Rattlers play complete game, roll Cedar Rapids
PHOENIX — Coming into the 2018 season, the Arizona Rattlers had a reputation as a team that ran the ball well and played a stingy, attacking style of defense. Now, thanks to new starting quarterback Jeff Ziemba, the team has an elite air attack for opposing defenses to contend with.
The rookie signal caller had his best game as a professional, throwing seven touchdown passes and no interceptions, as the Rattlers won their third straight home game, 54-19, over the Cedar Rapids Titans (1-5) in front of 11,155 fans at Talking Stick Resort Arena Saturday night.
Arizona’s defense was stellar to open the game against the league’s top quarterback, Jake Medlock, forcing numerous errant passes, which led to two missed field goal attempts on the first two Cedar Rapids’ possessions.
On the Rattlers’ ensuing possession, facing a 4th down situation, Ziemba rolled to his right and found receiver Jarrod Harrington in the back of the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
After a failed onside kick, Titans’ running back Raphael Lawson-Gayle found paydirt from five yards out to even the score at 7-7.
Arizona would strike back as Ziemba perfectly placed a 32-yard scoring strike into the hands of receiver Anthony Amos to swing the lead back the Rattlers’ way, 14-7.
The defense would force a turnover on downs and, a couple plays later, Ziemba hit Amos again for a 23-yard touchdown to set-off a scoring barrage as Arizona out-scored Cedar Rapids, 33-12, for the rest of the contest to cement the Rattlers’ most lopsided win of the season.
“We’re not going to be crowned champs after five games,” said head coach/general manager Kevin Guy. “We still have a lot of work to do, but I’m very happy with we played tonight and the effort we got from everybody.”
Guy was also pleased with Ziemba’s play and his progression in learning the 50-yard game.
“Jeff is getting better,” Guy said. “He’s starting to see the field better. He Understands the reads and communication is better. I think his leadership is getting stronger and that tells me he’s getting more comfortable with who he is.”
Ziemba, who finished 16-of-22 for 172 yards, echoed his coach’s evaluation but gave credit to his teammates for his weekly improvement.
“I’m finally in tune with the offense and understanding where the reads are, who I’m reading and getting through my progressions,” the Shepherd University product said. “But I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without that line.”
• Arizona running back Shadrach Thornton, one of the IFL’s leading rushers, finished with just 17 yards on seven carries. Thornton left the game early in the second half with an unknown injury.
• Arizona State product Jamal Miles was a threat on multiple fronts; finishing as the game’s leading rusher with 40 yards on five carries and hauling in four catches for 27 yards and two scores. Miles also returned two kickoffs for 25 yards.
• The lone negative for the Rattlers was ball security. Ziemba, Thornton and receiver Dezmon Epps each surrendered fumbles at crucial points in drives.
The Rattlers have their second of three bye weeks on the season next week before traveling to South Dakota for a 2017 United Bowl rematch with the Sioux Falls Storm on Saturday, April 14. Kick-off is at 6:05PM.
Arizona won their 2018 season opener over Sioux Falls, 39-33, in Phoenix on Feb. 25.