Rattlers topple Empire on the road, earn tie for conference lead
When the Arizona Rattlers and Spokane Empire met in downtown Phoenix three weeks ago, the matchup certainly had a postseason vibe with eight lead changes and 14 combined touchdowns as the teams renewed their Arena Football League rivalry. Despite the defeat, Arizona has managed to keep pace in the standings; setting up another high stakes contest Friday night to determine the top spot in the Intense Conference.
Behind three Darrell Monroe touchdowns and a more aggressive defense, the Rattlers emerged victorious, 49-35, in front of 5,219 fans at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.
After struggling on the ground in their first meeting, Arizona established the run on its first drive, culminating in a Monroe touchdown plunge from 4 yards out and a 7-0 lead.
The Empire would answer back as quarterback Charles Dowdell found wideout Samuel Charles in the end zone from 15 yards out before recovering a Rattlers’ fumble and kicking a field goal to take a 10-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The teams continued to exchange blows until the final minute of the half when Arizona quarterback Cody Sokol hit Anthony Amos over the middle, who broke a couple tackles and dove into the end zone to give the Rattlers a 20-17 lead.
Spokane had time to answer, driving down to the Arizona one-yard line. However, Dowdell fumbled the snap and was tackled behind the line of scrimmage, allowing the half to expire with Arizona in the driver’s seat.
Another Monroe touchdown to open the half put the Rattlers firmly in control as Spokane was unable to stop the Arizona Western College product, who finished with 112 rushing yards.
Spokane attempted to keep pace, but an injury forced the Empire to go for two after each score, failing to convert on each attempt and were unable to keep Arizona out of the end zone on defense.
The Rattlers put an exclamation point on their victory on Spokane’s final drive. Down multiple scores, the Empire attempted to answer; but Dowdell was sacked three times, twice by linebacker Justin Shirk, to turn the ball over on downs to Arizona, who ran out the clock for its most satisfying victory of the season.
The Arizona Rattlers return to Talking Stick Resort Arena on Saturday, May 20 to play host to the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles.