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Shock, Rattlers play for bragging rights

Sun., March 23, 2014, midnight

They were arguably the two best teams in the Arena Football League last year. Arizona ultimately established itself as No. 1.

They could very well be the two best teams this season but the pecking order won’t be known for months. An early indication will come today when the Spokane Shock visit the Rattlers at US Airways Center in Phoenix.

“We’re really hoping to set a tone,” Shock coach Andy Olson said. “Guys are going to have to be ready to go; it’s going to be a tough game. We can’t have the mental mistakes we had last week (in a 64-35 win over Iowa).”

Arizona won its opener, 62-55, in overtime against Philadelphia. The Rattlers tied it with 8 seconds left in regulation and former Shock quarterback Nick Davila’s touchdown pass won it in overtime.

“They’re good, they’re solid, they’re Arizona,” Olson said of the two-time defending AFL champions. “They have Nick at quarterback and as long as he’s playing there they’re always going to be good. They’re going to play consistent football like they always do and wait for us to make a mistake.”

Arizona ended Spokane’s season in the 2013 National Conference title game. Spokane, which is 1-5 all-time at US Airways Center, led at halftime but paid for second-half mistakes and lost 65-57.

“We have a bunch of energy,” Shock receiver Brandon Thompkins said. “Everybody remembers what happened and we don’t want to leave with that same taste in our mouth again.”

Spokane and Arizona will meet three times in the regular season, twice in Phoenix. The AFL scheduled more regional matchups because they generate more interest and lower travel costs.

“I guess whoever comes out on top has the upper hand early in the season,” Shock quarterback Erik Meyer said. “We just have to find a way to win. That’s what they do well, in close games they come out on top.

“We have to do a better job of finding ways to win those kinds of games.”

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