It’s not uncommon for a league to schedule a season-opening game between the the two teams who met for the championship the previous year.
It is uncommon for that matchup to live up to all the hype.
Saturday night’s game between the ArenaBowl champion Arizona Rattlers and the Philadelphia Soul was that rare exception.
Arizona’s Nick Davila hit wide receiver Tysson Poots on a 14-yard touchdown pass on the Rattlers’ first overtime possession and then Kerry Reed intercepted Philadelphia’s Dan Raudabaugh on first down to seal the 62-55 victory.
After Davila hooked up with Poots for the fourth time, Maurice Purify made a dazzling tackle on kick coverage, bringing Philadelphia’s James Romain down at the one-yard line and setting up Reed’s defensive heroics.
Player of the Game:
Poots. The receiver had 10 catches for 191 yards and the four scores — including a circus catch in overtime to give the Rattlers their winning margin.
Poots’ third touchdown may have been the biggest, as he hauled in a 34-yard scoring catch from Davila with just eight seconds remaining in regulation.
Player of the Game, Part II:
Philadelphia fullback Derrick Ross had 12 carries for 46 yards and six touchdowns.
The third-year player from Tarleton State continually bounced off of defenders and tied an AFL record with the six scoring runs.
Stat of the Game:
The Rattlers are now 6-0 against the Soul all-time.
He Said It:
“The heart of this team, I mean it’s hard to kill a snake. These guys just kept playing and we knew at some point we were going to make them submit and we did it. (They’re) 0-6 (against us) — I’m tired of playing them. I’m tired of playing them.” — Rattlers head coach Kevin Guy.
The two teams met in the ArenaBowl in 2012, with the Rattlers prevailing 72-54. Arizona hosted Philly in the season opener last year at US Airways Center and hung on for a 66-52 win. Nearly three months later in Philadelphia, the Rattlers scored 22 points in the the last three minutes to rally for a 64-57 win.
Last August in Orlando, the Rattlers scored a hard-fought 48-39 win over the Soul for their second consecutive ArenaBowl championship.
• The Rattlers unveiled their 2013 ArenaBowl Champions banner in the rafters at US Airways Center prior to the game. It joined banners from 1994, 1997 and 2012.