.
The Rattlers led off the second quarter with a four-yard pass from Davila to wide receiver Maurice Purify. The KISS responded with a 39-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to wide receiver Justin Wilson. The snap on the PAT, however, was bobbled and scooped up by defensive back Jeremy Kellem, and returned for two points.
Rattlers extended their lead again with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Davila to Purify. After Thomas’ second interception, this time by Kellem, The Rattlers scored again with a two-yard run by fullback Mykel Benson. LA responded with a 40-yard touchdown bomb from Thomas to Morgan.
The Rattlers closed out the half with a six-yard touchdown pass from Davila to Purify. The PAT, however, was blocked and returned by defensive back Josh Victorian for two points, and the half ended with an Arizona lead, 43-22.
The KISS surged in the third, scoring 20-straight points. First was a five-yard touchdown run by fullback Rory Nixon. After a turnover on downs by the Rattlers, the KISS scored again, this time from a 19-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to Morgan. Following an interception thrown by Davila, LA scored on another touchdown pass from Thomas, this time to Nixon. The PAT (point after touchdown), however was missed.
The Rattlers finally got on the board in the second half with a 34-yard touchdown run by Benson. The KISS ended the quarter with a 43-yard pass from Thomas to Morgan. With the third quarter winding down, the Rattlers lead dwindled down to 1, with a score of 50-49.
Arizona pulled away again in the fourth, with back-to-back touchdown rushes by Benson, both 1-yard runs. The KISS failed to score in the fourth and the game ended with the score of 64-49.
The Rattlers now head into their first bye week of the season. Following the bye week, Arizona will face the Jacksonville Sharks on Sunday, June 26th at the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. The Sharks entered the league-wide bye week losing to the Cleveland Gladiators by one point on Saturday. The game will be nationally televised on the CBS Sports Network.
Under Armour Offensive Player of the Game: Donovan Morgan (LA)
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game: Josh Victorian (LA)
J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game: Jeremy Kellem (AZ)
Cutters Catch of the Game: KJ Morton (AZ) pick-six 1Q
AFL Highlight of the Game: Josh Victorian (LA) PAT block and return 3Q
About the Arizona Rattlers
The Arizona Rattlers have won five ArenaBowl championship games and are proud members of the Arena Football League (AFL). ArenaBowl XXVII marked the team's ninth appearance in the Championship game, winning in 2014, 2013, 2012, 1997 and 1994. For tickets, call 602-514-TDTD (8383), or visit www.azrattlers.com.