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Rattlers survive rally from Sioux Falls to capture IFL United Bowl title

Arizona Rattlers quarterback Cody Sokol poses with the Indoor Football League United Bowl trophy Saturday, July 8 in Sioux Falls, SD. (Photo: Doug Franz/Arizona Sports)

Champions, once again.

The trophy is different, but the feeling of hoisting one at the end of a season is very familiar to head coach Kevin Guy and the Arizona Rattlers.

The Rattlers played a flawless first half, built a 27-point lead and then hung on for dear life in the final moments to knock off the six-time defending champion Sioux Falls Storm to win their first United Bowl title, 50-41 Saturday.

“The players believed in the plan,” Guy told Doug Franz of 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station after the game. “The coaches put a great game plan together and it was up to the players to execute it, and they did an outstanding job.”

Sioux Falls, who had their 68-game home winning streak snapped earlier this season, still had a chance in the game’s final moments, but Arkeith Brown, the lone remaining player from the Rattlers’ last Arena Bowl championship team in 2014, intercepted a Lorenzo Brown pass to clinch the win.

Arizona jumped out to a 7-0 lead when Darrell Monroe scored on a 2-yard touchdown run. But the lead was short-lived as Korey Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 50 yards for a score to tie things up at 7-7.

The Rattlers (14-4) responded with some of their best football of the year. Cody Sokol hit Jamal Miles on a 34-yard touchdown pass to give the lead back to Arizona. After Sioux Falls (15-3) turned the ball over on downs, Monroe found paydirt once again from two yards out. Then the defense got involved. Ed Mosley strip-sacked Brown and Josh Gordon picked up the pigskin and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown to give the Rattlers a 27-7 lead.

They’d add even more insurance before the end of the half when Sokol hooked up with Anthony Amos on a 5-yard scoring strike. Sioux Falls and their boisterous crowd were stunned.

But you don’t reign atop your league for six straight years without having a little fight in you. The Storm dominated the third quarter outscoring the Rattlers 21-0 thanks to a 17-yard scoring pass from Brown to Judd Harold, a 7-yard touchdown run from Robbie Rouse and a 2-yard interception return for a score by defensive lineman Brandon Peguese.

“We knew they were going to make a run. They’ve won the championship six years in a row. They made a run in the third quarter and we just needed to relax and play football,” Guy said.

The Rattlers would settle down in the final 15 minutes, outscoring Sioux Falls 16-13. Kicker Sawyer Petre put the game just about out of reach with a 28-yard field goal with 47 seconds left that pushed the lead to nine and set the stage for Brown’s game-sealing second interception.

Arizona, who lost to Sioux Falls in the season opener, wins the United Bowl in its first season in the Indoor Football League. This comes on the heels of a six-year stretch during which the Rattlers made five ArenaBowl appearances, winning three.

“To do what we did this first year in the league with a brand new roster, starting over, and to get here and beat the six-time champions says a lot about the people in this organization,” Guy said.

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