By Keith Antigiovanni
Arizona's return to the Arena Bowl on friday marks not only the culmination of a great season but the return by one of the sports' truly great franchises.
The Rattlers began as an expansion team in 1992 and were led by former Dallas Cowboys' and ASU quarterback Danny White. White's coaching ability helped forge a 69-33 records in the 1990's (1992-1999) which included 7 straight playoff years, 4 division titles, 6 semi-final appearances, 2 Arena Bowls and 2 championships (1994, 1997).
The 1994 team finished 8-4 and second in the West but went on to upset Orlando 36-31 with Arena Football great Shedrick Bonner behind center. Three years later Bonner was hurt and would not play in the Arena Bowl XI but White's team came thru again with backup Donnie Davis leading the Rattlers to a second league championship over Kurt Warner's Iowa Barnstormers.
The 2000's would be also be a successful decade for Arizona but also very frustrating. The Rattlers began the decade (2000-2004) with an overall record of 52-22, 5 straight trips to the playoffs and 3 consecutive Arena Bowl appearances which ended in defeats.
After the third in 2004, Coach Danny White was relieved of his duties and went on to coach another expansion team, the Utah Blaze in 2006. Meanwhile the Rattlers experienced their first sub .500 year in 2005 since their expansion season of 1992. 2006, 2007, 2008 were not good years either as the team posted a combined 20-28 record although the team made the playoffs in 2008 but exited early.
The Arena Football League went on hiatus in 2009 but realigned and returned in 2010. Arizona also returned and went 10-6 to make the playoffs for the 14th time in franchise history but had another early playoff exit.
In 2011 under Coach Kevin Guy the Rattlers had the best regular season recordin the league at 16-2, won its' first divisiontitle, semi-final appearance, and conference title for the first time since 2004. After 19 years of play Arizona has posted an overall record of 174-100 (.635).
Today Arizona seeks its' third Arena Bowl championship and first since 1997 in its' sixth apperance.