With a 23-6 road win over the San Antonio Commanders on Sunday night, the Arizona Hotshots put themselves in position for home-field advantage in the AAF playoffs.
Quarterback John Wolford led the Hotshots on offense by completing 17 of 23 passes for 216 yards and a touchdown. The Wake Forest product came out of the gate firing to give the Hotshots a quick lead, connecting with Rashad Ross on a long seam route down the middle of the field for a 58-yard touchdown on their second possession of the game. Although they failed on the ensuing two-point conversion, the play was the residue of an offensive game plan that was banging on all cylinders early on.
Wolford's high completion percentage had much to do with the team's savvy play-calling and sure-handed receivers. Ross led all receivers with 78 yards on four catches, but Wolford's favorite target was Richard Mullaney, who caught five balls for 60 yards. Running back Tim Cook had a nose for the end zone, scoring touchdowns on two of his three carries.
Opposite of Arizona's early rhythm was the lackluster offense of San Antonio. Quarterback Logan Woodside was benched in the first half after lofting an easy interception for Dexter McDougle, which set up Cook's first touchdown of the game to give the Hotshots a 15-0 lead. Backup QB Marquise Williams was brought in to give the Commanders a completely different look midway through the second quarter.
Alongside running backs Kenneth Farrow II, Trey Williams, and David Cobb, Williams ran the option to keep the Hotshots guessing. On its first drive with Williams under center, San Antonio looked revitalized and methodically drove the ball downfield in order to suppress a game that could've gotten out of hand quickly. Although that same drive was stalled by an intentional grounding penalty by Williams to avoid a sack, it ended with the Commanders' first points of the game -- a 54-yard field goal from Nick Rose -- and a new lease on their outlook for this game.
Once Rose booted a 35-yard field goal early in the third quarter to make it 15-6, it seemed as though the tide had turned in San Antonio's favor considering Arizona's offense stayed on the sideline and its defense began to wear down. San Antonio amassed 173 yards on the ground with its committee, but that style of offense kept the clock ticking and Arizona wasn't letting it get big chunks of yards.
It seemed like San Antonio realized it needed a big play when it called a trick play reverse that had a receiver screaming toward the end zone, but Williams under threw his wide open target and the Commanders wouldn't get a shot like that again.
After a big sack by Arizona linebacker Obum Gwacham to stall San Antonio, Wolford put the game away with a tremendous drive in the fourth quarter. Mullaney hauled in an important 27-yard catch from Wolford on a third-and-long play, and would make another first down as the Hotshots neared the redzone. Cook would then juke a defender to create a 20-yard touchdown run and put Arizona up 23-6 after Connor Hamlett's two-point conversion catch.
With four minutes to go, Williams would get the ball back but remained unable to execute in passing situations. The game clock eventually ran out with the San Antonio offense on the field at the Alamadome, where its hopes of maintaining a league-best attendance into the playoffs having lessened.
Arizona (5-3) is now atop the AAF Western Conference with two weeks to go in the regular season. San Antonio (5-3) is slated just below for the No. 2 seed, but San Diego (3-5) and Salt Lake City (3-5) remain alive mathematically thanks to Sunday night's result.