PHOENIX, Ariz. - The Arizona Rattlers have entered the final week of the regular season, and their path moving forward is simple. Win and the first playoff game next week will be at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. The only team left standing in their way; the Nebraska Danger (4-9).
The Rattlers, Iowa Barnstormers (10-3), and the Sioux Falls Storm (10-3) all enter the final week knotted up in first place. If each team wins their final game, the Barnstormers hold the overall tiebreaker between the three teams and would claim the top spot in the playoffs, hosting throughout. The Rattlers would get the second spot, meaning that they would host the first round, and the Championship should Iowa lose in the first round.
To get to that point, however, the Rattlers would need to get past Nebraska, who has clinched the last spot in the playoffs. Both teams are coming off of a bye week.
Arizona's last game was in Iowa, where the Rattlers led at halftime, but a seven-point second half allowed the Barnstormers to come away with the 41-38 win. QB Jeff Ziemba was 16-of-31 passing and threw three touchdowns. WR/RB Jamal Miles was the recipient of two of those scores and amassed a total of 73 reception yards in the game.
Nebraska is also coming off a loss from two weeks ago. They trailed the Cedar Rapids Titans by 21 early in the fourth, and a late comeback by the Danger came up short and the Titans would hold on to win 33-26. QB Gregory Hankerson completed 13 of his 19 pass attempts for 104 yards. He also rushed seven times for 25 yards and a touchdown. RB Angelo Pease added two more touchdowns on the ground and 33 yards on 11 carries in the game.
Offensively for Arizona, running backs Darrell Monroe and Shadrach Thornton have become a strong one-two punch since Thornton returned from injury. Both are first and third respectively in the league in yards per rush (5.3 yards and 4.7 yards), and Monroe leads the league in rushing touchdowns with 38. WR Anthony Amos helps balance out the offense as well, hauling in a league second best 17 touchdowns on the year.
For Nebraska, they are on their third starting quarterback this season, Gregory Hankerson Jr. He rushed 83 yards and threw three touchdown passes in Nebraska's Week 14 matchup at Arizona. He also rushed for 269 yards and two touchdowns, and threw for 382 passing yards and seven touchdown passes in just four games this season. WR Eric Thomas and WR Gregory Dent make up a dangerous receiver core. Thomas is second in the IFL in receiving yards with 658, while Dent is ranked seventh with 531.
On Defense, the Rattlers lead the IFL in sacks with 22 and tied for first in turnovers with 23. Arizona allows on average 41.8 points and 239 yards per game, placing their defense fourth in the league. DL Joshua Gordon is third in the league in tackles for loss with 12, and DB Arkeith Brown is third in the league in interceptions with 4.
Nebraska's defense is ranked third in the IFL in multiple categories, and is second in the league in sacks with 17. The Danger allows on average 41 points and 233.8 yards per game. DB Darion Monroe leads the team in tackles with 72.5, and their second-leading tackler, LB Myke Tavarres, has three sacks and 9 tackles for loss.
The third and final matchup between these two teams will be played at the Eihusen Arena in Grand Island, Nebraska this Saturday at5:00 p.m. PDT. The game can be seen live on YouTube.