Rattlers force 4 turnovers, rout San Diego for 2nd time in 3 weeks
If there is such a thing as a “trap game” for the Arizona Rattlers (7-0), Monday’s matchup with the expansion San Diego Strike Force (1-7) was such an example.
It kicked off a stretch of two games in six days that head coach and GM Kevin Guy called the most crucial of the season.
Playing in a rare Monday night game did not seem to bother Guy’s team, however, as the Arizona defense pitched a shut-out in the second half on their way to a convincing 52-14 victory in front of 858 fans at Pechanga Arena.
San Diego quarterback Jihad Vercher, a week after leading the Strike Force to the first win in franchise history, drove his team deep into Rattlers territory on the game’s opening drive. On fourth down, Vercher had trouble with a high snap and put the ball on the ground, where it was recovered by Arizona defensive lineman Lance McDowdell.
On the third play of the ensuing drive, quarterback Jeff Ziemba found wideout Sheldon Augustine for a 29-yard touchdown to give the Rattlers an early lead.
San Diego would answer on the next drive as Marques Rodgers would return the kickoff 33 yards before taking a pitch and finding the end zone from a yard out. With a blocked extra point, Arizona maintained a 7-6 advantage.
After the Rattlers turned the ball over on downs, Vercher threw a fade pass that receiver Victor Dean went over the back wall and came down with for a highlight reel score.
On the ensuing kick-off, Arizona kick returner Jarrod Harrington weaved his way through the coverage to the San Diego 10-yard line. Two plays later, running back Roland Genesy Jr. (playing in his first career IFL game) ran to the outside, cut back and dove into the end zone to tie the game.
After Arizona defense forced a missed field goal, Genesy took a pitch, broke one tackle, spun out of another and raced 18 yards to pay dirt to reclaim the lead for the Rattlers just before halftime.
To open the second half, Arizona marched down the field in six plays before Genesy found the end zone once again from a yard out to give the Rattlers a 30-14 lead.
On the first play of the next drive, the Strike Force center air-mailed the snap over Vercher’s head and the ball bounced into the end zone where Vercher kicked it into the stands for a safety.
The teams traded stops until the fourth quarter when Arizona back-up quarterback Caleb Holbrook led a short drive, culminating in a 1-yard sneak for a score that sealed the Rattlers’ seventh straight victory.
–Arizona’s defense continued to keep San Diego out of the end zone and delivered an exclamation point with seven minutes left when cornerback Dillion Winfrey picked off an errant pass near the sideline, cut back to the middle and cruised to the end zone. The third-year veteran finished with nine tackles, a half-sack, two pass break-ups and two interceptions.
–Rookie linebacker Ricky Wyatt Jr. continues to be a force, tallying seven tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. The Central Arkansas product is second in the league with five sacks.
–Genesy, who has been on the roster all season, finished his first IFL game with 12 carries, 75 yards, three touchdowns and two catches for 31 yards.
–This game was a stark contrast from the teams’ matchup in Phoenix earlier this month when the Rattlers won a 91-58 shoot-out.
–Kicker Jimmy Camacho struggled for the second straight week. After missing two extra points and two field goals last week, the rookie had three extra points blocked. Camacho also missed a 27-yard field goal as the half expired, before a coach’s review showed San Diego was lined up too wide and Camacho made the 22-yard retry.
The Arizona Rattlers travel to South Dakota to face rival Sioux Falls Storm (6-1), whose lone defeat came in downtown Phoenix on March 31. Kickoff is Saturday, April 27 at 7 p.m. All road games can be seen live on YouTube.