Rattlers overcome delay, top Sioux Falls on the road
On Friday, the Arizona Rattlers’ team plane was 30 minutes outside Sioux Falls when inclement weather forced them to return to Phoenix, pushing Saturday’s 2017 United Bowl rematch to be pushed to Monday night.
The delay didn’t affect the Rattlers too much at all. Arizona built a big second-half lead and survived a late Sioux Falls rally to defeat the Storm, 48-40, in front of 6,243 fans at the Denny Sanford Premier Center.
On the game’s opening possession, Sioux Falls quarterback Lorenzo Brown was intercepted for the first time in 2018 by defensive back Nate Lindsay. A few plays later, Arizona signal-caller Jeff Ziemba found Jamal Miles down the sideline for an 8-yard touchdown. After a failed PAT, the Rattlers led 6-0.
The Storm answered back as kick returner Lyle McCombs returned the ensuing kickoff 38 yards to the Arizona 12-yard line. On the next play, Brown sold a read-option fake and scrambled 12 yards to the end zone for a 7-6 lead.
The Rattlers missed a field goal on their next possession. On the first play after Sioux Falls took possession, McCombs took a pitch, broke a tackle and raced 45 yards to pay dirt and a 14-6 advantage.
Arizona responded as Ziemba led a textbook drive to the Storm’s 8-yard line before running back Darrell Monroe took an option pitch from Ziemba and found the end zone to pull the Rattlers within striking distance.
After the defense recovered a Sioux Falls fumble, Ziemba hit receiver Dezmon Epps in the end zone for a 30-yard score.
Just before the half, Ziemba would find Anthony Amos in the back of the end zone for a 2-yard score to give Arizona 27-17 lead at the break.
The Rattlers would build a 24-point lead that held until late in the third quarter.
Sioux Falls forced some stops in the fourth quarter to pull within one score, but Arizona managed to keep possession in the final minute to run out the clock for its fourth straight victory, pushing its record to 5-1. Sioux Falls fell to 4-2, with both losses coming to the Rattlers.
• Monroe, the IFL’s leading rusher in 2017, rushed for 109 yards and four touchdowns and caught three passes for 39 yards. The Arizona Western product was back in the lineup with starter Shadrach Thornton on short-term IR.
• In the third quarter, Arizona defensive back Arkeith Brown (the team’s longest tenured player), picked off a pass in the end zone. A few plays later, a Monroe touchdown gave the team a 41-17 lead and effectively sealed the game. Brown also lead the team with the 9 tackles.
• Receiver Anthony Jones Jr. was a special teams demon, making two tackles on kickoffs to pin Sioux Falls deep in their own territory and recovering two onside kicks in the fourth quarter.
• Ziemba threw an interception in the fourth quarter — his first since Week 2. He finished the game completing 9-of-18 passes for 109 yards and three touchdowns.
The Rattlers return home to the “Snake Pit” at Talking Stick Resort Arena Saturday night to host the Green Bay Blizzard. Kickoff is at 6:05 pm.