The Arizona Rattlers completely dominated on both sides of the ball as they crushed the Cleveland Gladiators 82-41 in the AFL National Conference Championship game.
Arizona didn’t waste any time getting on the board as QB Nick Davila drove the Rattlers down 43 yards and handed off to Mykel Benson for the one yard score to go up 7-0. On Clevelands first possession, nothing really clicked as they proceeded to turn the ball over on downs. Davila scored this time from a five yard toss to Anthony Amos to go up 14-0
Cleveland QB Arvell Nelson found WR Quentin Sims for a 12 yard pass to jump start the offense to try and catch up and making the score 14-7 to end the first quarter. Davila found veteran Rod Winsdsor for a 13 yard strike to increase the lead and on the next Cleveland possession, Jeremy Kellem intercepted a lob pass by Nelson for a pick six and putting Arizona up 28-7.
The rest of the quarter was all Davila and the Arizona defense. Davila scored two more touchdowns and Benson added another rushing touchdown. Arizona tried an onside kick but the ball was recovered by Cleveland DB Joe Powell and ran it in for the score but Adrian Trevino couldn’t get the PAT and made the score 48-20 at halftime.
The Gladiators started off with the ball in the second half and even though Nelson made multiple mistakes on the drive, he threw a jump ball to the corner of the endzone for Sims giving him his third touchdown of the night. The Cleveland defense was starting to do some good things against Davila and his receiving core, Arizona scored on a freak play as two Cleveland defenders tipped the ball in the air and Arizonas Maurice Purify caught the ball and ran it into the endzone making the score 54-27.
Purify caught another pass from Davila for a touchdown after a Nelson threw his second interception of the night. The Arizona defense came up big again and stripped Sims of the ball to give Davila and the offense the ball again right before the end of the third with a 61-27 Arizona lead
The fourth quarters first play was a a bullet to Windsor from Davila for a 14 yard touchdown. Larry Beavers finally made a play on special teams as he ran back the ensuing kickoff for a 58 yard touchdown and making the score 68-34. Trevino kicks the ball and it bounces off a Arizona player into the arms of Sims as Cleveland recovers an onside kick.
A promising drive by Cleveland was spoiled as a pitch to Phillipkeith Manley but was stripped at the one yard line and recovered by Arizona in the endzone. They play was reviewed but the ruling stood. Davila was taken out of the game because there was no need to risk injury because the game was out of hand at this point. Manley made up for the fumble by running for a 17 yard touchdown after Powell intercepted Arizona backup QB Shane Boyd.
Boyd added two more scores with one being the longest offensive play of the night with a 40 yard touchdown to Anthony Amos to kill any momentum Cleveland had in the fourth and finished the game with the 82-41 win. Arizona moves on to the Arena Bowl and faces the winner of the American Conference game between Jacksonville and Philadelphia. The Gladiators finish 7-9 with a 1-1 postseason record.