PHOENIX, Ariz. – The six-time world champion Arizona Rattlers (9-2) lost the Iowa Barnstormers (8-2) by a score of 69-68 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. This loss snaps the Rattlers eight-game win streak and brings their first-place lead in the IFL standings half a game.
The official attendance came in at 18,381, the largest crowd in the history of Rattlers football. This breaks the previous attendance record of 17,436 back in 1997 at Arena Bowl XI vs. the Iowa Barnstormers.
It was a back and fourth game that saw eleven lead changes and four ties. Iowa was able to convert on a two-point conversion in overtime, giving them their second win against the Rattlers this season.
Head Coach and General Manager Kevin Guy said that the defense needs to improve going forward.
“Failure is never final,” Guy said. “You have setbacks. We have to handle our business on the field and we have to play better. We didn’t make a play and we were not physical on defense.”
Rattlers QB Jeff Ziemba went 22-of-27 and threw for 237 yards and five touchdowns. Ziemba also rushed for two touchdowns. WR Anthony Amos caught 72 receiving yards and two touchdowns, while WR Dezmon Epps caught 80 receiving touchdowns and one touchdown. On the ground, RB Dylan Peebles rushed for 49 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite the loss, Guy thought his offense played well.
“We kept our foot on the gas pedal,” Guy said. “We made plays when we had to. We just couldn’t come up with one defensive stop.”
Defensively for Arizona, DT Terrence Surratt and DT Justin Martin each had a tackle for loss, while LB Justin Shirk had a sack. DB Dillion Winfrey and DB Davontae Merriweather led the team with seven tackles each.
Barnstormers QB Drew Powell went 19-21 and threw for 191 yards and five touchdowns. Powell also added 94 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. WR Brady Roland and WR Ryan Balentine each caught two touchdowns.
On defense for Iowa, DL Keith Jones recorded two-and-a-half tackles for loss and one-and-a-half sacks. LB Zachary Allen led the team with seven tackles.
On the opening drive, The Rattlers marched down the field and took an early 7-0 lead with a two-yard rushing touchdown from RB Dylan Peebles.
The Barnstormers responded on their first offensive possession with a four-yard pass from QB Drew Powell to WR Ryan Balentine, tying the game up at seven.
After a short kick and an Iowa penalty, the Rattlers started their next possession at midfield. A six-yard touchdown pass from QB Jeff Ziemba to WR Anthony Amos put Arizona back in the lead, 14-7.
Iowa brought the ball into Rattlers territory on their next drive, and on fourth down, Powell found DL B.J. Butler for an 11-yard score, tying the game at 14.
The Rattlers responded quickly and took just three plays to score. Peebles ran it in from six yards for his second touchdown of the game and gave the lead back to Arizona, 21-14.
Powell would rush for a seven-yard touchdown to cap off the following Barnstormer possession, but the extra-point was missed by K Cody Barber, keeping the Rattlers in front, 21-20.
On the ensuing Rattlers possession, Ziemba would find an opening and rush 17 yards for a touchdown, extending the Rattlers lead to 28-20.
Near the end of the first half, Powell connected with Balentine 18 yards for his second touchdown of the game. Iowa was successful on the two-point conversion, tying the game up at 28 with 30 seconds left in the second quarter.
Arizona pushed the ball Iowa’s eight-yard line with five seconds remaining. As time expired, Ziemba found Amos for an eight-yard score, giving the Rattlers a 35-28 lead at halftime.
The Barnstormers started the second half with the ball. Near midfield, Powell connected with WR Brady Roland for a 17-yard touchdown. The extra point attempt was no good, keeping the Rattlers in the lead, 35-34.
On the ensuing kickoff, Rattlers WR Dezmon Epps returned the kick 25 yards as the Rattlers took over at midfield. Two plays later, Ziemba went deep and found WR Jamal Miles for a 24-yard touchdown, extending the Rattlers lead, 42-34.
Iowa responded with a deep pass of their own. Powell connected with Roland for a 45-yard score, but the Barnstormers failed the two-points conversion, keeping the Rattlers ahead 42-40.
The Rattlers pushed the ball to the one-yard line, but had to settle for a 21-yard field goal from Sawyer Petre, putting Arizona up five.
At the start of the second quarter, Powell ran in a four-yard touchdown to give the Barnstormers their first lead of the game. The two-point conversion was unsuccessful, keeping the score at 46-45, Iowa.
On Arizona’s next possession, Ziemba went deep and connected with Epps for a 29-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion was no good, but the Rattlers regained the lead, 51-46.
The Barnstormers regained the lead after Powell ran in a one-yard touchdown, his third of the game. The two-point conversion was successful, giving Iowa a three-point lead with 3:33 to play.
A 35-yard connection from Ziemba to Miles put the Rattlers in the red zone at the one-minute warning. Ziemba would rush four-yards for the go-ahead touchdown, putting the Rattlers up 58-54 with 50 seconds remaining.
The Barnstormers took back the lead with a nine-yard touchdown run from RB Donavan Williams, putting Iowa in front by three with 22 seconds left in the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, a 40-yard kick return from Epps put Arizona in the red-zone. With one second remaining, Petre tied the game up with a 17-yard field goal to send the game to overtime.
Iowa won the coin toss and elected to defend first. The Rattlers faced fourth down on the three-yard line when Ziemba found Amos for the go-ahead score.
Facing fourth-down near the goal-line, Powell found the end-zone from three yards out for his fourth rushing touchdown of the game. The Barnstormers went for two and converted, winning the game 69-68.
The Rattlers will remain at home next Sunday, May 27th and face the Nebraska Danger (4-7). Nebraska has lost their last six games after coming off a 31-20 home loss to the Green Bay Blizzard. The game will kick off at 3:05 p.m. PDT at Talking Stick Resort Arena, and can be seen on Fox Sports Arizona, the Fox Sports GO App, YouTube Live, and can be heard on 1580 The Fanatic 99.3 FM and 95.9 FM.
For more information, head to azrattlers.com.
About the Arizona Rattlers
The Arizona Rattlers were founded in 1992 and are proud members and current champions of the Indoor Football League (IFL). The Rattlers spent 24 seasons in the Arena Football League (AFL), and in that time made ten appearances in the ArenaBowl, winning in 2014, 2013, 2012, 1997 and 1994. They also won the United Bowl in 2017. For tickets, call 602-514-TDTD (8383), or visit www.azrattlers.com.