The Arizona Rattlers opened the 2016 Arena Football League season in convincing fashion, destroying the Portland Steel 80-28 Friday night at Moda Center.
Receiver Rod Windsor and fullback Mykel Benson each scored four touchdowns and Arizona’s defense scored three times en route to head coach Kevin Guy’s seventh win in eight season openers as Rattlers head coach.
It’s hard to believe, but Portland actually had the lead in this game. On the Steel’s first possession, quarterback Danny Southwick hit receiver Nick Truesdell on a 38-yard scoring strike. Truesdell, however, sprained his right ankle on the play and did not return.
Arizona struck back. Nick Davila hit Windsor on a 12-yard touchdown pass — the first of four scoring connections between the two before halftime.
But the story was really Arizona’s defense. Defensive back Arkeith Brown had a 38-yard interception return for a touchdown with 5:20 in the first quarter that gave the Rattlers a 12-7 lead. Later in the first half, newcomer Damien Borel recovered a fumble in the end zone for a score that bolstered Arizona’s lead to 33-14. And veteran Kerry Reed completed the defensive hat trick with a 13-yard interception return for a touchdown on a play where defensive tackle Anttaj Hawthorne hit Southwick’s arm as he threw, causing an errant pass.
Guy, in his normal fashion, wasn’t entirely pleased after his team’s 52-point win.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Guy told CBS Sports Network in a postgame interview. “There are some areas that I’m not real happy with, we’ve got to grow as a team, so we’ll address it.”
One area that needs improvement is the kicking game. The Rattlers failed on four extra point attempts. Kicker Alex Zendejas flat-out missed two attempts, one was blocked and the other was a busted play after a bad snap and hold.
“Extra points, that’s the big thing that jumped out to me tonight,” Guy said. “We had this issue last year, I’m about tired of it. We’ll get it corrected. We changed both snappers in there, we had some balls roll back and didn’t get the laces out — Ace Ventura, laces out — so, we’ve got some work to do.”
Arizona went through three kickers last season. Zendejas, Jeremy Shelley and Fabrizio Scaccia hit on only 80 percent (112-of-140) extra point attempts during a season that ended in a playoff semifinal loss to San Jose.
The Rattlers play their second straight road game next Saturday in Anaheim against the L.A. KISS.