Upstart VooDoo visit Arizona Rattlers

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- New Orleans VooDoo coach Pat O'Hara works with quarterback Chris Dixon in a June 22 game against the San Antonio Talons at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- New Orleans VooDoo coach Pat O'Hara works with quarterback Chris Dixon in a June 22 game against the San Antonio Talons at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

Saturday night’s matchup between the VooDoo and the Arizona Rattlers places the Arena Football League’s best team against one of its late bloomers.

Arizona, which last season won the AFL championship at the New Orleans Arena, has already earned a berth to the playoffs this summer, thanks to the league’s best record (13-2). The Rattlers can also clinch the West Division championship with a win or a Spokane Shock loss.

The VooDoo, which endured an eight game-losing streak earlier this season, has now won back-to-back games for the first time — both victories occurred on the road — with the help of recently signed quarterback Chris Dixon. The playoffs, thought at one point to be out of the question, are within reach for the VooDoo, despite a 5-10 record (2-2 in American South).

Arizona, though, figures to be a much stingier host.

No matter, said VooDoo defensive back Dwight McLean, who last season played for Arizona.

“We want to show teams that we can play on the road, and we can play with the best,” McLean said. “We feel pretty confident. We shouldn’t have lost the last couple of games (before the two-game winning streak). We just want to open up some eyes around the league with a win.”

Saturday night’s road game marks McLean’s seventh with the VooDoo. He joined the team in time for a 65-54 loss at Spokane on May 17, then left after one quarter because of a hamstring injury. He returned after missing one game and helped the VooDoo beat the Cleveland Gladiators 69-40 to end the losing streak.

Since then, the VooDoo has won four of its last six games.

Arizona is tied with Philadelphia for the league’s top-ranked scoring offense, averaging 66.5 points per game. Quarterback Nick Davila ranks second in the AFL with 4,176 yards and 95 touchdowns. His main targets are Rod Windsor (91 receptions, 1,246 yards, 33 TDs) and Kerry Reed (61 receptions, 819 yards, 21 TDs).

“They’re going to score,” McLean said. “We just have to stick together. They have big receivers. We’ve got to tackle and in the red zone, make sure we stay with them.”