Aug 24,2014(ISN) – CLEVELAND – For the second time in AFL history, a team has achieved a “three-peat,” as the Arizona Rattlers defeated the Cleveland Gladiators, 72-32, in the largest margin of victory in ArenaBowl history.
In front of a crowd of 18,404 at the Quicken Loans Arena, the Rattlers earned the franchise’s fifth ArenaBowl title and joined the Detroit Drive as the only other franchise in League history to win three straight ArenaBowls.
Arizona was led by MVP Nick Davila, who finished the game with 237 yards on 19-of-24 passing with eight touchdowns and one interception.
The Rattlers struck early and never looked back. On their first drive of the game, Davila found wide receiver Rod Windsor for a 41-yard touchdown strike. Arizona would cease to relinquish the lead from that point forward.
On the ensuing Cleveland drive, quarterback Shane Austin found wide receiver Dominick Goodman for 20 yards to bring the Gladiators to the Arizona eight-yard line. However on fourth down — under heavy pressure — Austin underthrew his intended receiver and the pass was intercepted by J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game, Kerry Reed, who returned it 46 yards for a touchdown to give Arizona a 14-0 lead.
The Gladiators responded on their next drive, as Austin found receiver Collin Taylor in the end zone from nine yards out. Kicker Aaron Pettrey missed the extra point making the score, 14-6.
Cleveland’s eight point deficit going into the second quarter would be the last time they were within 10 points of Arizona as the Rattlers exploded in the second quarter, setting an ArenaBowl record with 30 points in the second frame.
On the second play of the quarter, Davila found wide receiver Chris Jackson from 11 yards out for the “Latin Laser’s” third touchdown of the game, extending the Rattlers lead to 21-6.
Arizona’s defensive pressure, which had been bothering Austin throughout the first quarter, finally left its mark, as defensive lineman Cliff Dukes sacked Austin in the end zone for a safety.
In addition to the sack, Dukes gathered 4.5 tackles on the night, constantly harassing Cleveland’s All-Arena signal-caller, earning Dukes Riddell Defensive Player of the Game honors.
After Arizona got the ball back from the safety kickoff, Davila led the Rattlers down the field on four plays for another touchdown, this time finding receiver Tysson Poots on a 12-yard connection.
The Gladiators offense failed to get back on track, as Austin threw his second interception on the next drive when defensive back Jeremy Kellem stepped in front of his pass for an interception at the Cleveland 25-yard line.
Six plays later, Davila found Reed in the end zone for another Rattlers touchdown.
Reed would find the end zone again on offense and collect one more interception in the game.
The Gladiators next drive, once again, ended in a Jeremy Kellem interception, which he returned 20 yards to the Cleveland 15 yard-line. The Cleveland defense brought some semblance of life back to the team on that drive, when Jack linebacker Alvin Ray Jackson intercepted Davila on the very next play.
The Gladiators were able to capitalize on the Arizona mistake as Austin found receiver Thyron Lewis in the end zone from 15 yards out, shrinking the Arizona lead to 24.
Cleveland head coach Steve Thonn attempted to catch the Rattlers off-guard on the ensuing kickoff as he tried an onside kick but it was recovered by Arizona at the Cleveland 10-yard line.
Davila found Windsor on the very next play putting Arizona up, 44-13. The score gave Arizona the ArenaBowl record for most first half points.
The Gladiators received the second half kickoff but turned the ball over on downs on their own five-yard line. Davila would subsequently find Reed from three yards out to give Arizona a 51-13 lead.
Cleveland’s next drive ended in another Austin interception as Reed picked him off for the second time. This was Austin’s fourth interception of the game, the third-most in a single ArenaBowl in AFL history.
Davila then went on to hook up with Windsor on a 30-yard touchdown pass; Windsor’s third and final touchdown reception of the game.
The Gladiators were able to find the end zone at the end of the third quarter but the Arizona lead proved to be too insurmountable.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Davila completed his eighth and final touchdown, as he was taken out after the drive. The score put Arizona up, 65-19.
Cleveland backup quarterback Chris Dieker would lead Cleveland to two touchdowns in the fourth quarter but it was too little too late as Arizona was able to hold on, 72-32.
Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game: QB Nick Davila
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game: DE Cliff Dukes
J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game: WR Kerry Reed
Cutter Catch of the Game: WR Dominick Goodman 5-yard touchdown catch (4th Quarter)
AFL Highlight of the Game: WR Kerry Reed’s 46-yard INT TD (1st Quarter)
ArenaBowl MVP: QB Nick Davila