Rattlers plow Blizzard in season opener
The Arizona Rattlers entered the 2019 Indoor Football League season with a focus on getting more physical on defense. That mentality was on display Sunday afternoon as the Rattlers forced three turnovers and collected four sacks on their way to a 51-21 victory over the Green Bay Blizzard.
The game started sloppy with the teams trading turnovers on their respective opening possessions. Arizona defensive lineman Joshua Gordon sacked Green Bay quarterback Justin Billiot in the end zone to give the Rattlers an early lead.
On the ensuing possession, Arizona running back Jabre Lolley rumbled eight yards to the end zone to give the Rattlers a 9-0 advantage.
The Blizzard inserted backup quarterback Lennori Footman, who had runs of 11 and 16 yards, before throwing a 14-yard touchdown pass to Kezlow Smith to put Green Bay on the scoreboard.
Arizona struck back to start the second quarter as quarterback Jeff Ziemba found Lolley in the flat and the rookie beat his defender to the end zone to give the Rattlers a 16-7 lead.
The teams traded scores until just before halftime when Ziemba threw an interception in the end zone, but Arizona maintained a 23-14 advantage at the break.
The Rattlers started the second half with Verlon Reed under center and the Ohio State alum did not disappoint. On fourth down, Reed rolled to his right, broke a tackle and raced up the sideline, hurdling a defender on his way to the end zone.
After snuffing out a fake field goal, head coach Kevin Guy put Lolley to work as he ran for 15, 4 and 13 yards before finding the end zone from five yards out to put Arizona in front 37-14.
The Rattlers continued their dominance on the ground, rushing for a total of 132 yards, and kept the clock moving as they moved to 1-0 on the season.
• Lolley finished with 88 rushing yards on 14 attempts and four total touchdowns in his first indoor game. The Shepherd University product did show his inexperience; fumbling on the team’s opening drive and being called for multiple illegal formation penalties.
• Guy said earlier in the week that both quarterbacks would see time in the opener. Ziemba finished 10-of-13 for 97 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran three times for 12 yards and a score. Reed went 4-of-5 for 51 yards and an interception with 30 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
• Penalties were an issue as Arizona was flagged 12 times for 98 yards.
• The coaching staff’s focus on defense paid dividends as Green Bay finished just 2-of-11 on third down. However, containing dual-threat quarterbacks was a problem in 2018 and Sunday was no different as Footman ran for 85 yards.
The Rattlers play the first of four straight home game on Sunday, March 4 when they welcome the Cedar Rapids River Kings to Talking Stick Resort Arena. Kickoff is at 2:00 p.m.