Wranglers come from behind to stun Rattlers in IFL Western Conference Championship

Jul 31, 2022, 10:50 AM

(Photo via Arizona Rattlers/Twitter)...

(Photo via Arizona Rattlers/Twitter)

(Photo via Arizona Rattlers/Twitter)

PHOENIX — As the rain poured outside Saturday evening, the points did as well inside Footprint Center during the IFL Western Conference Championship.

The Northern Arizona Wranglers defeated the Arizona Rattlers 52-51 in what was a competitive shootout that featured a controversial ending.

After deferring the kickoff, the Rattlers’ defense trotted out on their home field, but not for long thanks to cornerback Kyree Woods.

Woods made a diving interception on the first possession of the game, effectively ending the Wranglers’ opening threat and putting the Rattlers in optimal field position.

The interception was Woods’ fifth in his last two games.

Rattlers quarterback Drew Powell then punched in a three-yard touchdown to open the scoring and put the Rattlers ahead 7-0.

However, the Wranglers answered back on the ensuing possession when quarterback Kaleb Barker connected with wide receiver Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman for a 17-yard touchdown, tying the game.

The Rattlers would face a pivotal 4th-and-7 from their own 23 on the next possession, but Powell unleashed a 27-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Braxton Haley, electrifying the crowd and putting the Rattlers up 14-7.

After a long kickoff return, Barker carved up the Rattlers’ defense on two consecutive plays which included a seven-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jerrime Neal to tie the game at 14 and silencing the crowd momentarily, capping off an electric first quarter.

The Rattlers would continue to trade points, when Powell kept the ball on a designed quarterback keeper on 3rd-and-goal to go up 21-14.

The Wranglers kept hanging around and after another solid kick return, Northern Arizona started its next drive on the Rattlers 10-yard line.

Barker then found wide receiver Ulice Gillard for a 10-yard touchdown to tie the game up the game at 21 apiece.

After an incompletion to start the next Rattlers drive, Powell dropped back and found Haley again, this time for a 30-yard touchdown to put the Rattlers up 28-21.

The Wranglers ended up stalling on their next drive as Rattlers defensive lineman Robert Landers came up with a game-altering sack on third down to force Northern Arizona into the games first field goal attempt of the night.

Wranglers kicker Craig Peterson kicked a 33-yard field goal through the uprights to cut the Rattlers lead and make it a 28-24 game with four minutes left in the first half.

After a Wranglers sack set the Rattlers back, Northern Arizona committed a pass interference penalty moving things to their own 8-yard-line.

Two plays later, Powell punched in another one-yard touchdown to give the Rattlers a 35-24 lead with under one-minute remaining in the first half.

The Rattlers where then successful in an onside kick attempt, bringing the offense back out with time winding down in the half

After driving down the field, the Wranglers forced the Rattlers into an 18-yard field goal attempt.

Rattlers kicker Ernesto Lacayo drilled the field goal as time expired to give the Rattlers a 38-24 lead going into halftime.

The Rattlers would receive the second-half kickoff.

However, their possession was short-lived.

On the first play from scrimmage, Powell tossed an interception to Wranglers cornerback Marqui Bridges.

The Wranglers would answer with a touchdown after a Rattlers’ pass interference call set up Northern Arizona for an eight-yard touchdown pass to make it a 38-31 game early in the third quarter.

Answering again, Powell scampered for a 20-yard rushing touchdown to put the Rattlers in front 45-31.

The Wranglers were then aided on a crucial fourth-down by a Rattlers pass interference call, setting up a two-yard touchdown to make it 45-38.

Northern Arizona would follow up with a pivotal defense stop, getting the ball back for the offense

The Wranglers’ Gillard then alluded multiple Rattlers defenders as he trotted into the end zone for the game-tying touchdown.

Getting back on track, Powell hooked up with Haley for a 25-yard touchdown to give the Rattlers a 51-45 advantage.

Powell, the 2021 IFL MVP, finished the game with seven total touchdowns.

However, after kicking a successful extra-point the Rattlers were called for holding which set them back 10 yards.

Lacayo would then be attended to by the Rattler’s medical staff due to a Wrangler defender making contact with the kicker during the extra point.

“The biggest play of the game was when we made our extra point after scoring, they call holding, our kicker gets roughed, he’s on the ground hurt,” Rattlers head coach Kevin Guy said. “Then our medical team is out there looking at him, we are trying to get him off the field and they start the clock.”

The Rattlers were then forced to try and convert a 13-yard two-point conversion.

Their attempt would go on to fail as Powell was rushed by multiple Northern Arizona defenders and forced to throw an arrant pass into the stands.

After multiple penalties on the kickoff, Northern Arizona was set up at the Rattlers 20-yard-line as they trailed by just six with under three minutes to go.

The Wranglers converted a pivotal third down when Barker found Gle Gibbons Jr. for the 12-yard score, knotting the game at 51 all.

Peterson kicked the go-ahead extra point to put the Wranglers ahead 52-51 for their first lead of the game with 45 seconds remaining.

Powell would get sacked on the first play of the ensuing possession, forcing Arizona to use their second timeout.

After converting a massive third down, the game came down to one final throw to decide the IFL Western Conference Championship.

Powell’s final pass was intercepted at the goal line as the Wranglers won by a score of 52-51.

“At the end of the day, we didn’t finish,” Guy said. “We had a chance to get a field goal to win it.”

In just their second season as a franchise, the Wranglers will go on to play the Quad Cities Steamwheelers in the IFL Championship.


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