Phoenix – The Arizona Rattlers (13-0) continue their quest for a perfect season this Saturday when the San Diego Strike Force (1-12) make their final visit to the Talking Stick Resort Arena this season. Not only would a Rattlers victory seal an undefeated season for the first time in the franchise’s 27-year history, but a win would also clinch home field advantage throughout the Indoor Football League (IFL) postseason. This matchup will feature the two top passing defenses in the league. The Rattlers allow the least passing yards per game (138.6), while the Strike Force surrender the second-fewest (139.8).
The Rattlers are coming off a 50-49 come-from-behind overtime victory over the visiting Tucson Sugar Skulls. The Rattlers found themselves facing a sizeable deficit for the first time all season as Tucson built a 35-14 lead in the first half. The Rattlers would go into halftime trailing 35-21 but the defense held the Sugar Skulls to only 14 points the entire second half and overtime.
Arizona’s offense was led by QB Drew Powell who passed for 158 yards and four touchdowns (one interception). Powell struggled to find a rhythm offensively in the first half, but did manage to turn things around with three of those four scores coming in the second half and overtime. After Tucson scored first in overtime, Arizona would answer right back. However, instead of settling for an extra point attempt, head coach/general manager Kevin Guy elected to go for two and the win.
WR Dez Stewart made his presence felt as he caught four passes for 55 yards and two touchdowns (all career-highs). Although WR Jarrod Harrington failed to haul in a pass for the first time all season last weekend, he still managed to return five kicks for 109 yards including one that went 50-yards to pay dirt. Harrington was named the Week 16 Special Teams Player of the Week for his efforts on special teams this past weekend. RB Jabre Lolley got the start and contributed 27 yards on the ground while also adding 49 receiving yards and a score in the victory.
As for the San Diego Strike Force, they are coming off a 54-26 loss to the Nebraska Danger at the Pechanga Arena last Saturday night. The Strike Force were able to keep pace with Nebraska’s third-ranked scoring offense, but the Danger would eventually pull away in the second half.
QB Jihad Vercher led the Strike Force with 140 yards through the air and two touchdowns. Starting RB Dominique Carson added 44 rushing yards and one touchdown while also chipping in with an 18-yard reception. WR Julian Stafford led the team with 49 receiving yards and one touchdown. His 13 touchdown grabs rank eighth in the IFL among wide receivers.
Against the Sugar Skulls, Arizona’s defensive effort was led LB Ryan Langford. He finished with eight tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and one sack. DB Davontae Merriweather added eight tackles, one for a loss, and two pass breakups. DL Nik D’Avanzo also had another big game last weekend as he finished with two tackles for loss. DL Lance McDowdell also chipped in with a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.
Meanwhile, the Strike Force’s defense held the Nebraska Danger to only 74 yards on the ground. LB Ryan Harvey finished with seven tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, while forcing and recovering two fumbles. DB E.J. Johnson finished with six tackles, one for a loss in the defeat. As a unit, San Diego finished with four tackles for a loss while forcing two turnovers.
This Saturday will be Arizona’s final game of the regular season before preparation for the postseason begins. All the action can be seen live on Your Phoenix CW channel 6 and 61.1, and live on YouTube.