Losing streaks of any kind haven’t been very common in the recent history of the Arizona Rattlers.
Yet, they entered Friday night’s game against the Cleveland Gladiators riding a three-game road skid that included losses to Orlando, Philadelphia and a previously winless Tampa Bay team last week.
A second-half surge lifted the Rattlers to a much-needed 77-62 win over Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Rattlers (7-3) led 42-41 at halftime after exploding for 35 second-quarter points. The final score came on a 1-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Nick Davila to fullback Mykel Benson.
The teams traded touchdowns to start the third quarter. Davila connected with Maurice Purify on a 19-yard scoring strike to put the Rattlers up by eight points. Cleveland answered about seven-and-a-half minutes later when Arvill Nelson found Collin Taylor on a 23-yard strike.
Arizona would surge ahead again less than three minutes later when Davila hit Rod Windsor on a 16-yard scoring pass. On the ensuing kickoff, Arizona’s Chris McAllister jarred the ball loose from Cleveland return man Larry Beavers and Leon Mackey recovered the fumble, giving the Rattlers the ball deep in Gladiators’ territory. Two plays later, Benson found pay dirt on a 6-yard run to give the Rattlers a two-score cushion.
Arizona’s offense was simply unstoppable. Davila completed 23-of-33 passes for 289 yards and nine touchdowns, spread out to five different receivers. Windsor had four, Purify scored twice and Chase Deadder, Benson and offensive lineman Michael Simons each had one.
Simons’ touchdown came on a fourth-down screen pass on which he hurdled a would-be tackler and rumbled 16 yards into the end zone to close the scoring for the Rattlers with under three minutes to play.
Arizona’s win also snapped a four-game winning streak by Cleveland (5-5) and gives the Rattlers a full two-game lead for first place in the National Conference with six games remaining.
The Rattlers also improved to 5-0 all-time against Cleveland. The two teams met in the 2014 ArenaBowl, with Arizona dominating 72-32 to win their third straight league championship.
Arizona returns home to host the Portland Steel next Saturday night at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Kickoff is at 6:00 p.m.
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