PHOENIX — The Utah Blaze were nine seconds away from punching a ticket to ArenaBowl XXV.
The Blaze maintained a 69-60 lead. However, after allowing a quick Arizona score, the Rattlers stoned Utah on a goalline stand, and with nine ticks left completed the miraculous comeback for the 75-69 win.
Arizona (15-5) jumped out to an early two-score advantage. On the second play from scrimmage, Odie Armstrong cut the corner for a massive 40-yard run. Then, on Utah's first possession, Rattlers' Cliff Dukes deflected quarterback Tommy Grady's pass into Arkeith Brown's welcoming arm for the 14-0 lead with 11:22 in the first quarter.
Utah (13-7), unfazed, steadily battled back.
In the second quarter, trailing 17-7, Grady connected with Aaron Lesue on fourth and short — deep within Utah territory — for a 48-yard score.
The Blaze eventually took their first lead of the game after Arizona attempted a bizarre receiver double-pass that Al Phillips picked off. Two plays later Grady found Ed Ta'amu on a short dump pass for the 35-33 lead.
Utah fooled Arizona with a quick onside kick with 55 seconds remaining in the first half. Grady and Co. didn't wait long to extend the lead to 42-33 heading into the locker rooms — ending the half on a 28-7 run.
In the first half, Arizona's standout receiver, Maurice Purify, was invisible as Utah held him to zero catches.
On the second play in the third quarter, with a chance to blow the game open, Grady overthrew Lesue, allowing Brown to snag his second interception of the game.1 comment on this story
The two continued to exchange scores from that point forward as Utah clung to a two-point advantage throughout.
But Purify proved too much in the end. In the second half he hauled in nine receptions for 142 yards and five scores.
Yet, Utah still had an opportunity to win. With the ball on the Arizona five yard line, Grady — on fourth down after three straight incompletions — chucked his third interception of the night — ultimately sealing the Blaze's fate.
Arizona advances to the ArenaBowl XXV in New Orleans against the Philadelphia Soul.