PHOENIX, Ariz. –Postseason football is once again coming to the snake pit. The Arizona Rattlers are hosting the Sioux Falls Storm in the first round of the Indoor Football League (IFL) playoffs, a rematch of last season's United Bowl Championship. This is the ninth straight playoff appearance for the Arizona Rattlers, all under Head Coach and General Manager Kevin Guy. The winner of this game will advance to the 2018 United Bowl.
The Rattlers finished the regular season with an 11-3 record and a three-way tie for first place in the IFL standings with Iowa and Sioux Falls. Because of tie-breakers, the Rattlers were awarded second place and home field advantage for this week's playoff matchup against the Storm. The other playoff matchup features the top-seeded Iowa Barnstormers hosting the fourth-seeded Nebraska Danger.
Arizona won its final game of the regular season last week at Nebraska. The Rattlers were in control all game and won 59-23. The game featured a variety of different scoring plays including a safety, a rouge, and a missed field goal returned for a touchdown. On offense, RB Darrell Monroe rushed for 88 yards and three touchdowns, and QB Verlon Reed Jr. rushed for 74 yards and four touchdowns. Defensively, DB Davontae Merriweather had two interceptions and DL Joshua Gordon sacked the quarterback twice.
Sioux Falls is coming off a wild and somewhat controversial victory over the Green Bay Blizzard. The Storm faced a 16-point deficit in the third quarter, but were able to force overtime on a last second field goal. After taking a 69-61 lead in triple overtime, Storm DB Trey Wafford intercepted the pass from Blizzard QB Bryan Hicks, but fumbled the ball in the end zone and Green Bay landed on it. The overtime rules determined that since Green Bay turned the ball over, their possession was lost which immediately ended the game, giving the Storm a 69-61 win.
The Rattlers and Storm met twice this season, with Arizona winning both times. The Rattlers kicked off their season at home against the Storm and traded scores for most of the game, and were tied in the final minute of the game. DL Joshua Gordon forced a fumble that resulted in a safety, putting the Rattlers in control and went on to win 39-33.
The Rattlers traveled to Sioux Falls in week 8 for their second matchup against the Storm. A 32-yard touchdown pass from QB Jeff Ziemba to WR Dezmon Epps gave the Rattlers a 20-14 lead in the second quarter and didn't look back. They scored 21 unanswered points to take a 41-17 lead and would go on to win 48-40.
Arizona enters the postseason with the highest scoring offense in the IFL, averaging 53 points a game. Their offense features a dominant rushing attack led by RB Darrell Monroe, who leads the IFL in rushing touchdowns. WR Jamal Miles has been their most versatile weapon on offense this season, getting touches in the passing game, rushing game and on special teams. Miles finished the season with 1,200 all-purpose yards and 16 total touchdowns.
The Storm comes in with an offense that averages the second most points per game in the IFL behind Arizona. Their offense is led by QB Lorenzo Brown, who is effective in both the passing game and running. Other weapons include the wide receiver combo of Mike Tatum and Judd Harold, who both finished in the top ten in receiving yards this season.
The Rattlers defense finished the season on a high note, allowing the second lowest point total in the league. This year's defense is primarily good at turning the ball over and getting to the quarterback, leading the league both turnovers (26) and sacks (24).
Sioux Falls enters with a stingy defense that allowed the lowest amount of yards this season and ranks second in both pass defense and run defense. Trey Wafford leads the team in tackles with 73.5 and forced seven turnovers on the season. The Storm's defensive strengths include forcing turnovers and incompletions.
Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday, June 23rd at 6:00 p.m. at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Arizona, streaming on the Fox Sports Go App and YouTube Live, and broadcasted on 1580 The Fanatic.