Fumbles, interceptions, missed extra points, laterals … and that was only the final minute.
The Arizona Rattlers survived their most competitive game of the season, taking the Jacksonville Sharks to overtime before winning 75-68 at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena Saturday night.
The contest started simple enough as fullback Mykel Benson rumbled into the end zone from three yards out to give Arizona a 7-0 lead. Sharks fullback Derrick Ross returned the favor with a touchdown plunge of his own to even the score and set the stage for an arena football classic.
Both quarterbacks were stellar as Rattlers signal caller Nick Davila (35-of-50, 390 yards, 8 TDs, 2 INTs) and his counterpart Tommy Grady (28-of-45, 340 yards, 8 TDs, INT) traded scores for most of the contest as both defenses struggled to apply pressure and get stops.
Just before halftime, the Rattlers defense forced a turnover on downs and Arizona took a two-score lead when Davila found Maurice Purify for a 29-yard TD with 18 seconds left. The Sharks struck back, however, as Grady engineered a textbook drive, finding wideout Joe Hills in the back of the end zone as time expired to pull Jacksonville within seven points.
The Sharks seemed to take control coming out of the locker room as Grady found Roger Jackson for a 35-yard score on the second play of the half to tie the game. Davila threw his first interception of the season on the next series and, on the ensuing play, Ross electrified the “Shark Tank” with a 33-yard run to the end zone, giving the Sharks their first lead of the game, 41-34.
The teams continued to trade touchdowns until the final minute. Grady put Jacksonville ahead once again, finding Hills in the end zone for the fifth time, but kicker Marco Capozzoli’s extra point was off the mark, putting the Sharks in the lead, 68-62.
In a strategic move, Jacksonville attempted an onside kick, but the Rattlers recovered and Benson found the end zone for the third time to tie the game once again. Arizona kicker, Kenny Spencer, who was just signed this week, missed his third PAT of the game and the score remained tied.
The Sharks looked to have the edge; getting the ball back with 23 seconds to play. But kick returner David Hyland was stripped of the ball by Kerry Reed and the Rattlers recovered on Jacksonville’s six-yard line with 18 seconds on the clock.
Keeping with the game’s trend, however, Arizona could not close the door as Davila’s pass deflected off the net and was intercepted with six seconds to play. Jacksonville’s hook-and-ladder attempt as time expired was unsuccessful and the game moved to an extra session. It’s only the Sharks’ second overtime game in their six-year history and the Rattlers’ first since 2014.
Arizona won the coin toss and marched down the field once more as Davila found Purify in the end zone for the fifth time and the Rattlers took the lead, needing a defensive stop to put the game away.
Defensive back Arkeith Brown stepped up; deflecting one pass in the end zone, then picking off Grady on 4th down to seal the Arizona victory.
The Rattlers return to Talking Stick Resort Arena Saturday, April 30 to face the Portland Steel at 6:00 p.m.
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