CLEVELAND — Nick Davila threw for 237 yards and eight touchdowns and the Arizona Rattlers won their third consecutive ArenaBowl title with a 72-32 victory over the Cleveland Gladiators on Saturday night.
The Rattlers are the second team in Arena Football League history to win three straight titles. It was also the Rattlers’ fifth overall championship, tying them with the Tampa Bay Storm for the most in league history.
“It feels great,” Rattlers coach Kevin Guy said. “We knew a few years ago we had a good young group, good core group, and I thought we could have some good years.”
Rod Windsor paced the Rattlers receivers with seven catches for 123 yards and three touchdowns and Davila was selected as the game’s MVP.
“I can’t even put it into words how I feel right now,” Davila said. “Our team is amazing, all the trials and tribulations, not only myself, but a couple of the individual players on our team. All of the stuff we’ve been through, couldn’t be happier for this group of people.”
“I had a lot of emotional stuff going on off the field, but when I stepped in between those lines, it was home to me,” Davila said.
The Rattlers took advantage of numerous mistakes by the Gladiators and went into halftime with a 44-13 lead.
“We didn’t want to do finesse on them too much tonight,” Rattlers defensive end Cliff Dukes said. “Our whole angle was to get in their heads early. Not talking trash or nothing, but just going out and playing football like how it’s supposed to be done.”
Kerry Reed, Tyson Poots and Chris Jackson each had two touchdowns for Arizona. Reed also had a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown to put Arizona up 14-0 early in the first quarter.
“It felt like we were almost out of it by the end of the first quarter,” Gladiators wide receiver/linebacker Collin Taylor said. “Picks are OK if they don’t turn into that and that was kind of worst-case scenario. They kind of stomped on our throats after that.”
“We made them look like the best team in the league.”
Gladiators quarterback Shane Austin was 18 of 41 for 210 yards and three touchdowns and four interceptions.
The Gladiators did make a habit of coming from behind in 2014, winning six games on the final play from scrimmage. But the rout continued in the second half, as Arizona pushed the lead to 58-13 in the third.
“What we saw on film was teams were allowing them to get back in games,” Guy said. “So we wanted to get up on them, start fast and then just keep your foot on the gas pedal.”
The Rattlers kept up the scoring into the fourth quarter, making it 65-19 with 12:28 remaining, putting away any hopes of a Cleveland comeback.
Arizona’s defense made life miserable for the Gladiators. It was out of sync, plagued by multiple drops, drive-stalling penalties and turnovers.