No one was sure what to expect from the Arizona Rattlers on Friday night as they faced the six-time defending Indoor Football League champion Sioux Falls Storm.
In a building where no road team had won since 2010, no less. And returning just five players from a team that lost in another league’s championship game six months prior along with the fact head coach Kevin Guy had just three weeks to bring together a group of primarily rookies to play a foreign brand of football.
Despite everything working against them, the Rattlers held the lead for most of the game and seemed poised for a big upset, but were ultimately outmatched down the stretch, falling 40-29 in front of 8,523 fans at the Denny Sanford Premier Center.
After surrendering the game’s first score, the Rattlers struck back with a 1-yard plunge in the end zone by running back Darrell Monroe. A 2-point conversion gave Arizona the 8-7 lead.
When the defense recovered a fumble, Rattlers quarterback Darron Thomas (11-28, 156 yards, 3 TDs, INT) found wideout Demarius Washington (6 rec, 75 yards, TD) along the sideline for another touchdown to extend the lead to 14-7.
In what proved to be a precursor for the rest of the game, Sioux Falls quarterback Lorenzo Brown (5-11, 59 yards, TD) ducked under a rusher and weaved his way through the Arizona defense for an electrifying 36-yard score to pull the game even.
The teams continued to trade stops and scores until late in the third quarter when Thomas was picked off in the end zone by cornerback Rashard Smith, who picked up some key blocks and ran all the way back for a devastating 58-yard touchdown to give the Storm the momentum going into the fourth quarter.
Thomas tried to rally his team back with another drive to the Sioux Falls’ red zone, but Monroe fumbled at the two-yard line and the Storm recovered, leading to a Mike Tatum touchdown run to put Sioux Falls up for good.
The Rattlers showed their inexperience with the rules and style of play, committing 10 penalties for 78 yards and were often lined up wrong, forcing a reset or timeouts to be called.
Arizona will be looking for its first IFL victory when they host the Iowa Barnstormers on Sunday, February 26 at Talking Stick Resort Arena at 3:00 p.m.