PHOENIX — What the Arizona Rattlers are trying to accomplish in 2015 has never been done before in the Arena Football League: win a fourth straight championship.
“That’s what we expect here and that’s what we expect as players from top to bottom,” quarterback Nick Davila said. “It’s about winning, and that’s all that matters. And it’s contagious and we’re going to try to keep doing it.”
Their quest begins Saturday against the Spokane Shock. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. at US Airways Center.
Back in the late ’80s, the since-defunct Detroit Drive won three Foster Trophies in a row only to see a run at number four fall short in ArenaBowl V.
No team has come close to a four-peat ever since.
History aside, the Rattlers feel confident heading into the season opener.
Including Davila, the reigning league MVP, the Rattlers’ roster includes 11 core players who have been a part of all three championships. Add in nearly a dozen rookies, and head coach and general manager Kevin Guy has a good mix with which to work with this season.
“That’s why I got a big ‘C’ on my shirt for ‘coach’. I’ve got to develop players,” he said earlier this week at the team’s annual media day. “You just can’t keep bringing back the same players every year.”
Turning over the roster — offseason moves included the signings of All-Arena fullback Mykel Benson and receivers Markee White and Chase Deadder — not only spurs competition, according to Guy, but keeps the players motivated.
“I’m always worried about complacency,” he said. “Complacency is why all the great organizations fall from the top. They get comfortable, they think they’ve won enough, ‘let’s take a day off’ and then that day turns into longer and the next thing you know, your opponents have caught up to you.
“We’re always fighting complacency.”
Of course, it helps to have Davila, who is entering his sixth season with the Rattlers, as one of your leaders to win that fight.
“It’s just falling in love with the process of winning and the process of trying to get better,” he said. “We’re all winners here and everyone loves a winner, so why don’t we try to just win every time we get a chance? That’s what every team in the Arena League wants to do is win the championship game at the end of the year, and that’s what we’re going to try to do as well again.”
A year ago, the Rattlers opened with an AFL-record 14 straight victories and ended the regular season at 15-3, going undefeated at home.
They won two more games in the playoffs to advance to their fourth straight ArenaBowl, where they defeated Cleveland, 72-32, in the largest margin of victory in championship game history.
This year, the road may be even tougher.
“San Jose and Jacksonville really went out and put one heck of a roster together to try to catch us, Guy said. “They did a great job in free agency, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Prior to the game Saturday, the Rattlers will unveil the 2014 championship banner, the fifth one to hang inside the arena, plus newly-elected governor, Doug Ducey, will participate in the coin flip.
“Every year it’s going to be different,” Davila said. “Every year we have to go out and prove ourselves every time we step on the field because everyone wants to beat the defending champions.”