PHOENIX — Any team headed into the playoffs wants to end their regular season on a high note.
The Arizona Rattlers did just that Saturday night. Quarterback Nick Davila fought through a rib injury and threw five touchdown passes and Arizona’s special teams produced 16 points in an easy 67-38 win over the Portland Thunder before a crowd of 12,687 at US Airways Center.
Before many of the fans had settled into their seats at the Snake Pit, the Rattlers found themselves with a comfortable advantage. Davila engineered an 8-play, 43-yard scoring drive on the Rattlers’ first possession which culminated in a 4-yard touchdown pass to Kerry Reed.
Portland’s first possession lasted just two plays. Linebacker Tyre Glasper sacked Portland’s Kyle Rowley on the Thunder’s second play from scrimmage, causing a fumble which Rowley recovered in the end zone for a Rattlers’ safety.
Arkeith Brown then returned the ensuing kickoff 55 yards for a touchdown and just about halfway through the opening frame, the Rattlers were up 16-0.
After the Thunder turned the ball over on downs on their next possession, Davila found Rod Windsor on a 19-yard touchdown pass to stretch the lead to 23-0.
Portland (5-13) trailed by as many as 38 points in the ballgame.
Davila finished 18-of-26 for 165 yards and the five scores before finding his way to the bench in favor of backup Shane Boyd in the fourth quarter. Boyd completed 8-of-13 passes for 74 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Special special teams – Brown’s kickoff return touchdown wasn’t the only time Arizona’s special teams put points on the board Saturday. Late in the second quarter, Dan Buckner stripped Portland’s Perez Ashford of the ball on a kickoff and pounced on it in the end zone for a touchdown. In the fourth quarter, Michael McAdoo blocked a Zach Ramirez extra point attempt and returned it for two points.
Arizona played without starting kicker Fabrizio Scaccia and was pressed into using emergency kicker Alex Zendejas. Zendejas saw action earlier this season — incidentally against Portland in Week 4 — and struggled mightily. That was not the case this week, as the U of A product consistently hit the nets on kickoffs and connected on all nine of his extra pint attempts. Head coach Kevin Guy was quick to point out after the game it’s the first time his team has been perfect in the kicking all season.
McAdoo the Menace – Defensive end Michael McAdoo has been very difficult for opposing offenses to deal with this season. The former North Carolina Tar Heel had two more sacks Saturday night, bringing his season total to 11.
“Every time I get out there, I just think about all the people that wrote me off. All the people that said ‘this kid is 250 (pounds), he doesn’t belong as a defensive end, he needs to be a tight end,'” McAdoo said. “I just go out here with a chip on my shoulder and let these people know that it don’t matter how big you are. As long as you’ve got the fundamentals and the technique, you go out there and you play and you compete, you’ll be alright.”
Up Next – The Rattlers (14-4) are the number-two seed in the National Conference playoffs and will host the Spokane Shock (7-11) next Saturday at US Airways Center. The Shock defeated Arizona 52-45 in Spokane on July 17. The Shock closed out the regular season with three wins in their last four games, including a 51-34 road victory at Las Vegas to close the regular season Saturday night.