Rattlers use big 2nd quarter to blow out Tucson
Kevin Guy holds many titles within the Indoor Football League. Not only is he the head coach and general manager of the Arizona Rattlers, but also part-owner of the expansion Tucson Sugar Skulls.
His two teams met for the first time Saturday night at Talking Stick Resort Arena with the Rattlers scoring 35 consecutive points at one point on their way to a dominant 63-28 victory in front of 16,110 fans.
“It was just another game,” said Guy. “It didn’t even enter my mind (about being owner of the Sugar Skulls). I was just out there doing my job. At the end of the day, Coach (Marcus) Coleman and his staff have to do their job.”
The game started slowly, with the teams trading missed field goals, before Tucson running back Mike Jones capped off a six-play, 45-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown plunge to give the Sugar Skulls a 7-0 lead.
Arizona (3-0) would answer on the ensuing drive, however, when wide receiver Dezmon Epps caught a short pass near the sideline, broke a tackle and sprinted down the sideline for a 26-yard score to tie the game.
When Tucson (2-1) was forced to attempt a field goal on their next possession, Rattlers’ defensive end Nikolaus D’Avanzo broke through the line and blocked the kick, ricocheting the ball into the Sugar Skulls’ end zone where it was recovered by defensive back Dillion Winfrey for a touchdown.
On the first play of Tucson’s ensuing drive, Arizona defensive back Devontae Merriweather put a jarring hit on quarterback Matt Behrendt, forcing him to fumble and nose tackle Lance McDowdell recovered deep in Sugar Skulls’ territory.
Two plays later, Rattlers’ quarterback Verlon Reed faked a hand-off, ran to his right and beat a defender to the corner of the end zone to put Arizona ahead, 21-7.
The teams traded scores until the final minute of the half. Reed found running back Jabre Lolley behind the defense and Lolley cruised into the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown to give the Rattlers a commanding 35-14 lead at the half.
Arizona continued to pour it on in the second half, outscoring Tucson 28-14 on their way to their third straight win to open the season.
“Coming out of the bye week, I wanted to see how we responded,” said Reed. “We made some great plays on defense and special teams. Offensively, we got through the slow start. But once we got the ball rolling, we were pretty unstoppable.”
• Both Arizona quarterbacks have seen time in the first three games of the season. Reed finished 7-of-12 passing for 121 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Ohio State product also ran five times for 33 yards and two scores. After Reed led the team to a touchdown on the first drive of the second half, Jeff Ziemba took over. He ran for a score and threw for 24 yards.
• Behrendt, who was with the Rattlers during training camp, completed just six passes for 37 yards, but ran 11 times for 40 yards and a touchdown. He was relieved by backup Jake Medlock to start the 2nd half.
• Penalties continue to be an issue for Arizona. The Rattlers were flagged seven times for 84 yards on Saturday.
• Arizona has won its first 3 games by an average of 36 points.
After another bye week, the Rattlers welcome the undefeated Sioux Falls Storm to Talking Stick Resort Arena on Sunday, March 31st. The Rattlers’ 2018 season ended at home when Sioux Falls defeated Arizona in the IFL Playoff semi-finals. Kickoff is at 3:00 p.m.