PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Trading scores and big-time shots in the final minutes, the Utah Blaze and Arizona Rattlers went to the final gun in the AFL National Conference championship on Saturday night.
The Rattlers scored a TD with eight seconds left to grab a 75-69 win, putting an end to the best season in Utah Blaze franchise history.
Tommy Grady and Aaron Lesue combined on a TD pass with one minute to play for a nine-point Utah lead, but Arizona's Nick Davila and Maurice Purify hooked up on the next play for a score to cut the lead to 69-67.
Arizona's onside kick was unsuccessful, but Utah was picked off in the end zone with 31 seconds to play.
Arizona drove the field and hit Purify with a TD pass with eight seconds to play.
Down 14-0 in the first quarter the Blaze (13-7) did what they've done all season and calmly found an offensive rhythm riding it to a 56-54 lead at the end of the third quarter at U.S. Airways Center.
With a conference title and ArenaBowl berth on the line, the Blaze exploited big plays on defense and All-Arena Utah quarterback Tommy Grady logged 381 yards and eight touchdowns on a 28-of-46 performance.
Utah wideout Tysson Poots had 14 grabs for 158 yards and four TD's at the end of the third while Aaron Lesue led the team with 197 yards and four touchdowns on nine catches.
Arizona (15-5) started strong and grabbed a 14-0 lead after running back Odie Armstrong rumbled in from 40 yards on the Rattlers' opening drive followed by a pick-six from defensive back Arkeith Brown.
Led by lineman Cliff Dukes, Arizona's defensive front got in Grady's face early and often batting down passes and generally making things difficult for the Blaze offense in the first quarter.
Things were different in the second quarter as Utah rallied with an interception from Utah's Alfred Phillips who picked off Arizona QB Nick Davila which led to a touchdown pass from Grady to offensive lineman Ed Ta'amu for the go-ahead score making it 35-33. After a successful onside kick, Grady found Lesue in the end zone and gave Utah a 42-33 lead that held to the break.
Arizona advances to ArenaBowl XXV and will face the Philadelphia Soul in New Orleans on Friday. he Soul whipped Jacksonville 89-34 on Saturday. in ther American Conference finale.
Standard-Examiner correspondent Gentry Reinhart contributed to this report.