PHOENIX — The Arizona Rattlers stopped a rare two-game losing streak with an uneven 47-34 win over the L.A. KISS Saturday night at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
It wasn’t the normal cast of characters that pushed the Rattlers to the win, either.
Chase Deadder played “iron man” football, starring on offense and defense. The former Sacramento State star caught eight passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns and intercepted a Nathan Stanley pass and returned it 10 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter that stretched Arizona’s lead to 27-14.
Joe Matthews, who landed on the Rattlers roster after navigating two open tryouts, finally made his AFL debut, catching three touchdown passes — including a spectacular 31-yarder from quarterback Nick Davila on the last play of the first half.
“I’ve been working at jack (linebacker) since training camp, and that pick-six just made my day,” Deadder said after the game. “It was just nice to be able to contribute to the team as a jack. I feel like I’m picking things up better, learning as I go.”
Admittedly, Deadder wasn’t thought to be the starting jack linebacker for the Rattlers. That job belonged to veteran Kerry Reed. But Reed is out for the season after suffering a knee injury in a win over the Portland Steel earlier this month. Deadder showed Reed-like versatility for the Rattlers, who moved their record to 6-2 on the season.
Matthews was the offensive star of the game. Not only did the Tucson Rincon High product score three times, he iced the game with a big fourth-down reception that went for 10 yards with under a minute to play.
The rookie admitted he was nervous stepping on the field.
“Of course there were nerves and there is a lot of stuff to learn,” he said. “But playing with some of those guys that have been here a while kind of takes the pressure off.”
Matthews, who also played collegiately at New Mexico State, where he caught 60 passes in three seasons, said he tried out for the Rattlers for fun and wanted to see if he could still play the game competitively before walking away from football for good.
Deadder’s score wasn’t the only defensive touchdown for the Rattlers on the night. Defensive back Allen Chapman picked off a Stanley pass and weaved through defenders for a 48-yard score in the second quarter.
Head coach Kevin Guy joked that he wanted to help Chapman, who has been battling injury, a little help.
“I wanted to run over there and give him a crutch,” Guy said, acknowledging it’s been a tough go recently for Chapman.
“He’s been getting beat, but he’s been out there playing hurt,” the coach said. “But I want (Chapman) to know I appreciate him being out there hurt trying to play through it for our team and keep us in the race. I hope everybody else appreciates that, too.”
After a quick stop at home, the Rattlers are on the road for their next two contests — next Sunday at the winless Tampa Bay Storm and June 3 at Cleveland.