Quarterback Nick Davila threw seven touchdown passes — three each to Maurice Purify and Rod Windsor — but it was the defense that keyed the Arizona Rattlers’ 63-38 win over the Jacksonville Sharks in front of a crowd of 8,586 fans at US Airways Center.
Jacksonville quarterback R.J. Archer came into the game leading the AFL in completion percentage, but the defense of the Rattlers (3-0) wasn’t impressed. The defensive line of Marcus Pittman, Anttaj Hawthorne and Cliff Dukes dominated Jacksonville’s offensive line and put constant pressure on Archer all night. The Sharks’ signal caller completed just 47 percent (22-of-46) of his throws on the evening.
Arizona jumped out to a 14-7 lead, scoring twice on their first four offensive plays. Following the second score, a 33-yard pass from Davila to Windsor, Vic Hall recovered Craig Ratanamorn’s kickoff at the Sharks’ 1-yard line. Fullback Alex Singleton pounded it in one play later, and Arizona led 21-7.
The game would remain somewhat close toward the end of the first half, and Archer guided the Sharks inside the Arizona 5-yard line in the closing seconds. With just a few ticks on the clock, Archer’s third-down pass fell incomplete and the Rattlers went to their locker room at the half leading 28-13.
Jacksonville would start the third quarter with possession, but once again, Arizona’s defense answered the challenge. Archer again missed on fourth down, turning the ball back over to Davila, who found Purify just two plays later, giving Arizona a 35-13 advantage.
The teams traded touchdowns after that, but the Sharks (1-2) couldn’t get any closer than 16 for the remainder of the game.
STAT OF THE GAME
Jacksonville out gained Arizona 336-228 and ran 53 plays to the Rattlers’ 28.
The Rattlers scored touchdowns on nearly 33 percent of their offensive snaps (9-of-28).
• This was Jacksonville’s first game at US Airways Center since the 2011 ArenaBowl, when they got a last-second touchdown pass from Aaron Garcia to Jeron Harvey to capture the franchise’s one and only AFL title.
Since that game, the Rattlers are 22-3 on their home field.
• Only two players that suited up for Jacksonville Saturday (Terrance Smith and Michaeux Robinson) played on the team during their 2011 championship campaign.
• Seven members of the 2014 Rattlers were with the team in 2011 — Davila, Windsor, Kerry Reed, Marquis Floyd, Marcus Pittman, Tyre Glasper and Hawthorne.
The Rattlers will finally play a road game when they visit the San Jose Sabercats (2-2) at SAP Center Saturday for a game that will kick off at 7:30 p.m.