With the San Antonio Commanders pulling away in the Western Conference of the Alliance of American Football, the San Diego Fleet and Arizona Hotshots are fighting to stay in contention and for their postseason lives.
Behind the hot hand and educated feet of Hotshots quarterback John Wolford, Arizona emerged from a back-and-forth first half with a slight lead and pulled away with a fourth-quarter surge to defeat San Diego, 32-15, on Sunday afternoon at Sun Devil Stadium.
The victory pushed the Hotshots (4-3) into second place in the Western Conference -- a game behind San Antonio (5-2) -- and into fourth place in the league with four postseason spots up for grabs. San Diego fell to 3-4.
Wolford completed an efficient 15 of 19 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns to one pick, while adding 44 yards and a touchdown on five carries. Rashad Ross, a stellar receiver all season for Arizona, had three catches for 53 yards, but was injured and did not return.
San Diego signal-caller Mike Bercovici was 22 of 43 for 310 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions with receiver Nelson Spruce hauling in 12 catches for 146 yards.
The teams exchanged scores on each of their first two drives, with San Diego leading off with a three-yard scoring run off right tackle by Terrell Watson and Arizona answering when Trevor Knight scored on a seven-yard touchdown run to tie it.
Fleet kicker Donny Hageman and Hotshots kicker Nick Folk exchanged long field goals thereafter, but then the Arizona defense forced the first punt of the game and Wolford and Co. capitalized.
Wolford found tight end Thomas Duarte for a 36-yard touchdown and then found receiver Deion Holliman for another score as the Hotshots finished their first four drives with points.
San Diego stopped the run with an interception of Wolford that turned into six when Bercovici went deep to tight end Marcus Baugh for a 38-yard TD to send the game into intermission with the Fleet trailing 23-15.
The drama didn't return in the second half with a scoreless third quarter before Wolford got loose on a scramble up the middle for a 35-yard touchdown run and 29-15 lead. On the ensuing possession, Arizona's Steven Johnson tallied an interception that led to a Folk 19-yard field goal for a 32-15 lead to salt the game away.