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Arizona Rattlers squander 21-point lead, but get rare win in Spokane

Quarterback Shane Boyd completed 23-of-39 passes for 263 yards and seven touchdowns in his Arizona Rattlers debut, leading the short-handed three-time defending ArenaBowl champions to a 59-47 win over the Spokane Shock at Veterans Memorial Arena Saturday night.

Boyd, who is playing for his fourth different AFL team in the last four seasons, was pressed into duty by the sudden resignation of quarterback B.J. Coleman earlier in the week. Coleman had started the last three games in place of the injured Nick Davila.

The Rattlers drew first blood on their initial possession, when Boyd hit Markee White on a 13-yard touchdown pass. Arizona (7-2) forced a turnover on downs on Spokane’s first possession and padded their lead when Boyd hit White, who made a fabulous one-handed catch on a 30-yard scoring play. Fabrizio Scaccia’s extra point was blocked, but the Rattlers enjoyed an early 13-0 lead.

The lead would balloon to 21 points late in the second quarter when Boyd hit fullback Mykel Benson on a 7-yard touchdown pass to make it 27-6 with 2:23 in the half.

Spokane would answer. Quarterback Warren Smith connected with Sammual Charles on an 8-yard TD pass with just :29 left. But the Rattlers came right back. Nineteen seconds later, Boyd found Rod Windsor from 19 yards out to push the lead back to 21 at 34-13.

Arizona only had to play defense for just :10 after the score, but still couldn’t keep the Shock out of the end zone. Smith threw an incomplete pass as time expired, but Rattlers linebacker Tyre Glasper was called for roughing, giving Spokane one untimed down. Smith hit Nick Truesdell on a 13-yard pass to make it 34-20 at the half.

Spokane came out of the locker room the more inspired team to start the second half. Smith scored on a pretty 25-yard scramble to make it a one-score game. Boyd was then intercepted on the following drive as linebacker Kevin McCullough, a former Rattler, stepped in front of a pass on a 3rd-and-3 at the Spokane 16-yard line.

Smith capitalized, finding Truesdell on the next play — a catch and throw covering 31 yards. Just like that, the game was tied.

Benson scored early in the fourth on a 3-yard run to give Arizona the lead, 41-34. Spokane responded with another Smith-to-Truesdell TD.

With five-and-a-half minutes to go, the Rattlers faced a 4th-and-10 at their own 5-yard line. Boyd found Darrin Moore, who made a nice lunging catch at the Rattlers’ 18-yard line. The play would have been enough for a first down, but Jeff Richards, the Spokane defender on the play, never touched Moore. The receiver sprung to his feet and raced the rest of the way for the touchdown.

But Scaccia missed the extra point, so Arizona’s lead was 47-41. A little over four minutes later, Smith connected with Charles again, this time from 21 yards out on a blown coverage by the Rattlers’ secondary, and the game was again knotted up at 47-47. The string of missed extra points continued, as Arizona’s Cliff Dukes got a hand up to block Taylor Rowan’s attempt and keep the game tied.

Spokane tried an onside kick that was unsuccessful, giving the Rattlers the ball at the Shock 7-yard line with under a minute to play. On first down, Boyd hooked up with Windsor on a touchdown strike, and once again, Scaccia missed the extra point to make the score 53-47.

Defensive back Jeremy Kellem put the game on ice, intercepting a Smith pass on second down. Windsor tacked on an insurance touchdown, providing the winning margin, and giving the Rattlers only their second win ever in Spokane and first since 2012.

The Rattlers return home to host the Tampa Bay Storm next Saturday night at US Airways Center.

Injury Update: Rattlers receiver Markee White, who had a great game with four catches for 64 yards and three touchdowns, was taken off the field on a stretcher. Early in the fourth quarter, White dove for a ball in the end zone, and plowed head-first into the boards. He stayed down for several minutes before being assisted by medical personnel. White was moving his arms and legs while on the field.