Rattlers set franchise scoring record in blowout win over San Diego
Saturday was a night of firsts for the Arizona Rattlers (5-0).
It was Jeff Ziemba’s first game of the season as the full-time starting quarterback, the first matchup with the expansion San Diego Strike Force (0-6), and the first time on the season several players were suited up; including running back Darrell Monroe, the 2018 IFL Offensive Player of the Year.
Arizona started fast and ran San Diego off the field by the count of 91-58 (a franchise record for points scored) in front of 14,442 fans at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
The Rattlers put Monroe to work on the game’s opening drive. The Arizona Western product ran three times for 20 yards, culminating in a two-yard touchdown plunge to give Arizona a 7-0 lead.
After the defense forced a missed field goal, Ziemba hit Jamal Miles in stride for a 20-yard score.
Then it was the defense’s turn as defensive end Connor Flagel penetrated the backfield, put a hard hit on Strike Force running back Lonnie Bickham, and caused a fumble. Flagel scooped up the ball and scampered 18 yards to the end zone, giving his team a 21-0 lead.
San Diego would respond, however, as quarterback Derrick Bernard took advantage of some defensive miscues to lead his team deep into Rattlers territory. On the fourth play of the drive, running back George Moreira Jr. broke a tackle and found the end zone from four yards out to get the Strike Force on the board.
Any momentum San Diego accumulated did not last long. After a failed onside kick, Arizona took over deep in Strike Force territory and, on the first play of the drive, Ziemba faked a pitch and found a wide-open Miles for a six-yard touchdown.
San Diego would not get closer than 14 points the rest of the way as the Rattlers snuffed out any attempt at a rally to stay unbeaten on the season, but still see areas where they can improve.
“We had some busts tonight,” head coach and general manager Kevin Guy said. “Missed assignments. Our focus wasn’t there.
“We had a lot of new guys tonight. Some took advantage of it and some didn’t.”
Even Monroe, who finished with 64 yards rushing on 10 carries and two touchdowns with four receptions for 25 yards, was critical of his performance.
“I think after this game, I got my feel back,” he said. “I expect by next week, I should be good. I missed a couple of holes I should have hit. I should have pressed it more.”
-With less than a minute to play, Arizona receiver Sheldon Augustine took a kickoff back 50 yards to pay dirt to break the franchise’s points record. The previous high (86) was set in 2012 against the Utah Blaze while the Rattlers were still members of the Arena Football League.
-Another franchise record was broken when kicker Jimmy Camacho made his 13th extra point. The Fresno State alum leads the league in PATs made and attempted, converting 45 of 48 on the season.
-Miles was a force in several facets of the game. The Arizona State and Peoria High School product hauled in five receptions for 70 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for a score and returned a kickoff for 28 yards.
-Backup quarterback Caleb Holbrook, who was just signed this week after starter Verlon Reed Jr was placed on season ending IR, saw action in the second half. He finished 3-7, 25 yards, 2 TDs, INT. Holbrook also scored on a QB sneak on his first drive.
The Arizona Rattlers begin a string of six road games in eight weeks when they head down the I-10 to face the Tucson Sugar Skulls on Sunday, April 14. All Rattlers’ games can be seen live on YouTube.