The Arizona Rattlers did not lose very often in the Arena Football League. In eight seasons under head coach Kevin Guy, the team was 104-34, earned five Arena Bowl trips and won three in-a-row from 2012 to 2014.
But Arizona’s tenure in the Indoor Football League is off to an uncharacteristic start following their second straight defeat to open the season, a 51-47 decision at the hands of the Iowa Barnstormers Sunday afternoon in front of 11,438 fans at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
The Rattlers started strong, opening up a 14-6 lead on the strength of two Darron Thomas (20-36, 189yds, 6TDs) touchdown passes to wideouts Demarius Washington and Diondre Borel.
After an Iowa score, however, Borel bobbled a Thomas pass that fell into the arms of cornerback Matt Goldsmith and the Barnstormers would carry the momentum and a two-score lead until the final minute of the half.
With 10 seconds until halftime, Thomas found receiver Anthony Amos in the end zone to pull within six points and give Arizona new life heading into the locker room.
The Rattlers struggled to contain Iowa quarterback Travis Partridge (15-19, 153 yards, four touchdowns) and the second half saw the dual-threat signal caller rush seven times for 25 yards and a touchdown that put the Barnstormers up two scores again.
Arizona received new life after recovering an onside kick in the fourth quarter. Thomas sold a screen pass that running back Ketrich Harmon took 21 yards to the end zone to give the Rattlers a 47-44 lead with six minutes to play.
After Iowa receiver Rasheed Williams returned the ensuing kickoff to the Arizona nine-yard line, Partridge threw to a wide-open Brady Roland in the back of the end zone to put the Barnstormers in the lead for good.
Arizona had another opportunity to win the game, but Thomas was picked off for the second time with 23 seconds to play to send the Rattlers to another narrow defeat in the final minutes.
“We have to execute better,” said Thomas. “We aren’t putting it together, but it will come with more hard work.”
The Rattlers have been plagued by numerous issues in both losses including miscommunication, timing, penalties and, worst of all, turnovers. But Guy sees his young team’s make-up as a deterrent that needs to change for success to come.
“Right now we need some leaders. We need some guys to step up. Right now I feel like we’ve got too many individuals. It’s too quiet. Not enough energy on the sidelines, and guys stepping up like we’ve had in the past. That’s part of development. We’ve got to develop that right now as a team.”
The Rattlers will have a bye week before hosting the Colorado Crush at Talking Stick Resort Arena on March 11th at 6 p.m.