Phoenix, AZ – It was a busy day in the sports world on Saturday, but it was even busier inside the Snake Pit. The visiting Iowa Barnstormers were on the winning side of the last meeting April 14th, a game featuring power outages, and tornado warnings. That was guaranteed not to happen this go-around in the desert. With 7,607 in attendance, it was time for the Arizona Rattlers to seek their revenge for their early season loss in Des Moines.
Rattlers QB Nick Davila (24-29, 336 Yds, 7 TD) gave a solid performance. His first play from scrimmage was a long ball to WR Markee White (9 Rec, 161 Yds), 36 yards, putting the Rattlers in excellent field position at the Iowa 1-yard line. A few plays later newcomer, FB Bret Manning (3 rush, 1 yd, 1 TD), rumbled his way into the end zone for the first TD of the night. K Chris Gould missed the point after, making it 6-0 Arizona.
The Rattlers Defense was “Lights-Out” on the Barnstormers opening drive. Rattlers LB Tyre Glasper picked up his first sack of the night, and Iowa eventually turned it over on downs. It only took Davila a couple of plays to find WR Kerry Reed (6 Rec, 67 Yds, 2 TD) in the end zone, and increase the lead to 13-0. Barnstormers QB JJ Raterink (27-42, 340 Yds, 6TD) found wide-open WR Collin Taylor (7 Rec, 87 Yds, 1 TD) to put Iowa on the board in the first. The quarter came to an end with the Rattlers on top 13-7.
The second quarter opened up with a touchdown in the corner by Rattlers WR Trandon Harvey (8 Rec, 104 Yds, 4 TD), adding to the lead, 20-7. After a few defensive highlights from DB Virgil Gray, and a sack by DL Cliff Dukes, the Barnstormers still found a way to put the ball in the end zone, and close the gap on the lead to 20-14. After what started out as a promising drive, Iowa’s DL Rodney Gnat forced a Sack/Fumble on Davila, and the Barnstormers took over at their own 17. Just a few plays later, WR Marco Thomas (10 Rec, 92 Yds, 2 TD) found paydirt on a reverse.
The Barnstormers made their point after, and took the lead, 21-20, with 3:45 left in the first half. Davila then tossed his 3rd TD of the night to Harvey, and regained the lead. After a failed onside attempt, the Barnstormers had excellent field position inside the Arizona 10 yard line, but LB Kevin McCullough was not going to make it easy on them. McCullough caught a batted Raterink pass, and the Rattlers took over at their own 1-yard line. Davila found Harvey in the end zone for his 4th TD of the night, the 3rd to Harvey, to take the lead heading into halftime 34-21.
The Barnstormers came out swinging in the second half, marching the ball downfield, and putting points on the board first. Raterink found Thomas for a short TD pass, and cut the lead down to 6. Davila, the reigning National Guard MVP, needs to average 6 TD’s a game to break the single season record. On the Rattlers first possession of the 2nd half, Nick tossed his 5th TD of the night to Reed. Iowa and Arizona would trade touchdowns on each of the next possessions; Davila threw his 6th TD of the night, his 4th to Harvey. The Rattlers held on to the lead to close out the 3rd quarter, 48-35.
Raterink would toss a TD to open up the 4th and final quarter, but the point after was unsuccessful, and the lead was down to 7. Davila quickly answered back with his 7th TD of the night, a bomb to Markee White. The ensuing Barnstormers possession nearly ended with a turnover on downs, but that was negated after a pass interference call on 4th down. The Barnstormers turned that opportunity into a TD on the very next play, but still trailed by 7. The Rattlers would move the ball down field and eat a chunk off the clock, but failed to score once they were inside the Red Zone, and turned it over on downs.
With just under 4 minutes remaining, Iowa took over inside their own 5-yard line. The Barnstormers moved into Rattlers territory with just under a minute to go, and Arizona needed another big stop by their defense. They got it when Dukes put a hit on Raterink that sent the crowd into pandemonium. That play sent Raterink to the floor, and the ball rolled across the field, and was recovered by McCullough. The Rattlers ran out the clock, and walked off with the win still atop the leader boards, 55-48.
Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game: Trandon Harvey (Ari)
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game: Arizona Defensive Line
JLS Ironman of the Game: Trandon Harvey (Ari)
AFL Playmaker of the Game: Virgil Gray (Ari)
Cutters Catch of the Game: Jesse Schmidt (Iowa)
Spalding Highlight of the Game: Cliff Dukes (Ari)
National Guard MVP: Nick Davila (Ari)