Category Archives: Game Recaps

The Storm Subsides as the Rattlers Take Care of Business in the Desert

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               The Arizona Rattlers came into their Week three match-up against the Tampa Bay Storm having won their first two games by an average of 46.5 points. The amazing part of that stat is both of those games came on the road at Portland and at Los Angeles. But this was their home opener at the Talking Stick Resort Arena, the place where they have won five straight openers. Last night’s game would prove to be no different as Nick Davila and company overwhelmed Tampa Bay to a 60-27 victory in front of almost 15 thousand fans.

Let’s not kid ourselves when we think about the match-up between Arizona and Tampa Bay. Arizona will be favored in every game they play the rest of the season, while being most everyone’s Arena Bowl favorite. On the other side you have Tampa Bay, who is every bit of 0-3 that their record shows. Without saying it, Head Coach Lawrence Samuels sent out a message to the locker room and the rest of the AFL. Tampa Bay has no chance with Jonathan Bane at quarterback. Jason Boltus was brought back on Wednesday and started a game on Saturday against the league’s best defense. The rust was prevalent in Boltus as he finished 11 of 37 for 186 yards with 3 TD’s and an interception. But that doesn’t tell the whole story, he wasn’t able to set his feet on most of his throws as guys like Tyre Glasper and Damien Borel were in his face all night. Tampa Bay finished the night with 11 drives on offense, four of those went for points. That means they had seven drives that finished with either a turnover, downs, or the half. The opponent had a lot to do with those numbers, but if you want to compete in this league, you have to be more successful than that. Luckily for Tampa Bay, they have two weeks to get Boltus up to speed before hosting Jacksonville in Week five.

On the other side of the ball, Arizona continued to do what it does best, which is score points. And speaking of drives, Arizona also finished with 11 and nine of those went for touchdowns while one was a fumble at the 1 yard line. That is the gold standard for efficiency in the Arena Football League. Until teams can start making Davila uncomfortable, they are going to continue to score at will. Scoring at will is what Rod Windsor continues to do, he caught eight touchdowns the first two games and added another four last night. You know teams are game planning to stop him and they still can’t. Two of Windsor’s touchdowns came on passes where there wasn’t a defender within five yards of him. Coach Guy’s play calling every week proves to be one of the best in the league. In each of the three games played this year they have won by more than 30 points, but also each margin of victory has gone down. If there is a team to put up enough points to compete with Arizona, it will be Jacksonville. Next week’s game against the Sharks will show whether any team will be able to make the Rattlers sweat a little bit or will Arizona just bully their way to a sixth Arena Bowl Championship.

At the end of the day, what we say last night was the team who could very easily be a five time defending champion going up against a make shift team on their third quarterback. Everyone expected Arizona to go out there and embarrass the Storm, but the encouraging sign to come out of it was that with Jason Boltus, the Storm might have a fighting chance against the other six teams in the league outside of Arizona. It will be interesting to see how Tampa Bay comes out after the bye, it couldn’t have come at a better time. While Arizona continues on a torrid pace to avenge last year’s National Conference Championship defeat at the hands of the now defunct San Jose SaberCats. The Rattlers are on a mission and we are all just witnesses along for the ride.

Under Armour Offensive Player of the Game: Nick Davila (AZ)

Riddell Defensive Player of the Game: Tyre Glasper (AZ)

J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game: Rod Windsor(AZ)

Cutters Catch of the Game: Mykel Benson (AZ) 1 handed catch

AFL Highlight of the Game: Tyre Glasper (AZ) fumble recovery for TD

New “KISS”… Same as the Old “KISS”

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It was fourth down and six from the Arizona 21 five minutes into the game. A simple screen pass that Nathan Stanley threw to a wide open Travis Bond. It was a perfect pass, but it fell what was thought to be innocently to the turf. Yes, it was only five minutes into the game, but that pass might have the turning point of the game. Arizona had already went straight down the field on two plays and lead 7-0 less than a minute into the game. Los Angeles HAD to answer, they knew it was going to be that kind of night, but when Bond couldn’t corral the wide open pass, it gave Arizona the ever so slight edge it needed to blow the game open.

Sure, Los Angeles was down only 14 points at halftime, but if you were watching the game you knew that something had to break in the second half. Arizona would go on short drives and score at will, while only one of LA’s touchdown drives was less than four plays. The bid to show the world that the KISS were for real in 2016 ended shortly after the second half began when Nathan Stanley threw his first of three interceptions. By the time it was over a guy named Pete Thomas was throwing ducks to LA receivers as Shane Boyd was getting reps in the fourth quarter for the second week in a row.

This was supposed to be the game of the week, the game that would showcase the “new” LA KISS under first year head coach Omarr Smith. But it turned into a typical Rattlers game against anyone except for San Jose. I think the Rattler players are wearing contact lenses with the SaberCat logo on them or something because the KISS are not as bad as they looked last night. It doesn’t help that Rod Windsor looks like man possessed, he saw his week one performance of 7 catches, 86 yards, and 4 touchdowns as a warmup. He walked out of the Honda Center late last night with 13 catches 151 yards and 4 more scores. Who is going to stop this Rattler team in 2016? We thought after watching Orlando handle Tampa Bay, that maybe their defense would hold up against the Latin Laser and AFL mastermind Kevin Guy, but they just got 50 points hung up on them by Portland. Barring a huge injury, this is Arizona’s year and the rest of the teams are just playing as a footnote in the record books that the Rattler’s are sure to rewrite.

For Los Angeles, they need to get that game out of their heads immediately. That might have been something the team needed as most around the Arena Football League was tooting their horn after taking it to Jacksonville in Week 1. Hopefully Donovan “Captain” Morgan will be ok after limping off the field late in the 4th quarter because that young WR core they have will need his leadership and playmaking ability to rebound next week against Cleveland. The good news is, Portland looked like a CIFL team against Arizona Week 1 and almost took out Orlando in Week 2. They won’t be playing Nick Davila and Rod Windsor against Cleveland, so look for Los Angeles to try and bounce back in week three.

Looking ahead to next week, Arizona is getting a glorified bye week when the already struggling Tampa Bay Storm come into the snake pit with a massive question mark at quarterback. Maybe Tampa can get up one week and make a game out of it, but at least as of today, I just don’t see that happening. Arizona is on a mission to embarrass every team they face this year and next week they will play a very sloppy emotionless team in the Storm. As for the KISS, they will be featured on National TV again for the third week in a row as they travel to Cleveland to take on Dennis Havrilla and the 1-1 Gladiators for sole place in second behind Arizona in the National Conference.

AFL Digital Stats of the Game

Under Armour Offensive Player of the Game: Nick Davila, Arizona

Riddell Defensive Player of the Game: Allen Chapman, Arizona

Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game: Donovan Morgan, Los Angeles

Cutters Catch of the Game: Donovan Morgan 28-yd TD reception with 11:52 left in the 2nd Quarter

AFL Highlight of the Game: Anthony Amos 54-yard Kickoff Return touchdown

Last Second Interception Ends the Steel’s Dream of an Upset

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Week Two of the 2016 season featured two very close games, surprisingly highlighted by the Portland Steel and the Orlando Predators. If Week One was an indication of how this game was going to play out, then you would have thought Orlando was going to throw up 70 points on the Steel. Luckily for them (and us fans), the good Danny Southwick came to play Saturday night as it took over 59 minutes for the home town Predators to seal the victor 53-50 at the Amway Center.

The two early games Saturday night started off very slow for Arena Football standards, Cleveland was up 14-12 on Tampa Bay at the half and in this game Orlando held a slim 20-16 halftime lead. To put that into perspective, the LA KISS scored more than all four of those teams in the first half of their game and were LOSING by 14 points at the half. I don’t know if Orlando was suffering a hangover after taking it to their bitter rivals last week, or if Portland just looked as bad as they did because they were playing Arizona last week. If you look back to last season, Danny Southwick was the QB who led the KISS into San Jose to hand the SaberCats their only loss of the season. Yesterday’s performance for Southwick was eerily similar to that performance, which is why Portland held a lead in the final minute. Even without preseason number one WR for the team Nick Truesdell, Southwick tossed five touchdowns and completed 66% of his passes with almost half going to newcomer Jabin Sambrano. Sambrano finished the game with 11 catches for 73 yards and 2 scores as he looks to fill Truesdell’s shoes in the offense.

Orlando’s QB Randy Hippeard continues his case for early season MVP. Only two QB’s in the league (with at least 20 attempts) have yet to throw an interception. One is of course Nick Davila, but the other is Hippeard who has tossed 12 touchdowns and also ran for two. It’s hard to tell whether that performance is another step in his growth as he seems to get better every year, or if it’s the competition. I know I just said Portland played inspired and made a game out of it when most people didn’t, but let’s be honest with ourselves. Portland isn’t going anywhere this year and neither is Tampa Bay. I will reserve judgement on this team until next week when they travel to face the Jacksonville Sharks in the teams home opener Monday April 18th.

The silver lining for Portland here has got to be the play of Sambrano. When Truesdell was put on the Injured Reserve list it seemed Portland was going to have to turn to Jared Perry and Tom Gilson as their top two receiving threats. And while, those two players are good in their own right, Samrano has the skillset to be a dominant force in the Arena game. He is a little shorter than Perry at 5’11”, but he uses every inch of that frame to get the job done. Portland may not be go far in the playoffs, but if they can build the offense around Sambrano, they may just go into one of the juggernaut teams and surprise someone.

Looking at week three we see Portland continuing their murderer’s row of a schedule to begin the season. After starting with Arizona and Orlando, Portland gets the “pleasure” of traveling to Philadelphia to face the Soul next Sunday Afternoon on National Television (ESPN2). I’ve already mentioned it, but Orlando will travel to Jacksonville in Week three to face the Sharks in what will be Orlando first true test of the season.

AFL Digital Stats of the Game

Under Armour Offensive Player of the Game: Brandon Thompkins, Orlando

Riddell Defensive Player of the Game:

Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game: Brandon Thompkins, Orlando

Cutters Catch of the Game:

AFL Highlight of the Game:

The Cleveland Gladiators Find Win Number One Behind the Pig Tails of QB Dennis Havrilla

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Both the Cleveland Gladiators and the Tampa Bay Storm took the field Saturday night hoping to erase the memory of Week 1 when both teams were embarrassed on their home turf. Unfortunately for Cleveland the nightmare continued into the opening kickoff as WR Larry Beavers coughed up the football and gave Tampa Bay a short field. It took several tries, but the Storm were able to punch the ball in the end zone to take a quick 6-0 lead for Tampa Bay.

Turnovers were the story of this game as both teams combined to turn the ball over six times which led to a sloppy showing at the Q. But at the end of the day, Cleveland won this game 41-29 because of one simple thing, their QB was competent. Tampa Bay brought Adam Kennedy back into the starting line-up probably not because they wanted to, but because they had too. He only lasted a half as he was unable to play after being hit hard twice in the final seconds of the 1st half. His backup Jonathan Bane didn’t fare too much better as he failed to complete even half of his passes. Between the two QB’s they went 18 for 37 for 156 yards with 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. That won’t get the job done at any level of football.

On the other side of the field, Cleveland brought in Dennis Havrilla who was with the team during training camp, but was cut before the season started after they decided to go with Chris Dieker and Avrill Nelson in Week 1. Well, Dieker made it one game and was put on the Injured Reserve list earlier in the week due to an ankle injury he suffered at the end of the loss to the Soul in Week 1. No one really knew how Dennis would play as he has bounced around the league so much in his short career and his last stint in the league was last season with the Las Vegas Outlaws. He was a nice surprise as he finished with almost a 110 quarterback rating while tossing five touchdowns in the win. He was able to get Collin Taylor involved unlike Dieker in Week 1. Taylor finished the game with five catches for 69 yards and three scores. If Dennis can continue to play like he did last night, expect Cleveland to hand him the starting job for the rest of the season, even if Dieker is ready to return after Week 9.

The silver lining for Tampa Bay continues to be their WR core. V’Keon Lacey returned this week and quickly snagged two touchdowns on three receptions. Phillip Barnett also returned in Week 2 and proved to be both Kennedy and Bane’s favorite target. Once the Storm get Julius Gregory back, then the foursome of Gregory, Barnett, Lacey, and Toliver will be a touch matchup for defenders. For their sake, I hope Tampa can get some stability at the quarterback position.

The bright spot in Cleveland seems to be the play of rookie DB Joe Powell. He followed up his two interception performance in week 1 with another two interception day in Week 2. Joe easily could’ve had a couple more if not for letting the ball slip through his hands. But when it mattered most, in the fourth quarter with less than 20 seconds, Powell showed his playmaking ability by snagging a pass in his own end zone, breaking a tackle, and taking it 50 yards to ice the victory for Cleveland. Powell will be a strong candidate to repeat as the AFL Highlight of the week winner.

Looking ahead to week three, Cleveland finds themselves in their third straight home game as they host the Los Angeles KISS in a battle for second place of the National Conference. The KISS are coming off a bad loss to Arizona, so you can expect Omarr Smith to have his players ready to go next Saturday Night on CBS Sports Net. Tampa Bay’s schedule continues to be rough as they will travel cross-country to take on the red-hot Arizona Rattlers in their home opener. Coach Samuels better figure out something because he is going to start losing the players in the locker room if they can’t find a half decent quarterback to lead this team until Jason Boltus returns.

AFL Digital Stats of the Game

Under Armour Offensive Player of the Game: Dennis Havrilla, Cleveland

Riddell Defensive Player of the Game: Joe Powell, Cleveland

Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game: Thyron Lewis, Cleveland

Cutters Catch of the Game: Joe Powell interception, Cleveland

AFL Highlight of the Game: Joe Powell game-winning interception, Cleveland