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Rattlers’ ‘winning culture’ carries team to playoffs for ninth straight year

Coach Kevin Guy has led the Arizona Rattlers to nine straight playoff appearances. (Photo by Margaret Naczek/Cronkite News)

MESA, Ariz. —  Defensive back Arkeith Brown is in his seventh season with the Arizona Rattlers and is looking to fill his hand with championship rings.

“This is a winning organization,” Brown said. “It starts from the top, and it works all the way down to the players. I’ve been fortunate enough to play for the Arizona Rattlers for a couple years. I’ve been blessed.”

Brown has four championship wins with the Rattlers, three in the Arena Football League and one from last year when the team joined the Indoor Football League.

After their 59-23 win against the Nebraska Danger, the Arizona Rattlers clinched a home playoff game against the Sioux Falls Storm in the first round of the IFL playoffs.

Saturday’s game is the ninth consecutive playoff berth for the Rattlers. Coach Kevin Guy said the team culture contributes to the winning tradition.

“This is an opportunity league for the players. They come here to get film to try to further their career,” Guy said. “We’ve developed a culture here that people who work here buy into. When you have that winning culture, then good things are going to happen for you. We’ve had a long history with that.”

In his 10th season with the team, Guy became the winningest coach in franchise history in the Rattlers’ last home game of the regular season. With a 143-45 record, the coach and his team will return home to Talking Stick Resort Arena with first-round home field advantage.

“It’s amazing,” second year defensive lineman Josh Gordon said. “It’s the best arena in the league. Where else would you rather be?”

Having a home playoff game logistically is beneficial to the Rattlers, Guy said.

“We get to stay in our normal routine. We get to play in front of our fanbase, We get to sleep in our beds,” Guy said. “We have really got a good home field advantage here.”

Guy does not change his approach when it comes to playoff games. He believes any team only needs three days of preparation for a football game, and changing the normal routine can confuse players.

“I feel like if you’re changing your approach then you weren’t doing the work you were supposed to in the regular season,” Gordon said. “Treat every game the same. It has a little more importance, but the same 60 minutes.”

Gordon experienced his first championship with the Rattlers in the rookie season with the team’s 50-41 win against the Sioux Falls Storm. Teammates such as Brown and Allen “Bubba” Chapman, who is out the rest of the season, gave Gordon advice on how to approach the playoff run. Now, Gordon is doing the same for rookies.

“(I’m telling them) just to enjoy the process and go through it,” Gordon said. “We had a lot of ups and downs last year too. We took a couple losses this year. We stick with it, stick to the fundamentals and the process, and we will be OK.”

And the 11-3 Sioux Falls Storm will be looking to break down the Rattlers fundamentals come Saturday night. Before the Rattlers entered the IFL, the Storm won six consecutive IFL championships. This season, the Rattlers are undefeated against the Storm in their two regular season games.

“I’m sure they’re feeling like they want to come and get us in these important games. It’s definitely going to be a hard-fought battle. We’re excited for it,” Gordon said.

The Rattlers defense will work to put pressure on the Sioux Falls’ quarterback Lorenzo Brown. Brown boasts the second highest yards per game at 157.4, behind Cedar Rapid Titans’ Jake Medlock.

“They’ve got a veteran team. Those guys are used to winning up there,” Guy said. “I think it’s one of the top organizations in the country. I think we’ve kind of created a bit of a rivalry between the two organizations.”

Guy said the winner Saturday night will be the more disciplined team and after a good week of practice, he expects the Rattlers to carry the energy needed to advance to the United Bowl championship.

“We’re mentally where we need to be going into the playoffs. We want momentum going into the playoffs,” Guy said. “We’re getting to play in front of our fans at home that should give us a little bit of an edge. I’m excited to see how it’s going to play out.”

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