Kevin Guy earns 200th career win as Rattlers weather Storm
The last time the Arizona Rattlers and Sioux Falls Storm saw each other, the Storm were ending the Rattlers’ season in the opening round of the IFL playoffs. Sioux Falls emerged victorious 69-68 in overtime on their way to an eighth straight United Bowl appearance.
Arizona played with revenge on their minds Sunday, forcing four turnovers on their way to 58-40 win in front of 12,265 fans at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The win was Rattlers’ head coach and general manager Kevin Guy’s 200th in his career.
“I’ve felt like we’ve reached these goals as an organization,” Guy said. “I’ve had a lot of good people around me. We’ve hired good people here. Our coaches have been a huge part of it and obviously the players have been a huge part of it because they got to get it done on the field. The players have to go out and execute, and I think that speaks on behalf of our (coaching) staff and what kind of players we’ve recruited over the years, and it speaks to the ownership and what kind of ownership we got. I’m very humbled.”
Arizona started strong Sunday as receiver Jarrod Harrington made a great play on a jump ball to come down with a nine-yard touchdown pass from Verlon Reed Jr., giving the Rattlers a 7-0 lead.
The Storm answered on the ensuing drive when quarterback Lorenzo Brown Jr. hit Brandon Shepard in stride for a 38-yard score to tie the game.
On Arizona’s next drive, Reed was attempting to juke a defender inside the Sioux Falls 5-yard line when his knee buckled, and the Ohio State product had to be helped off the field. Two plays later, Rattlers running back Jabre Lolley found the end zone from a yard out to regain the lead.
After another Storm touchdown, Arizona backup quarterback Jeff Ziemba led his team deep into Sioux Falls territory. On 2nd & Goal, Ziemba was flushed to his right and, under heavy rush, threw the ball across the field and had it intercepted by defensive back Matt McKoy. A few plays later, Storm running back Calen Campbell took a hand-off and raced six yards to paydirt to give Sioux Falls its first lead early in the 2nd quarter.
The Rattlers struck back on their next drive when Ziemba completed a couple passes to Dezmon Epps before calling his own number, running over a defender and plunging into the end zone to pull his team even.
After the Arizona defense forced a missed field goal, Arizona State alum Jamal Miles took a handoff to the outside and scampered to a four-yard score and the lead was back in favor of the Rattlers.
The teams traded field goals before the half, giving Arizona a 30-23 advantage at the break.
On the opening drive of the second half, Brown fumbled a snap that was scooped up by Rattlers’ defensive back Devontae Merriweather, who ran 13 yards to the end zone to give Arizona a commanding lead they would not relinquish on their way to a fourth straight win.
“They’re one of the best teams in the league,” Ziemba said of Sioux Falls. “And you got to be happy any time you beat them.”
– Penalties continue to plague the Rattlers, who were flagged 16 times for 132 yards. Sioux Falls was also penalized 12 times for 77 yards.
– Reed did not return after hobbling off the field in the 1st quarter. The former Offensive Rookie of the Year is scheduled for a MRI on his left knee.
– Ziemba, the team’s starter for a majority of 2018, finished 12-17 passing for 132 yards and three scores (on passing, two rushing) with two interceptions.
– On the first play of the fourth quarter, Arizona receiver Sheldon Augustine, who was just signed this week, took a pitch on an end-around and threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Harrington.
– Guy’s first win as a head coach came in 2000 while he was the interim head coach of the Arena Football League’s New Jersey Red Dogs. He would not be a head coach again for another eight years when the Rattlers named him to the position.
The Arizona Rattlers welcome the expansion San Diego Strike Force to Talking Stick Resort Arena on Saturday, April 6. Kick-off is at 5 p.m.. All home games can be seen locally on The CW or streamed online on YouTube.