KANSAS CITY -The Arizona Rattlers defeated the Kansas City Command 63-49 at the Sprint Center (April 16) to open the season at 5-0 - the best start in franchise history. WR ROD WINDSOR was a spark in the victory, catching 16 passes for 217 yards and five touchdowns.
The Rattlers fired out of the gate early with two quick receiving scores from Windsor. The first touchdown coming less than 90 seconds into the contest, a 28 yard scoring strike, to put the Rattlers up 7-0; the second receiving score, of two yards, came at the 3:43 mark of the first quarter to make the score 14-7.
The Rattlers opened up a two touchdown lead when FB ODIE ARMSTRONG rushed over the left side for a two-yard touchdown late in the first quarter to put the Rattlers up 21-7.
A WR KERRY REED three-yard TD reception at the 5:26 mark of the second quarter was sandwiched between two Command touchdowns, setting up a halftime score of 28-21.
WR Christian Wise opened up the second half by taking the opening kickoff 54 yards to the endzone, knotting the score at 28.
Both teams traded scores throughout the second half with Windsor putting six on the board after a 22-yard touchdown reception at the 13:09 mark, and WR TRANDON HARVEY returning a kickoff for a score with 7:11 remaining in the third quarter to tilt the score in the Rattlers' favor at 42-35.
As has been the case throughout the season, the defensive turning point came with 2:55 left in the third quarter when DL ANTTAJ HAWTHORNE dropped QB JJ Ratterink for an eight-yard loss to set the Command up for a missed 54-yard field goal by Kicker Brian Umstead.
Harvey opened the fourth quarter with a two-yard touchdown reception as the Rattlers began to widen the margin at 49-35.
KICKER FABRIZIO SCACCIA made all nine of his PAT attempts in his season debut. Davila finished the night going 29-for-36 for 330 yards, with seven touchdowns and one interception.
It was a game of one-upmanship for the first three quarters; Arizona got out to an early lead, but KC responded in-kind each time points were put on the board. And despite a
nearly heroic effort on the part of the COMMAND's offense, the Rattlers would stay either tied, or ahead of the home team; from the second play of the game until the the clock ran out.
The first quarter started with the ball in Arizona's hands, and it would only take two plays for the league's top team to make it into the end zone. Quarterback Nick Davila's second pass of the game landed in the hands of receiver Rod Windsor for 28 yards and the first touchdown. The COMMAND answered by methodically driving down the field, where quarterback JJ Raterink would find Steven Savoy in the end zone for the COMMAND's first score of the game.
But after putting in two quick touchdowns back-to-back, another pass to Rod Windsor and a 1 yard run by Odie Armstrong, Arizona widened the gap and put KC into catchup mode.
A 13 yard pass to Aaron Hosack put the COMMAND back within 7 points as the second quarter was underway. Linebacker Bradly Chavez picked off a pass and ran it back 44 yards into the Arizona end zone but a flag on the play nullified the effort on the part of the Week 5 JLS Ironman of the Week. Arizona would onlyscore once more in the second, with a three yard pass to Kerry Reed. Linebacker Tyus Jackson, in a virtual repeat performance in last week's game against the Iowa Barnstormers, plowed through the offensive line and sacked Nick Davila for 7 yards. The second half would end with the COMMAND's two touchdowns putting it back to within 7 points, 21-28.
Undoubtedly the half-time speech from head coach Danton Barto put some fire into the team, because Christian Wise returned the opening kickoff 54 yards for a touchdown, tying the game 28-28. Both teams would put in two touchdowns, and Arizona's Trandom Harvey even matched Christian Wise's kickoff return touchdown with his own 57 yard run. The COMMAND's next possession resulted in a significant stoppage, that may have determined the course of the game. Raterink was sacked for a loss of 8 yards by Antajj Hawthorne. His subsequent pass attempts to Steven Savoy came up incomplete, and the attempted 56 yard field goal by kicker Brian Umstead was just short of the goal. The turnover put the ball back in Arizona's hands with the Rattlers leading 42-35. They'd go on to drive down to within sight of the end zone as the third quarter closed.
Up until this point it had been a legitimate back-and-forth between the two teams. The COMMAND had tied the Rattlers twice, and had stayed within 7 points for most of the game.
The Rattlers seemed to sense the danger of going into the last quarter of the game with the home team being within striking distance of a victory. From here on, they would play with a fierce desperation to hang on to their unblemished record.
Arizona opened the quarter with a short pass to Trandom Harvey, putting them up by two scores, 49-35. Wide receiver Aaron Hosack would recover an end zone fumble by Steven Savoy, scoring another Touchdown for KC and bringing it back within 7 points. Arizona would score two more times, widening the gap by 21 points. Still fighting for every point, JJ Raterink found Bret Smith, then Rich Ranglin, then finally Savoy for the COMMAND's last touchdown of the game.
The team watched as Arizona ran the clock out, the final score standing Arizona 63, Kansas City 49. Head Coach Danton Barto was understandably disappointed in the loss, but put relied on his vast experience with the game of Arena Football to put things in perspective: “When you face a team that's undefeated like Arizona you know you're going to need to pull out all the stops. I think we played hard, but they just had an edge on us tonight. Regardless, I'm proud of some of the plays we made tonight.”
As the fans exited Sprint Center and the Boy Scouts filtered in for their post-game, on-field camp out, it was as if a question mark hung over the field, just below the JumboTron. That question being: with the COMMAND facing some of the league's toughest opponents in its first 5 games, will the hard road early on in the 2011 season be the sand that polishes the team's rough edges? Many have remarked that the schedule has been Kansas City's constant, off-field opponent. But Defensive Backs Coach Terrance Quattlebaum has his own take on the way things have gone so far this season. He says, “the ultimate measure of an athlete is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.”
The COMMAND travel next to Chicago where they will face the 4 and 1 Rush, where Quarterback JJ Raterink got his first taste of leading an AFL team when he filled in for Rush QB Russ Michna. The two will go head-to-head for the first time in a nationally televised broacast on the NFL Network.
National Guard MVP: Rod Windsor - Arizona
Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game: Rod Windsor - Arizona
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game: Carlton Brown - KC
JLS Ironman of the Game: Bradly Chavez - KC
Cutters Catch of the Game: Steven Savoy - KC
Nifty Player maker of the Game: Christian Wise - KC