Arizona Rattlers dismantle Danger in regular season finale
PHOENIX — The Arizona Rattlers (11-3) needed a win in their final regular season game Saturday night against the Nebraska Danger (4-10) to solidify first round home field advantage for the upcoming IFL playoffs.
They did just that.
Taking down the Danger by a score of 59-23, the Rattlers got off to a quick start.
After the opening kick return set up the Rattlers in striking distance, running back Darrell Monroe punched in the three-yard touchdown. After a good PAT, the Rattlers took an early 7-0 lead.
Luck was on Arizona’s side too.
Trying to add to his touchdown total, Monroe worked his way into the end zone, but failed to hold onto the ball. Luckily for Monroe and the Rattlers, lineman Lamar Mady was there to scoop up the loose ball and secure the team’s second score of the night, pushing the lead to 13-0.
But the Danger wouldn’t be held scoreless for long.
Looking at second down with about four minutes to play in the first quarter, Danger lineman Davion Belk was able to get to Rattlers quarterback Jeff Ziemba, forcing the ball out and providing a defensive touchdown for Nebraska. After a good PAT, the Danger cut the lead to 13-7.
Momentum seemed to be on the Danger’s side in the second quarter after the team forced yet another fumble off of Monroe, his third of the night.
The Rattlers answered right back, however, intercepting Danger quarterback Gregory Hankerson on the first play of the drive. Rattlers kicker Sawyer Petre converted the turnover into points, hitting an 18-yard field goal to push the lead to 16-7 with 10:41 left in the first half.
Arizona wouldn’t have to wait long for another score after return man Jamal Miles brought back a missed Danger field goal 58 yards to extend the lead to 15.
The Rattlers would turn to backup quarterback Verlon Reed in the final moments of the second quarter. He would close out the game. It was not immediately clear if Ziemba was injured or head coach Kevin Guy wanted to make the switch based on the score.
Reed made an impact almost immediately.
Looking at fourth and one with under 20 seconds to play, Reed extended the play with his legs, running the rock 25 yards for the score.
The Rattlers ended the first half with a dominant 31-10 lead.
After trading a pair of picks to start the second half, Arizona went back to its first half gameplan, capping off a 29-yard drive with a Monroe touchdown run — his second of the night.
The Rattlers defense also added to the scoreboard in the third quarter, forcing a Danger safety to make it 39-10. The teams traded off touchdowns for the remainder of the third quarter, bringing the score to 45-17.
After scoring his second touchdown in the third quarter, Reed got his third and fourth of the night in the final quarter with a pair of seven-yard touchdown runs, making it 59-17.
The Danger would add another score, but it was the Rattlers who would come out victorious, taking a 59-23 win and earning home field advantage in the first round of the IFL playoffs.
The Rattlers will take on the Sioux Fall Storm, who Arizona beat twice this season, in the first round on June 23 at talking Stick Resort Arena.
– Monroe had a total of three fumbles on Saturday. Luckily, the Rattlers were able limit the damage, falling on two of them.
– The Rattlers first pass attempt came with 1:01 left to play in the first quarter.
– The Danger’s first offensive points, an 11-yard field goal, came with 3:28 left in the first half.
– Reed came in for Ziemba with about three minutes to play in the first half.
– The two teams combined for a total of just 28 passing yards in the first half.
– The Rattlers hold the No. 2 seed in the IFL playoffs, while the Iowa Barnstormers secured the top spot with a win on Saturday.