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updated: 8/4/2011 4:28 PM

Rush hits road for AFL conference title game

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  • The Chicago Rush earned this ring by winning ArenaBowl XX in 2006. Now the team is one win away from earning a spot in ArenaBowl XXIV. They must beat the Arizona Rattlers on Saturday to advance.

       The Chicago Rush earned this ring by winning ArenaBowl XX in 2006. Now the team is one win away from earning a spot in ArenaBowl XXIV. They must beat the Arizona Rattlers on Saturday to advance.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
By Jayna Johns
jjohns@dailyherald.com

Only four teams remain in the running for ArenaBowl XXIV, and the Chicago Rush heads to Phoenix to take on the league-leading Arizona Rattlers on Saturday for the National Conference title and a spot in the ArenaBowl.

"The guys are definitely excited. This is what you work for all season," said starting quarterback JJ Raterink. "To get to this point is awfully difficult… I know that mentally and physically they're going to be as prepared as possible."

The Rattlers have lost only two games this season by a combined two points. One of those, however, was to the Rush in May, a 50-49 game that the Rush pulled out with a last-second field goal by Chris Gould.

"I'm sure there's a little bit of a revenge factor on their side because we went out and beat them (in front of) their home crowd, and they know what's at stake, too," head coach Bob McMillen said.

Keeping their minds on the task at hand and working to eliminate mistakes have been emphasized all week as the team prepared to face a tough team and a hostile crowd.

"We're just working on staying intense," said linebacker Kelvin Morris. "(We're) trying to stay focused and not messing up... We're kind of on edge, just coming out to practice being intense, keeping a level head, staying focused."

"(Arizona) is going to do what they've done all year," Raterink said. "They don't make very many mistakes so you can't make many mistakes… You want to stay within yourselves, and you control whatever you can control."

The Rush is coming off a 54-51 win in the opening round of the playoffs against the Dallas Vigilantes, a game in which they again came from behind in the final minutes to get the win -- a common occurrence all season.

"It's the character of every guy on the team. They always believe that they are never out of a football game no matter what the score is," said McMillen.

For two Rush players, this game may be their biggest of the year.

"This is our ArenaBowl game," said Morris, who played for the Rattlers last year along with fullback Johnie Kirton. "They've got Arizona on this pedestal saying nobody can beat them. We went to their house and beat them once before, and we think we're going to go down there and do it again."

McMillen said he believes the team is ready for the challenge.

"The guys worked really hard, they're focused, they're excited to go play," he said. "They're goal is right in front of them, and the only thing that stands in their way right now is Arizona."

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