Rattlers falter in 2nd half, lose crucial road matchup to Barnstormers
Each time the Arizona Rattlers (10-3) faced the Iowa Barnstormers (10-2) in 2018, Arizona was thoroughly out-muscled and failed to make plays down the stretch to come away with a win.
Saturday’s third meeting of the season between the IFL’s top two organizations followed a similar script as the Rattlers still had no answer for Iowa quarterback Drew Powell, losing for the 4th straight time to the Barnstormers, 41-38, in front of 6,853 fans at Des Moines’ Wells Fargo Arena.
Arizona started strong, scoring on the game’s opening drive when quarterback Jeff Ziemba pitched to Arizona State alum Jamal Miles, who found the end zone from seven yards out to give the Rattlers a 7-0 lead.
Iowa would answer on the ensuing drive in the form of a trick play. Powell lateralled to receiver Ryan Ballentine, who threw deep to a wide-open Brady Roland for a 37-yard touchdown to bring the Barnstormers within one point following a missed PAT.
The teams looked to be headed for another shootout, trading scores and stops throughout the first half. A Sawyer Petre field goal with three minutes until halftime was the difference as Arizona held a 31-27 advantage at the break.
Iowa started the third quarter with the ball, but Arizona looked to finally have an answer for the Barnstormers’ smash-mouth attack, as Powell was held in check and Iowa missed a long field goal, giving the Rattlers an opportunity to take control.
However, Arizona could not capitalize as Ziemba was the victim of drops and deflected balls as the Barnstormers quickly took back possession. Powell found pay dirt for the 2nd time to give Iowa their first lead of the night, 34-31.
The Rattlers failed to get on track to start the 4th quarter as Petre missed another field goal and Iowa put together a six-minute drive, culminating in a Skyler Scott rushing score to push Barnstormer lead to 10 points.
Arizona was unable to answer until the final minute of play. Ziemba led an eight play, 45-yard drive that ended when he found Miles in the end zone once again to pull the Rattlers within three points with 14 seconds left in the game.
The Rattlers failed to recover the onside kick and Iowa ran out the clock to preserve a key victory in terms of homefield advantage in the post-season.
– The loss essentially kicks Arizona out of the proverbial driver’s seat for homefield advantage as Iowa now owns the tie-breaker between the two teams. Unless the Barnstormers lose in the next two weeks, the road to the United Bowl will pass through Des Moines.
– Powell continues to feast on the Rattlers’ defense, throwing for 68 yards and two touchdowns and rushing 26 times for 129 yards and two scores. The second-year signal-caller was the IFL’s offensive player of the week each of the past two weeks.
– Petre, one of the league’s most reliable kickers in 2017, was just 1-for-4 on field goals, bringing his season tally to 10-for-25.
– Arizona came in with the league’s top rushing offense at 119.4 yards per game. They were held to just 63 net rushing yards on 13 attempts.
The Arizona Rattlers have a bye week before their regular season finale on Saturday, June 16th against the Nebraska Danger on the road. Kickoff is at 5pm. All road games can be seen live on YouTube.