When it seems everything is working against you, it can be very difficult to come out of a hostile environment victorious.
That seemed to be the case for the Arizona Rattlers Saturday night as multiple injuries and struggles on both sides of the ball proved too much to overcome as they fell to the Orlando Predators, 77-59, in front of 10,512 fans at the Amway Center.
The game was hyped as an exciting matchup between the league’s two remaining undefeated teams and a possible Arena Bowl preview.
The Rattlers seemed in control to start the game, as they forced a turnover on downs deep in Orlando territory, which led to a Nick Davila-to- Maurice Purify touchdown pass to give Arizona an early 14-7 lead.
However, the wheels started to come off in the second quarter as Davila was picked off in the end zone by Orlando cornerback Paul Stephens. This led to the Predators closing the half on a 21-6 run, capped by a Larry Brackins’ touchdown catch as time expired.
Orlando never looked back as quarterback Randy Hippeard (22-of-30, 340 yards, 9 touchdowns) was practically untouched after the first quarter as the Rattlers’ defense, which came into the game giving up just 34 points per game, struggled after losing lineman Dimetrio Tyson to a leg injury and failed to muster the same aggressiveness that had been the hallmark of the unit all season.
“I thought we came out and got after them the first two series, but when you lose (players) on a 21-man roster, that’s hard to overcome,” said head coach Kevin Guy, “It just snowballed from there.”
Kicker Kenny Spencer also went down for the game in the third quarter, forcing Arizona to go for two after each score and onside kick with wide receiver/linebacker Chase Deadder acting as the kickoff man. This caused a tremendous disadvantage in field position and the ability to keep pace with an Orlando team that converted on every red zone attempt.
Davila completed 23-of-34 passes for 301 yards and seven touchdowns; three to Rod Windsor, but he pointed to that costly interception as the turning point for his team’s struggles.
“It starts with me,” said the veteran signal-caller, “I gotta make better decisions, better throws. We’ve got to get this stuff corrected, starting with me. There’s no time to feel sorry for yourself…we’re gonna get back to practice and ball up.”
In a losing effort, Windsor collected 11 catches, which pushed him past Hunkie Cooper as the franchise’s all-time leader in receptions.
Arizona faces another tough test as they visit the Philadelphia Soul next Saturday.