LAS VEGAS (August 10, 2016) – The Road to ArenaBowl XXIX rolls into Conference Championship Weekend as the American Conference Champion Philadelphia Soul and National Conference Champion Arizona Rattlers will host for the right to play in ArenaBowl XXIX on Friday, August 26 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
In the National Conference Championship, the No. 3 seeded Cleveland Gladiators (8-9) will head to Talking Stick Resort Arena to play the No. 1 seeded Arizona Rattlers (14-3) on Saturday, August 13 at 9:30 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network. The Rattlers swept the regular season matchups, 2-0, by the scores of 77-62 in Cleveland on June 3 and 68-20 in Phoenix on July 24.
Year-end award and All-Arena candidate QB Nick Davila (69.6 comp. %, 4,198 yards and an AFL best 110 TDs), All-Arena candidates WR Rod Windsor (145 catches for 1,667 yards and 50 total TDs) and WR Maurice Purify (84 receptions for 1,017 yards and 30 TDs) lead Arizona. Cleveland QB Arvell Nelson (59.6 comp. %, 3,425 yards, 70 passing TDs and 11 rushing TDs) guides the Gladiators attack with All-Arena candidate WR Collin Taylor (110 receptions for 1,437 yards and 32 TDs) and WR Quentin Sims (92 catches for 1,112 yards and 27 TDs) as his main targets.
In the American Conference Championship, the No. 3 seeded Jacksonville Sharks (8-9) head to PPL Center in Allentown, PA to battle the No. 1 seeded Philadelphia Soul (14-3) on Sunday, August 14 at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN2. This is a re-match of last year’s American Conference title game. The two split their games against each other in the regular season in 2016. The Sharks won the first game, 59-41, back on April 11 in Philadelphia, while the Soul got revenge in the second game, 56-42, on June 4 in Jacksonville.
Philadelphia’s aerial attack is led by 2015 MVP and Offensive Player of the Year QB Dan Raudabaugh (69.3 comp. %, 4,303 yards and 101 TDs). All-Arena candidate WR Darius Reynolds led the Soul receivers with 112 receptions for 1,447 yards and 38 touchdowns. Year-end award and All-Arena candidates DL Jake Metz (AFL-leading 9.0 sacks) and DB Tracy Belton (AFL-leading 9 INTs) lead Philadelphia’s defense. Jacksonville’s year-end award and All-Arena candidates WR Joe Hills (AFL regular season leader with 161 receptions for 2,020 yards and 58 TDs), QB Tommy Grady (68.1 comp. %, 4,495 yards and 94 TDs) and DB Greg Reid (101.5 total tackles, 8 INTs and 35 passes defended) lead the Sharks’ attack. Jacksonville interim head coach Bob Landsee is now 3-0 since taking over in Week 17.
Also on Saturday, the new highlight program, “2016 All-Arena Show”, will be telecast by CBS Sports Network on Saturday, August 13 at 9 p.m. ET, featuring a look back at the 2016 season. The AFL will use the platform to reveal its 2016 All-Arena teams, while also highlighting top candidates for offensive, defensive players and coach of the year awards.
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCHUPS
|NATIONAL CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
NO. 3 CLEVELAND GLADIATORS (8-9) AT NO. 1 ARIZONA RATTLERS (14-3)
|Saturday, August 13 at 9:30 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)
Play-by-play: Dave Ryan; Color: Sherdrick Bonner; Sideline: Cassie McKinney
|SERIES LEADER||Arizona leads 17-3|
|LAST WEEK||W 56-52 at KISS||W 84-40 vs. Steel|
|LAST REG. SEASON MEETING||7/24/26 Rattlers 68 vs. Gladiators 20|
|TOTAL OFFENSE (RANK)||277.4 (5)||289.4 (3)|
|TOTAL DEFENSE (RANK)||306.4 (8)||300.6 (7)|
|POINTS SCORED (RANK)||51.6 (5)||66.8 (1)|
|POINTS ALLOWED (RANK)||58.4 (8)||58.2 (7)|
|TURNOVER MARGIN (RANK)||-9 (6)||+17 (1)|
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The last time Cleveland and Arizona faced off in the postseason was in ArenaBowl XXVII, where the Rattlers beat the Gladiators by a score of 72-32… GLADIATORS: Cleveland is coming off a hard fought 56-52 first round win against the LA KISS last weekend… QB Arvell Nelson completed 13-of-26 passes for 202 yards, two INTs and three TDs… The three-year veteran also added 10 rushing attempts for 14 yards and a TD… A main target for Nelson is WR Collin Taylor… The former Hoosier and All-Arena candidate hauled in eight receptions for 95 yards and a TD… WR Devin Wilson is another target for Nelson’s passes… The rookie caught two passes for 55 yards and a TD… OL Phillip Keith-Manley scored both on the ground and in the air Sunday afternoon… The Toledo alum made one reception for a 21-yard TD, while rushing the ball twice for three yards and one TD… The Cleveland special teams and defense came up huge numerous times during the game… WR Larry Beavers took five kick returns for 114 yards and a touchdown… The five-year veteran’s biggest play was when he recovered a bar ball for a TD with 30 seconds remaining in the game… DB Joe Powell led the Gladiators’ defense with 7.0 total tackles and recorded one INT that he returned for a 50-yard TD… RATTLERS: Arizona put on another dominant performance in their 84-40 win over the Portland Steel this past Saturday… QB Nick Davila continues to prove why he is a top contender for year-end awards and another possible All-Arena selection… The six-year veteran completed 12-of-17 passes for 209 yards and six TDs in a little over two quarters of play…The receiving trio of WR Rod Windsor, WR Maurice Purify, and WR Anthony Amos each hauled in multiple TDs in the first round… Windsor shows no signs of slowing down during the postseason…The Western New Mexico alum hauled in seven receptions for 79 yards and four TDs… Purify caught five receptions for 129 yards for three TDs, while Amos added three catches for 90 yards and two TDs… The Rattlers defense continues to stifle opposing teams’ offense… DB KJ Morton tallied 6.5 total tackles, one pass break-up, two passes defended, and one 33-yard INT return for a TD… DB Arkeith Brown, who earned AFL Playmaker of the Week last week, intercepted the ball twice, including one he returned for a 42-yard TD… The Rattlers are 15-0 when Brown has caught an INT.
|AMERICAN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
NO. 3 JACKSONVILLE SHARKS (8-9) AT NO. 1 PHILADELPHIA SOUL (14-3)
|Sunday, August 14 at 6 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Play-by-play: Joe Beninati; Color: Randy Gatewood; Sideline: Tina Cervasio
|SERIES LEADER||Philadelphia leads 7-6|
|LAST WEEK||W 69-68 at Predators||W 63-41 vs. Storm|
|LAST REG. SEASON MEETING||6/4/16 Soul 56 at Sharks 42|
|TOTAL OFFENSE (RANK)||305.3 (1)||297.5 (2)|
|TOTAL DEFENSE (RANK)||275.8 (5)||271.4 (4)|
|POINTS SCORED (RANK)||52.2 (4)||61.4 (2)|
|POINTS ALLOWED (RANK)||48.4 (T-3)||48.4 (T-3)|
|TURNOVER MARGIN (RANK)||+5 (T-4)||+5 (T-4)|
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: SHARKS: This will be the fourth time in the last five years that the Sharks and Soul battle for the American Conference Championship… Philadelphia won in 2012 and 2013 before the Sharks captured a victory a year ago. Each time, the winner has gone on to lose in the ArenaBowl… All-Arena candidate FB Derrick Ross, who earned Under Armour Offensive Player of the Week honors, helped lead the way as the Sharks defeated Orlando, 69-68, in overtime by rushing 12 times for 26 yards and four TDs and added the game-winning two-point score in overtime…Including the postseason, WR Joe Hills has caught a TD in 73 consecutive games played. Hills has totaled 15 TDs in four postseason games as a member of the Sharks… After sitting out the final two weeks of the regular season, Reggie Gray racked up 15 catches for 143 yards and two TDs in last week’s playoff opener… Last Saturday’s victory over the Predators was the Sharks’ first overtime win in team history… All-Arena candidate WR Tiger Jones, who hauled in his 1,000th career reception earlier this season, finished the regular season with 105 receptions for 1,218 yards and 18 TDs…2015 AFL Rookie of the Year DB Greg Reid paced the Sharks defensive with 101.5 total tackles, 8 INTs and 35 passes defended in 2016… SOUL: Year-end award and All-Arena candidate QB Dan Raudabaugh has thrown at least three TDs in each game of the 2016 season… Raudabaugh, who earned Offensive Player of the Game honors, connected on 22-of-33 passes for 224 yards, eight TDs and two INTs in last week’s win… WR Darius Reynolds averaged 10 receptions five times this season (4/11, 4/23, 5/2, 6/11, 6/17)… In his career, Reynolds has totaled 330 receptions for 4,492 yards and 102 TDs as well as adding 43 rushing yards and 15 rushing TDs… The last time the Soul finished their season 13-3 was in 2008 when the team won ArenaBowl… The Soul have scored at least 40 points in every game this season… MLB Beau Bell, who earned Riddell Defensive Player of the Week, led the Soul defense in their first round 63-41 victory over Tampa Bay with 2.0 total tackles, forced two fumbles and added a sack… All-Arena candidate Shaun Kauleinamoku finished the regular season with 99 catches for 1,304 yards and 26 TDs… Kauleinamoku had seven catches for 77 yards and three TDs in last week’s victory… All-Arena candidate Dwayne Hollis (66.0 total tackles and 8 INTs in regular season) had an INT in last week’s win… All-Arena candidates OLs Adam Smith, Neal Tivis and Wayne Tribue led the AFL by allowing the fewest sacks in 2016 by giving up only five.