There’s no banners that celebrate a franchise’s first playoff win. There aren’t any rings to commemorate the achievement.
So while the Utah Blaze are excited about their victory over top-seeded San Antonio last Friday in the first round of the Arena Football League playoffs, forgive them for not lingering on it. Their goal is to win a championship.
“You go through a wide range of emotions,” coach Ron James says. “You have to refocus quickly on what’s ahead
The Blaze (13-6) are moving along briskly to their next order of business: trying to take a rubber match from the Arizona Rattlers (14-5) at 8 p.m. this Saturday in the conference championship. The winner goes to Arena Bowl XXV in New Orleans on Aug. 10.
The two are quite familiar, and the Blaze were fortunate enough to get a 62-49 win in their last encounter in Phoenix
Generally, playing the Rattlers in their arena in the postseason tends to be a challenging proposition: Of Arizona’s 24 playoff wins, 19 have come at home. San Jose, another division opponent that split its series with the Blaze, was just the latest to fall.
Quarterback Nick Davila, one of the few who can nearly go yard-for-yard with Utah’s Tommy Grady, will surely be smarting from his last outing against the Blaze when he threw two interceptions. Maurice Purify has also been a menace.
“They’re tough to beat in their place, and they might have the best one-two punch in football,” James said. “We’ll definitely have to be up to the task.”
That involves getting more points out of an offense that only got 35 last week in a one-point squeaker. James said the team saw good things when it reviewed film, but it will be aiming to take advantage of its turnovers with more points.
It will be the Blaze’s third straight road game against a team with double-digit wins, but the travel won’t faze them with a 7-3 road record to this point.
“We’re looking forward to being our own little travel party,” James says. “The way we look at it, we’ve been able to play on the road, and if we get to the Arena Bowl, you’ll have to play on the road anyway. It will get us battle-tested for that final.”
Arizona Rattlers at a glance
• Beat Blaze in Utah, 86-70, earlier in season as QB Nick Davila throws 11 touchdown passes.
• Lost most recent game in Phoenix as Blaze got a 62-49 win.
• Led by Davila (5,550 yards, 113 TDs) and WR Maurice Purify (1932 yards, 46 TDs)
Blaze at Rattlers
P National Conference championship: Saturday, 8 p.m.