The saying goes that revenge is a dish best served cold.
But Kevin Guy and the Arizona Rattlers had a better idea for retribution Sunday night at US Airways Center in front of 8,581 rowdy fans.
Just a little over a month after enduring their worst loss of the season against the San Jose SaberCats — 62-33 on June 27 — the two-time defending ArenaBowl champions paid their longtime rivals back on the biggest of stages.
Nick Davila threw for 276 yards and eight touchdowns, Rod Windsor caught six passes for 107 yards and three touchdowns, and the Rattlers never trailed en route to a 72-56 blowout victory in the National Conference Championship Game.
“We talked about being relentless all week long and dominating our opponent,” head coach Kevin Guy said. “I thought our guys came out and played 60 minutes — I mean, we really didn’t get stopped offensively, they got two onside kicks.”
The Rattlers did get points on 11 of their 12 possessions. The only time they didn’t was during the final possession of the game when Davila backpedaled and threw into the crowd three times to help melt the clock.
What’s Next: With Sunday’s win, Arizona secured its franchise-record fourth straight trip to the ArenaBowl and a date with the Cleveland Gladiators on Aug. 23 at Quicken Loans Arena. If the Rattlers pull off the road victory in ArenaBowl XXVII, they’ll become the first franchise to three-peat since the Detroit Drive pulled off the feat from 1988-1990.
“Now we get to find out who is the the better team, us or Cleveland,” Guy said. “They had a great record this year. Steve Thonn has done a great job and we’ll see those guys up in Cleveland, unfortunately we didn’t get to have (the ArenaBowl) here, that’s the only regret I have right now.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. local time on ESPN.
Play of the Game: Facing a 4th and 12 from their own three-yard line and the clock ticking under a minute to play in the first half, the Rattlers managed to pick up a crucial first down as Davila hooked up with Windsor for a 16-yard gain.
Following Windsor’s completion, Arizona needed just four more plays to get into the end zone. Davila’s 14-yard toss to guard Michael Huey put the Rattlers on top 42-28 with four seconds remaining in the second quarter.
Player of the Game: Kerry Reed, WR, Arizona: Playing without Maurice Purify (30 touchdowns in 2014) for the second consecutive playoff game, Reed did his part to fill the void — six catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns.
Additionally, Reed changed the complexion of the contest on defense in the opening quarter with the night’s first turnover.
After his pick of Nathan Stanley at the Arizona 18-yard line, the Rattlers went on to extend their lead to 21-7 and never looked back.
Honorable Mention: Marquis Floyd, CB, Arizona – The Monroe, Ga. native finished with 10 total tackles and an acrobatic interception after San Jose recovered a potentially game-changing onside kick late in the first half.
Unsung Hero(es): Anttaj Hawthorne and Leon Mackey, DL, Arizona – Leading 51-35 with a little more than four minutes to play in the third quarter, the Rattlers received a big stand from their defense when it mattered most.
With the SaberCats facing a 3rd and goal from the 18-yard line, Mackey recorded a three-yard sack of quarterback Russ Michna. On the very next play, Hawthorne punctuated the stop with a two-yard sack of his own.
Stat of the Game: Craig Ratanamorn knocked in a 25-yard field goal in the third quarter to put Arizona on top 51-35. For the season, Ratanamorn is a perfect 7-of-7 on field goal tries.