Comebacks are no easy task in the Arena Football League, where offenses are often turbo charged machines. A two-touchdown deficit in the indoor war can often be crushing to a team’s chances – let alone trailing by three touchdowns.
So, as Arizona prepare to face the Chicago Rush this Friday night, the Rattlers would like to avoid replicating every aspect of their season opening victory vs. Cleveland. Sure, they want to win again and begin the season 2-0, but they’d certainly like to avoid the huge hole they were forced to dig their way out of against the Gladiators.
The Rattlers found themselves down 35-14 at halftime with only one offensive touchdown to that point. However, the team kept its collective head high and rallied for a 61-56 victory.
So, what exactly was said behind closed doors during halftime?
“Actually, I didn’t say a lot,” Head Coach Kevin Guy said. “(The players) were telling me, ‘Hey coach, don’t worry, we’ve got this one.’ The only thing I really talked to them about is that we needed to raise our intensity level. It was the first game. It was our first game. We hadn’t had a preseason scrimmage.
“We felt like we were the better team and we just needed to settle down and play Rattlers football. You’ve got to give all the players their credit. They made the big plays in the second half.”
Helping to create this confidence was QB Nick Davila, who found himself matched up against AFL veteran signal caller John Dutton. But, despite having had just a few weeks of experience with his teammates, Davila had seen enough throughout training camp to have the utmost confidence in his crew and the challenge ahead.
“I knew that as a team the talent that we had that we were going to be fine,” Davila said. “I knew our defense was going to get stops because coach guy does a great job with them. When you play Arena Football, especially, you’ve just got to keep playing ball, whether you’re up by 14 or down by 14. That’s what we did.”
The early deficit came in part to the loss of WR Tod Devoe, who went down in the opening quarter due to an injury. Dressing only three receivers, the loss posed an immediate challenge to the Rattlers, who put DB Sergio Gilliam into Devoe’s role – despite Gilliam’s complete lack of experience as a wideout.
“I just had to tell him on every play what to do and he went out and did it, caught a couple of balls and had a great game,” Offensive Coach Danny White said. “But to come back from three touchdowns, on the road, undermanned, against a team that’s favored to beat you…you put all of that together and it was a pretty amazing comeback.”
It was the kind of comeback that not only allowed Arizona to open the season with a win, but also bonded the young team and provided the kind of camaraderie that can provide long-term benefits.
“That was good for us, emotionally, as a team,” Davila said. “It helped us to fight through it and just keep chipping away and just keep chopping wood and that’s the key. That’s what (Coach Guy) harped on us before the game and at halftime. Just keep playing ball and keep chopping wood.
“Whenever you have a new team starting, it’s always good to get your first game in and get a win – and in that fashion it really brought us together.”