PHOENIX One team had everything to play for. The other had virtually nothing on the line.
For two quarters Saturday night as Utah battled Arizona in the regular season finale, it looked like the Blaze would waltz into the AFL playoffs with the Rattlers playing without much to worry about.
In the end, though, the Rattlers made things more than interesting, nearly wiping out a 25-point lead before the Blaze finally put the game on ice and secured a long-awaited home playoff game with the fourth seed in the American Conference.
That win wasn't secure, though, until Kelvin Morris picked off a pass and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown with just a few seconds left, giving Utah a 62-45 win.
Among the many scenarios the Blaze had in front of them in regards to locking down a playoff spot, simply winning was the one most favored.
Hoping for losses by other teams would get Utah into the six-team bracket, but a win would give the Blaze their first-ever home playoff contest.
With that as its primary objective, Utah bolted out to a 24-0 lead just moments into the second quarter and never lost it.
Next up for Utah will be a playoff game against Colorado. Kickoff date and time will be announced today.
The Blaze scored on the game's first possession a 20-yard strike from Joe Germaine to Huey Whittaker and then got a pair of defensive stops to extend their lead.
Germaine continued his marksmanship throughout the first half as he connected on 13-of-15 passes for 188 yards and five touchdowns by the time his team headed for the locker room.
J.J. McKelvey and Aaron Boone each had two touchdowns in the first half and the Blaze defense gave Arizona fits.
Rattler quarterback Matt Sauk, a former Utah State player, was ineffective in
moving the team in the first half and was pulled in favor of Jeff Smoker.
Perhaps Arizona's playoff situation the Rattlers were already locked into the American Conference third seed regardless of Saturday's outcome played a factor, but Utah dominated the regular season finale in first half until the Rattlers woke up and made things interesting with a shutout in the third quarter.
Another McKelvey fumble and an intercepted pass by Germaine allowed Arizona to score 19 unanswered points to close the gap to 38-32.
Arizona got as close as one score away from the lead twice more, but after Blaze kicker Steve Videtich booted a 22-yard field goal with less than a minute to play, Utah enjoyed a 55-45 lead and Arizona was forced to throw deep with seconds ticking away.
Morris' interception for a touchdown put a capper on the game and allowed the Blaze to extend their late-season surge with six wins in their last seven games.
The win was needed, as Utah didn't get much help elsewhere around the AFL.
The Blaze would have secured a playoff spotwin or lose against Arizona had either Grand Rapids or Colorado lost. But the Rampage and Crush both posted victories to secure playoff spots of their own.
Germaine cooled off a bit in the second half, but still finished the game with 324 yards on 24-of-34 passing for six scores.
McKelvey had 11 receptions for 146 yards and two scores, but also had the two lost fumbles which allowed Arizona to make the game closer than it probably should have been. Boone added seven catches for 103 yards and three touchdowns.
Former Utah Blaze star Siaha Burley had nine receptions for 146 yards and one touchdown while Trandon Harver had 125 yards and three touchdowns on eight receptions.
The Blaze also took advantage of a solid kicking game. Videtich made both of his field goal attempts and didn't miss a PAT. Arizona's Eric Houle, on the other hand, missed two field goals and a pair of PATs which lead to failed 2-point conversions.