New Orleans, LA - For the first time since 1997, the Foster Trophy is headed back to Arizona, as the Rattlers defeated the Philadelphia Soul, 72-54, to win AVITAE ArenaBowl XXV in New Orleans on Friday night.
The championship victory marks the third AFL title in franchise history. Coming into the game, Arizona had lost in each of their last four ArenaBowl appearances including last season's last-second thriller against the Jacksonville Sharks.
This year's ArenaBowl was a completely different story. It was all Rattlers from the opening kickoff on, as Arizona won the coin toss and made the bold decision to defer, handing the ball over to the League's highest-scoring offensive unit to start the game. It was the Rattlers defense, however, which struck first, as Kevin McCullough intercepted a tipped Dan Raudabaugh pass on the game's opening drive to give possession back to Arizona. National Guard MVP of the Game, Nick Davila, and the Rattlers offense made quick work of things, as the southpaw quarterback connected with Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game, Maurice Purify, on a four-yard pass to give Arizona an early 7-0 lead.
Philadelphia would answer in the form of a seven-yard touchdown run by Derrick Ross. Recently acquired kicker Fabrizio Scaccia, who spent the 2011 season with the Rattlers, could not connect on the extra point attempt, leaving Arizona with a 7-6 lead. Davila would find receiver Kerry Reed for a 14-yard score on the Rattlers next possession to extend Arizona's lead to 14-6 after one quarter of play.
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game, Arkeith Brown, made his presence felt early in the second quarter, intercepting a Raudabaugh pass intended for J. Lewis Small Ironman of the Game, Jeff Hughley, in the end zone and returning it out to the Rattlers 21-yard line. On the next play, Davila found Purify on a 29-yard scoring strike to put the Rattlers up 21-6. When Philadelphia got the ball back, Brown hauled in another tipped Raudabaugh pass for his second pick of the game. On the play, Raudabaugh earned the unenviable distinction of becoming the first quarterback in AFL history to throw three interceptions in a single half. Coming off the turnover, the Rattlers were unable to convert on third down, but Chris Gould drilled a 30-yard field goal to put Arizona up 24-6 with seven and a half to play in the first half.
With a little over five minutes remaining in the second quarter, Philadelphia appeared to find its rhythm, as Raudabaugh connected with Hughley on a 26-yard crossing route to cut the Arizona lead to 11. The Rattlers strategically managed the clock during the final minute of the half, but were again unable to punch the ball into the end zone. Gould connected on a 20-yard field goal to end the half with the Rattlers up 27-13.
As action resumed in the third quarter, Davila hit Purify for a 38-yard score to put Arizona up 34-13. Philadelphia would answer on a short dump pass to Derrick Ross, as the big fullback rumbled for a 31-yard touchdown, but Scaccia's extra point attempt went wide right. Davila and Purify responded by connecting for a fourth touchdown, this one from 39 yards out to extend the Rattlers' lead to 22. The Philadelphia offense continued to search for its groove, showing glimpses of the high-powered offensive unit seen on display in the American Conference championship game. With four and a half to play in the third, Raudabaugh found receiver Larry Brackins for a score, cutting Arizona's lead to 15, but a failed onside kick attempt gave Davila a short field. He hit Markee White for a 10-yard score. With the ball again a minute later, Davila found Purify for his fifth touchdown reception of the night. The third quarter ended with Emery Sammons hauling in a Dan Raudabaugh pass for a 21-yard score.
It was not long into the fourth that Purify broke the ArenaBowl record for touchdown receptions in a game, hauling in his sixth of the night to put the Rattlers up 60-34. Purify would finish with seven scores on the night. The Soul answered with a 12-yard touchdown on a Larry Brackins stick route. Emery Sammons added the two-point conversion to put Philadelphia back within 18 points. But Arizona's offense continued to be too much for the Soul defense to handle, as Odie Armstrong rushed for a two-yard score to put the game decidedly out of reach. Raudabaugh connected with Brackins for another touchdown with five minutes to play, but it was too little, too late for the Soul.
Davila finished his MVP night 23-for-30 for 266 yards and nine touchdowns, seven of which found Purify. The All-Arena receiver came away with nine catches for 143 yards. Brandon Anderson led the defense with 10 tackles, while Brown added five tackles and two interceptions. For the Soul, Raudabaugh completed 26-of-42 passes for 285 yards and seven touchdowns. He also threw three interceptions. Hughley led the team in receiving yards with 93, while Brackins finished with a team-high four touchdown receptions. Ross also found the end zone twice for the Soul. Arizona did not trail in the game.
ArenaBowl Game Awards
Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game: Arizona WR Maurice Purify
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game: Arizona DB Arkeith Brown
J. Lewis Small Ironman of the Game: Philadelphia WR Jeff Hughley
AFL Playmaker of the Game: Arizona WR Maurice Purify
Cutters Catch of the Game: Arizona WR Maurice Purify's ArenaBowl record-breaking sixth touchdown reception
Spalding Highlight of the Game: Arizona QB Nick Davila's 38-yard touchdown pass to WR Maurice Purify to open the second half
National Guard MVP of the Game: Arizona QB Nick Davila