Arizona gets season sweep over Nebraska with win
Phoenix, Ariz. – The Arizona Rattlers (9-4) took one step closer to clinching a playoff spot with a win over the Nebraska Danger (7-6) by a score of 43-33 at the Talking Stick Resort Arena in front of 11,384 fans.
The win now puts the Rattlers two games up over the Danger, and puts them in position to play for home field advantage next week against the Spokane Empire (8-5).
“we’re not there yet,” said General Manager and head Coach Kevin Guy. “We’ve got to finish. That is what we’ve been preaching.”
Arizona’s offense was led by WR Antonio Vaughan, who had five catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Cody Sokol completed ten of his 19 passes for 156 yards and three touchdowns.
“I felt like they were going to try and control the (defensive) line and they did that,” said Guy. “But we were able to beat them on some play action and beat them deep.”
On the defensive side, the Rattlers combined for two sacks, four tackles for loss, one interception, five pass breakups, and two quarterback hurries.
“I felt like we had a great defensive game plan going into the game,” Guy said. “Our defense was able to find a way to make some big plays in the second half to give us some separation.”
The defense was led by LB Justin Shirk, who had four tackles, one of which was a sack for 12 yards, and two quarterback hurries. Shirk was named the Defensive Player of the Game.
“The quarterbacks were really holding the ball pretty long tonight,” said Shirk. “They were getting rid of it, but long enough for us to get some good hits on them.”
On special teams, Jamal Miles was the Special Teams Player of the Game when he returned a missed field goal 58 yards for the touchdown. K Sawyer Petre also had another solid outing, going making all four point afters (PATs) and a 45-yard field goal.
“I thought it was going to go over the wall, but I just put my hands up and the ball landed in my hands,” said Miles. “After that, I just had to make a play.”
The Rattlers defense came up big on Nebraska’s first possession, forcing them into a 48-yard field goal attempt that hit the right upright by K Josh Gable. Two plays later, Sokol threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to WR Antonio Vaughan.
On the ensuing kickoff, DB Demetruce McNeal returned the ball 53 yards for the score.
Arizona responded with an eight-play, 44-yard touchdown drive that culminated in a 3-yard run by RB Ketrich Harmon.
The second quarter began the same as the first, with another missed field goal attempt by Nebraska, this one a 49-yarder.
The Rattlers capitalized with a 42-yard touchdown pass from Sokol to Vaughan on fourth down.
The Danger were able to get back on the scoreboard after a 14-yard run by QB Drew Powell. The point-after (PAT) was no good.
Arizona would again respond with a with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Sokol to WR Anthony Amos.
Two plays later, the Danger pulled within seven with a 45-yard touchdown pass from Powell to WR Rob Brown.
The half ended with both teams trading field goals; a 45-yarder by Rattlers K Sawyer Petre, and a 30-yarder by Nebraska’s Gable as time expired.
The Rattlers began the second half with the ball, but turned the ball over on a fumble by Sokol which was recovered by Nebraska’s DL Colton Miles-Nash. On the next play, Powell threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to WR Jarrad Higgins to tie the game at 30 apiece.
Arizona again took a seven-point lead five plays later with a 1-yard run by WR Jamal Miles.
The Danger began the fourth quarter with a 29-yard field goal by Gable.
Rattlers QB Sokol turned the ball over again on another fumble, this one recovered by LB Jamar Love. However, Arizona’s defense forced another field goal attempt by Gable, this one was returned by Jamal Miles 58 yards for the score. The two-point conversion was no good, and the Rattlers led by ten.
Nebraska took one more shot at the end zone late in the fourth, but DB Dillion Winfrey leaped over the wall to snag the ball.
“As soon as I went up, and my hands just touched it,” Winfrey said. “I knew once my hands touched it I was coming down with it.”
The Rattlers will now head to Spokane, Washington on Saturday, June 3rd. The game over the Empire (8-5) will go a long way in determining who will have home field advantage in the playoffs. Spokane is coming off of a five-point victory over the Colorado Crush (3-10). The game will be streamed online on YouTube Live.
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About the Arizona Rattlers
The Arizona Rattlers were founded in 1992, and are proud members 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. For tickets, call 602-514-TDTD (8383), or visit www.azrattlers.com.
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