Rattlers falter down the stretch, lose in overtime to end season
The Arizona Rattlers (11-4) needed just one playoff win over the Sioux Falls Storm (12-3) to advance to its second straight United Bowl.
However, the Rattlers failed to execute in the final minutes, ultimately falling in overtime to Sioux Falls, 69-68, in front of 16,479 fans at Talking Stick Resort Arena Saturday night.
With starting quarterback Jeff Ziemba in concussion protocol, head coach Kevin Guy turned to back-up signal caller Verlon Reed, who made his first start since week 1.
Reed led a textbook drive to open the game, as Arizona State alum Jamal Miles capped it off with a 3-yard touchdown run to give Arizona a 7-0 lead.
The Storm answered back as quarterback Lorenzo Brown punctuated a 3-play, 31-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown keeper to pull his team even.
The teams traded scores until the final minutes of the first half. With the Rattlers leading 41-35, Arizona defensive back Nathan Lindsey picked off Brown and raced 14 yards to paydirt to give the Rattlers a 2-score lead with a minute left until halftime.
Sioux Falls kicker Miles Bergner tacked on a field goal as the first half expired with Arizona on top, 48-38.
The Storm rebounded in the second half as Brown lead two consecutive touchdown drives, each culminating in the Sioux Falls signal-caller finding the end zone to give his team its first lead, 52-48.
The contest became a see-saw battle, with neither team maintaining a significant edge, until the final minutes of regulation.
With the game tied at 62, Reed drove his team into field goal range with eight seconds to play. However, Rattlers kicker Sawyer Petre pushed the potential game-winning 24-yard attempt wide right and the teams headed for overtime.
In the extra period, Arizona started with the ball. On fourth down, Reed hit Dezmon Epps over the middle for a 17-yard score, but Petre’s extra point was blocked.
On the first play of the Storm’s overtime possession, Brown hit Damien Ford for a 20-yard touchdown and Bergner’s extra point gave Sioux Falls the victory and the Intense Conference Championship.
“They were more disciplined and mentally tougher than we were at the end,” Guy said. “That’s too bad because I thought our guys competed really hard tonight for more than 60 minutes.”
– The Rattlers’ four losses on the season (three to United Conference champion Iowa) were by a combined 11 points.
– Arizona was dealt a heavy blow early in the contest when IFL scoring leader Darrell Monroe was tackled at the knees on an option play and hobbled off the field. He would not return.
– Petre, who was a big catalyst to Arizona’s championship run last season, struggled down the stretch, missing 15 field goals and 13 extra points on the season
– Sioux Falls, who Arizona defeated in the 2017 United Bowl to snap a run of six-straight United Bowl championships, will travel to Des Moines to play the Iowa Barnstormers in the United Bowl on July 7.