With the Iowa Barnstormers and Sioux Falls Storm earning narrow victories over the weekend, the Arizona Rattlers (10-0) needed to do the same against the expansion San Diego Strike Force (1-10) to maintain their spot at the top of the IFL standings with just a few weeks left in the regular season.
Arizonaidid just that, running for 192 yards and scoring on every possession en route to an 84-63 victory in front of 2,143 fans at Pechanga Arena Sunday night.
San Diego started with the ball and drove deep into Rattlers’ territory. On 4th-and-goal, Strike Force quarterback Jihad Vercher found receiver Julian Stafford for a 5-yard touchdown to give his team an early lead.
It would not take Arizona long to respond. On the third play of the ensuing drive, quarterback Drew Powell faked a hand-off, dodged a would-be tackler and raced 42 yards to the end zone to tie the score.
On the first play of San Diego’s next drive, Vercher threw to the end zone, but the only one in the vicinity was Rattlers’ safety Allen “Bubba” Chapman, who made the interception.
Four plays later, Powell found a wide-open Jabre Lolley in the flat, who ran 26 yards down the sideline for a go-ahead score.
The teams traded scores until just before the half, when cornerback Phillip Henry picked off Vercher in the end zone to preserve a 42-35 Arizona lead at the break.
On the first drive of the second half, the Rattlers chewed up the Strike Force defense to the tune of 36 yards on the ground, culminating in a Powell 7-yard touchdown run to give Arizona a two-score lead.
After the defense forced a turnover on downs, the Rattlers constructed a five-play, 27-yard drive, punctuated by another Powell touchdown plunge.
San Diego would not get any closer than 14 points the rest of the game as Arizona topped the Strike Force for the third time this season.
Powell shined once again, throwing for 152 yards and four touchdowns and rushing 11 times for 104 yards and five scores in just his second game with the team.
• Head Coach/General Manager Kevin Guy earned his 200th win as Rattlers’ coach.
• Arizona receiver Robert Lewis (playing in just his second game with the team) was a force as a kick returner, totaling 170 return yards, including a 50-yard return for a score in the second quarter.
• A crazy play came in the third quarter. Vercher was sacked by Baron Poole and fumbled the ball. It was recovered by offensive lineman Zian Jones, who appeared to be touched down by Chris McCallister, but no whistle was blown. Jones rose to his feet and took advantage of the situation, racing past everyone for a 48-yard touchdown. Arizona challenged the play, but the camera angle was inconclusive and the unlikely score was upheld.
• In the final minute, Lolley was looking to score again, reaching for the end zone after a 7-yard run. The ball was knocked into the end zone, where it was recovered by offensive lineman Lamar Mady for the Rattlers’ 12th touchdown of the game.
The Rattlers will look to stay perfect on the year when they head south on the I-10 to battle the in-state rival Tucson Sugar Skulls on Saturday, May 25. Kick-off is at 6:05 p.m. All games can be seen live on YouTube.