By Keith Antigiovanni
The teams for Arena Bowl XXV are now set with the National Conference champion Arizona Rattlers going against the American Conference champion Philadelphia Soul in New Orleans Next Friday (August 10).
The Rattlers clinched their 7th Arena Bowl appearance with a 75-69 victory over the Western rival Utah at home while the Soul path to the final was much easier in a 89-34 win over defending champion Jacksonville.
Arizona and Philadelphia did not meet in the regular season this year but both have prolific offenses.
The Rattlers are in their 20th season and have been one of the top three franchises in the quarter-century history of the league with a regular season of 187-105, 17 years in the playoffs, 12 conference title/semi-final games, 7 Arena Bowl appearances and fifth attempt at winning a third championship.
Danny White, the first coach in franchise history, led Arizona to the playoffs 12 straight times (1993-2004) which included the 1994 and 1997 Arena Bowl wins, three straight appearances (2002-2004) but lost two of them to arch-rival San Jose. After the 2004 Arena Bowl White and the Rattlers went their separate ways. The next four years the team would only go back to the playoffs twice (2006, 2008) but did not advance.
After the league went on hiatus in 2009 Arizona returned as a league power with three straight playoff years (2010 10-6, 2011 16-2, 2012 13-5). The Rattlers have won back-to-back division titles and now conference titles but are still looking for that elusive third championship this year.
Meanwhile their opponent began in 2004 and won the final Arena Bowl in 2008 before the hiatus in 2009 and did not return until last year.