Rattlers hang on for sloppy home win over Green Bay
PHOENIX — After an unispired loss to the Iowa Barnstormers on the road last weekend, Arizona Rattlers’ head coach Kevin Guy put his team on notice.
He put every position up for grabs in practice and challenged his players to not rest on the laurels of last season’s United Bowl Championship squad.
The players responded Sunday afternoon, showing a degree of toughness and a blue-collar mentality that was sorely lacking the week prior on their way to a 37-31 victory over the Green Bay Blizzard in front of 8,854 fans at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
The Rattlers came out of the gate strong on the game’s opening drive as Arizona safety Bubba Chapman picked off Blizzard quarterback Christian Lemay and returned it to midfield. Five plays later, Rattlers signal-caller Jeff Ziemba called his own number and plunged into the end zone from a yard out to give Arizona a 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing drive, Green Bay was looking to tie up the score, but Blizzard running back Robert Metz was stripped of the ball by Arkeith Brown and Arizona took over possession. A few plays later, Rattlers running back Shadrach Thornton scored the first of his three touchdowns on the day and, after a blocked extra point, Arizona led 13-0 to start the second quarter.
The teams traded stops and scores before the half, with the Rattlers holding a 20-10 advantage at the break.
In the third quarter, an Arizona drive seemed to stall at the Green Bay 17-yard line. Facing a 4th-and-8, Ziemba launched a pass into the end zone that Rattlers wideout Anthony Amos managed to come down with. The 17-yard strike gave the Rattlers a 27-10 edge.
— Arizona Rattlers (@ArizonaRattlers) March 19, 2018
However, the Blizzard refused to go quietly. After a quick touchdown by the Green Bay offense, Ziemba had the ball knocked out of his hand and fumbled back towards the Rattlers’ end zone. Blizzard defensive end Sean Daniels managed to recover for the score to pull Green Bay within three points to start the fourth quarter.
The teams continued to exchange blows until the final minute. With Arizona leading by six points and nearing the one-minute mark, Lemay was picked off again by Chapman and the Rattlers took over and ran out the clock for their second win of the young season.
Guy did not mince words when asked about his team’s performance.
“We have to mentally get it. We did sit some guys this week because they didn’t show up and play last week. There is a standard for playing for this team.”
Arizona forced five Green Bay turnovers, but coughed the ball up twice themselves.
“We’ve got some growing to do as a team,” Guy continued. “But we have to get there in a hurry or we’re going to have some tough games ahead of us.”
• Ziemba finished 9-of-16 for 113 yards and two total touchdowns in his second game as a starter. Injured starting quarterback Verlon Reed is eligible to return from IR this week.
• 2017 United Bowl MVP and defensive leader Justin Shirk was placed on short-term IR this week with a knee issue. Former Arizona Cardinals linebacker Ryan Langford started in Shirk’s place and collected 11 tackles and a sack in his first action of the season.
• Kicker Sawyer Petre was the victim of a couple blocked kicks and finished just 1-of-4 on field goal tries. Guy pointed to special teams as a unit that must improve going forward during his postgame press conference.
• Leading rusher Darrell Monroe was one of the players Guy sat due to his performance in Iowa. Thornton, a former standout at North Carolina State, got the start and finished with 88 yards rushing on 19 carries and three touchdowns.
The Rattlers play the second of three straight home games Saturday night as they host the Nebraska Danger at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Kickoff is at 7:05 p.m.