Arizona Rattlers derail Spokane Empire, earn conference title
Prior to their current winning streak, the Arizona Rattlers fell at home to the Spokane Empire, 60-51, on April 22, putting their playoff prospects in question.
It was only fitting that Coach Kevin Guy’s squad would face Spokane to clinch the top spot in the Intense Conference and home field advantage for the postseason.
The Rattlers (10-4) answered the call, emerging victorious, 33-16, in front of 5,179 fans at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on Saturday night.
Arizona started with the ball and marched 36 yards in seven plays before running back Darrell Monroe took a shovel pass and plunged into the end zone from a couple yards out to give the Rattlers a 7-0 lead.
The Empire answered on their ensuing drive as quarterback Aaron Wilmer found wideout Orlandus Harris Sr. for a 27-yard score on fourth down to pull the teams even.
Following a Spokane field goal, the game became a defensive struggle as the teams traded stops with neither team taking advantage.
In the second quarter, with the Empire pinned inside their own five-yard line, linebacker Justin Shirk and defensive lineman Edward Mosely met in the backfield and sacked Wilmer for a safety to swing the momentum back to Arizona.
Just before halftime, Rattlers’ quarterback Cody Sokol led a textbook drive, hitting Anthony Amos for an 11-yard touchdown to give Arizona a 16-10 lead at the break.
The Rattlers have owned the third quarter all season and Saturday was no different as Shirk led the unit’s onslaught of Wilmer and forced several turnovers on downs.
Following a long run by Ketrich Harmon, Arizona was on Spokane’s doorstep, looking to take a commanding lead. Receiver Antonio Vaughn took a sweep and followed his blocks to the end zone to give the Rattlers a 23-10 lead.
In the fourth quarter, the Empire managed to pull within 10 points after Trevor Kennedy returned a kick inside the Arizona five-yard line and ran it in on the next play.
On the Rattlers’ ensuing drive, Monroe took another pitch, weaved his way through the defense and raced down the sideline for a 41-yard touchdown to seal the victory.
With the win, Arizona earns a home playoff game, where they would play either Spokane or Nebraska. The winner will advance to the United Bowl to play the top team in the United Conference.
The Arizona Rattlers welcome the Cedar Rapids Titans to Talking Stick Resort Arena for their regular season home finale on Sunday June 11 at 3 p.m.