Playing with a heavy heart following the passing of his father, Nick Davila came off the bench to lead the Arizona Rattlers to a 51-42 win over the San Jose Sabercats before a season-high crowd of 12,094 at US Airways Center Saturday night.
Davila’s backup, Jason Murrietta, started the game, but was pulled early in the third quarter after his second interception of the night was returned 12 yards for a touchdown by San Jose’s Simeon Castille to tie the score at 21-21.
That’s when Davila was summoned from the sideline. On his way for a discussion with head coach Kevin Guy before his first play from scrimmage, the left-handed quarterback pointed to the sky in honor of his father. He then picked up right where he left off last week, leading the Rattlers on a three-play, 40-yard scoring drive capped off by an 8-yard touchdown pass to Nick Miller.
The Rattlers wouldn’t relinquish the lead after Davila’s entrance. He finished 15-of-19 for 136 yards and four touchdowns in the win which pushed Arizona’s record to 11-0 and clinched the Western Division and gave them what amounts to a five-game lead in the Western Conference standings over San Jose (7-4) with just seven regular season games to play. The Rattlers have already clinched the three-game season series with the Sabercats.
It wasn’t all about the offense for Arizona, though. The Rattlers defense forced a turnover on downs on San Jose’s first possession, setting the tone for the rest of the game.
They would also knock Sabercats starting quarterback Russ Michna from the game. Reports from the San Jose sideline indicated that Michna suffered a broken collarbone following a hit from Arizona’s Cliff Dukes, who finished with two sacks in the game.
In all, Arizona sacked Michna and his replacement, Nathan Stanley, six times, forced four turnovers, got a touchdown when Arkeith Brown fell on a fumble in the end zone and forced a safety.
With Cleveland’s loss to Pittsburgh earlier Saturday, the Rattlers emerged from Week 12 as the lone undefeated team in the Arena Football League.
The Rattlers will be road warriors the rest of the regular season, with five of their seven remaining contests happening away from US Airways Center. They’re on the road the next two weeks, traveling to Portland (3-8) next Friday and San Antonio (1-9) June 14.