PHOENIX — Nick Davila has done many special things in his Arena Football career, which began in 2010.
But he’s never done what he did Monday night.
The left-hander out of the University of Cincinnati completed an astounding 92.8 percent (26-of-28) of his passes for 289 yards and seven touchdowns in the Arizona Rattlers’ 62-45 win over the Orlando Predators at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
His first pass attempt of the game, intended for receiver Chase Deadder was incomplete. He then completed nine in a row — a streak ended midway through the second quarter when another pass hit the ground. The two-time league MVP then completed 18 straight passes in leading the Rattlers to victory.
He spread the ball around, too. Rod Windsor had nine catches for 87 yards and three scores. Maurice Purify had eight grabs for 99 yards and a score. Deadder, Anthony Amos and Mykel Benson also caught touchdown passes for the Rattlers.
The Rattlers briefly trailed twice in the first half before seizing control of the game, or so it seemed. Arizona led 41-28 at the end of the third quarter, but Orlando struck early in the fourth quarter when Bernard Morris hit Brandon Thompkins, who juked Rattlers’ defensive back Jeremy Kellem, and took it the end zone from 40 yards out to cut the deficit to 41-35 with 13:10 remaining.
On the ensuing drive, Davila found Purify, who coughed up the ball on first down after being hit by Emanuel Cook. Cook also recovered, and the Predators were in business deep in Rattlers territory. But the defense stiffened, forcing four straight incomplete passes, which turned the ball back over to the Rattlers.
Davila gave Purify a chance to redeem himself and the former Nebraska Cornhusker did just that, getting free on a 30-yard touchdown reception on which he bowled over three defenders at the goal line for the score.
The Rattlers won the game to push their record to 12-3 on the season, tied with Orlando and Philadelphia for the league’s best record. Due to Orlando beating Arizona by 18 points in Florida earlier back in early May, the Rattlers needed to win by 19 to earn the homefield advantage tie-breaker against Orlando. Now, Arizona must root for Philadelphia to beat Orlando outright on Saturday night and must beat Cleveland the following day to ensure the road to the ArenaBowl goes through Phoenix again.
The Rattlers, who won league three straight league championships in 2012, 2013 and 2014, haven’t hosted an ArenaBowl since 2011, when they lost to the Jacksonville Sharks on the final play of the game. The Rattlers won an ArenaBowl title in Phoenix in 1997, beating the Kurt Warner-led Iowa Barnstormers 55-33. They also hosted ArenaBowl XVIII in 2004, losing to the San Jose Sabercats 69-62.