Updated Mar 12, 2014 - 3:14 pm
Arizona Rattlers begin ‘journey' toward third straight title
What hasn't changed -- and never will -- is the Arizona Rattlers' No. 1 goal each and every season: An ArenaBowl championship.
They've won two straight ArenaBowls and take aim at a third beginning this week.
"The expectations haven't changed," Rattlers head coach Kevin Guy said. "The plan is to still compete for a championship. It's not really how we start. It's going to be how we finish. That's the goal. It's going to be a journey all season long."
The Rattlers' journey in 2014 starts on Saturday when they host the Philadelphia Soul -- their opponent in each of the past two ArenaBowls.
"Man, I'm looking forward to Saturday," Rattlers defensive back Marquis Floyd said Thursday. "I'm tired of hitting my other teammates. I'm ready to hit somebody else."
The Rattlers lost a few key members from last year's 15-3 club, including fullback Odie Armstrong, defensive back Virgil Gray, kicker Garrett Lindholm and defensive coordinator Omarr Smith, who is now in San Jose.
Newcomers include defensive back Vic Hall, center Jeff Maddux and fullback Alex Singleton. The new defensive coordinator is former Tampa Bay head coach Dave Ewart.
"Even though we lost some great pieces, we've picked up some great pieces," said Guy, entering his sixth season as head coach and general manager.
The core though remains largely intact.
Floyd, fourth among active players in interceptions -- he had nine in 2013 -- is back for a fourth season.
Quarterback Nick Davila returns for a fifth season.
Davila worked with a personal trainer in the offseason and said he decreased his body fat and gained muscle mass, dropping eight pounds (he weighs 218) in an attempt to become stronger and more athletic in the pocket.
"This is my profession. I want to be the best that I can be at my profession," he said.
Davila last year became the first quarterback in professional football history to pass for at least 100 touchdowns in four straight seasons after finishing with 110 in 2013.
"There's a crossroad where hey, I had some success but I want to become great. I want to be the best quarterback that's ever played this game," he said.
Only one other AFL team has three-peated. Detroit won three straight titles in 1988, 1989 and 1990.
If the Rattlers are to accomplish the feat, they'll have to navigate through a revamped National Conference, split into a pair of three-team divisions. The Rattlers play in the Western Division along with rival San Jose and an expansion Los Angeles club.
The Rattlers will play seven of their nine home games before May 31, and face Portland, San Jose and Spokane three times each in the 18-game schedule.
"The strategy, when we get ready to play them, is going to be interesting because you may wind up seeing them a fourth time in the playoffs," Guy said. "I don't know how much you're going to want to show from week-to-week as we get through the schedule.
"But right now, we're just worried about Philly."
Craig Grialou, Reporter