Arizona Rattlers start fast, dominate Cedar Rapids in home opener
In his 11-year tenure as general manager and head coach of the Arizona Rattlers, Kevin Guy has preached fast starts as paramount to his team’s perennial success.
This mantra was especially evident at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Sunday afternoon as the Rattlers (2-0) put up 27 points in the first quarter on their way to an 81-37 victory over the Cedar Rapids River Kings (0-2).
Running back Jabre Lolley picked up where he left off in Week 1, finding the end zone from five yards out on the game’s opening drive to give Arizona a 7-0 lead.
After a Cedar Rapids field goal, Rattlers’ kick returner Dezmon Epps took the kick-off back 54 yards for a touchdown.
Epps would make the highlight reel again on the next drive. After the defense forced a missed field goal, Arizona quarterback Verlon Reed heaved a 34-yard bomb that Epps caught against the back wall and hung on to for the score.
The River Kings would not go quietly as quarterback Kurt Palendech led a text book drive, culminating in a Nathaniel Chavious 1-yard touchdown plunge to pull Cedar Rapids to within 11 points.
However, any momentum the River Kings accumulated was quickly snuffed out. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Reed ran to his left between the tackles, beat a would-be tackler to the edge and raced down the sideline for a 44-yard score to give the Rattlers a 27-10 lead at the end of the 1st quarter.
Lolley would find the end zone five more times on the day and Arizona would score on every possession on their way to the team’s sixth straight victory over Cedar Rapids since joining the IFL.
Ever the perfectionist, Guy did not mince words when talking about his team’s performance.
“As far as our focus goes, we’re not where we need to be right now,” Guy said. “Teams get better or get worse. They never stay the same.”
It was not all good news for the Rattlers. Just before halftime, defensive end Joshua Gordon went down to the turf after a play and had to be helped off the field. The reigning Defensive Player of the Week, who has five sacks on the season, had to be replaced by back-up offensive lineman Abram Holland.
“You can’t control injuries,” Guy said. “Injuries are part of the game. You’ve got to continue to develop players. But we’ve got a lot of injuries on our team right now. Little things and some big things. But we’ve got to deal with the hand that we’re dealt.”
– Arizona continues to platoon quarterbacks Verlon Reed and Jeff Ziemba, with Guy using the first few weeks of the season to evaluate his signal-callers. Reed started the game, going 6-7 for 120 yards and 3TDs through the air. Ziemba started the second half, throwing a couple touchdowns on just three attempts.
– Ziemba’s college teammate, Jabre Lolley, has been a force in his first two weeks of IFL football, tallying 10 total touchdowns. The Shepherd University product finished Sunday with 127 all-purpose yards on 10 carries and two receptions.
– The Rattlers’ offense was explosive to say the least; during one stretch, Arizona had scoring drives of 2, 2, 1, 5, 3, 3 and 1 play. The Rattlers finished with 81 points on just 28 plays from scrimmage, being forced into a 3rd down only once.
– Holland, a rookie listed as an offensive lineman, tallied six tackles and two tackles for loss in relief of Joshua Gordon.
After a bye week, the Arizona Rattlers welcome the expansion Tucson Sugar Skulls to Talking Stick Resort Arena on Saturday, March 16th. Kick-off is at 5 p.m.