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New QB Powell shines as Rattlers top Nebraska to remain unbeaten

(Gary Royall)

During the 2017 season, Drew Powell was the MVP quarterback of the powerhouse Iowa Barnstormers, who beat the Arizona Rattlers three times in the regular season before claiming the United Bowl championship.

His play as a dual-threat quarterback earned him opportunities in the CFL and Arena Football League. However, when Powell became available again a couple weeks ago, head coach/general manager Kevin Guy jumped at the opportunity to add such a potent weapon to an already stacked roster.

“I think it’s a win-win for both. We have a reputation for developing quarterbacks here. He’s trying to get better and move up to the highest level,” Guy said of Powell. “When his agent called, he wanted him to be with the Rattlers and try to get better.”

Powell accounted for five scores as the Arizona Rattlers (9-0) overcame a late rally and outlast the Nebraska Danger (5-5) 56-46 in front of 9,889 fans at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

Jeff Ziemba started under center, but struggled as the defenses traded stops in a scoreless opening period. On the first play of the second quarter, Arizona State alum Jamal Miles took a hand-off, cut inside and found the end zone from three yards out to give the Rattlers a 7-0 lead.

After the Arizona defense forced a missed field goal, Ziemba was the victim of a couple drops before overthrowing Miles on 4th down. Nebraska took advantage as quarterback Tommy Armstrong hit Johnny Jackson IV for a 10-yard score to tie the game.

Powell took over on the ensuing drive, rushing three times for 20 yards before finding Jarrod Harrington in the end zone for a six-yard touchdown.

On the Danger’s next possession, Armstrong was forced to his right, overthrew his receiver and Rattlers’ defensive back Dillion Winfrey came away with the interception. Two plays later, Miles scampered eight yards to his second rushing score of the game.

The teams traded scores before the half, culminating in a 28-14 advantage for Arizona at the break.

Alternating scores continued in the 3rd quarter until Armstrong threw deep into double coverage and Rattlers’ safety Allen “Bubba” Chapman intercepted the ball in the end zone. Powell called his own number, weaving his way through the Nebraska defense on his way to an 18-yard touchdown to give Arizona a seemingly insurmountable lead, 42-20.

However, Nebraska refused to go quietly, answering with an Armstrong touchdown run before defensive back Najee Bright picked off a tipped Powell pass deep in Danger territory. Armstrong threw another touchdown to Johnny Jackson IV to start the 4th quarter to bring Nebraska within 10 points.

After Harrington fumbled the ensuing kick-off, Armstrong led another touchdown drive that, after a missed extra point, shrunk the Rattlers’ lead down to just four points.

The teams traded blows down the stretch and after converting a two-point try, the Danger were within three points with 4:39 to play.

Powell kept his cool and engineered a 3-play, 18-yard drive, capped off by another touchdown toss to Miles.

Nebraska was looking to extend the game, moving deep into Arizona territory. However, Armstrong succumbed to a heavy pass rush as Chapman collected his second pick of the night to seal the win in dramatic fashion.

“I was pleased with the team that we found a way to overcome adversity two weeks in a row,” Guy said. “Last week, we played two games within five days and we’re a tired football team. This bye week comes at a good time.”

Quick Strikes

– Powell finished his Rattlers debut 8-10 passing for 96 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception on a tipped pass. The Livingstone College alum also ran 11 times for 63 yards and three scores.

– Special teams played a huge role in the outcome. Nebraska kicker Diego Marquez missed two field goals, was just 2-5 on extra points and had two kick-offs go out of bounds. Danger running back Davonte Sapp-Lynch (Marshawn Lynch’s younger brother) had a 53-yard kick-off return for a touchdown. Despite his fumble, Harrington gave Arizona excellent field position with 76 return yards. Rattlers kicker Jimmy Camacho made all eight of his PAT attempts.

– On 4th down with 8:31 to play and Arizona clinging to a narrow lead, Powell completed a short pass over the middle to running back Darrell Monroe (playing in just his second game of the year), who raced 23 yards to inside the Nebraska 5-yard line. On the next play, Powell rumbled into the end zone to swing momentum back to the Rattlers.

– Penalties have been Arizona’s Achilles heel at times this season, but Kevin Guy’s squad were flagged just three times for 20 yards. The Danger found themselves on the wrong side five penalties for 66 yards, including multiple costly personal fouls.

Up Next

After a bye week, the Arizona Rattlers begin a string of three straight road games when they face the San Diego Strike Force on Sunday, May 19th at 5 p.m. All games can be seen live on YouTube.

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