Phoenix, Ariz.- The Arizona Rattlers (14-4) earned a hard-fought victory after taking down the six-time defending champions Sioux Falls Storm (15-3) by a score of 50-41 becoming the 2017 Indoor Football League Champions at the Denny Sanford Premiere Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The game, dubbed by the league as the Clash of Champions, pit two teams with a combined 15 championships. In the end, it was the Rattlers who proved to be too much for the defending champs.
The Rattlers took a 27-point lead in the first half, and despite a late push by the Storm, Arizona would hold on to win off three straight field goals by K Sawyer Petre.
The Rattlers defense did not allow a first half touchdown with the only score by the Storm coming on special teams. Justin Shirk had 1.5 sacks, a tipped ball, and was in Storm QB Lorenzo Brown's face all night. His efforts earned him the United Bowl Most Valuable Player (MVP). Defensive back Arkeith Brown also had a big night, breaking up two passes and grabbing the game winning interception, returning it 46 yards.
"(Winning MVP) is a team effort," Shirk said. "I couldn't do it without my team. We put together a strong first half, and held on through the fourth."
On Offense, QB Cody Sokol completed seven of his 12 passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Darrell Monroe gained 34 yards on the ground on 12 attempts.
For the Storm, QB Lorenzo Brown only completed seven of his 21 attempts and three touchdowns. He did throw one interception. Brown also had 35 yards on the ground from 12 attempts.
The Rattlers got on the board first with a two-yard run from Darrell Monroe.
Storm WR Korey Williams took the ensuing kickoff to the house to tie the game at seven.
Arizona closed out the first quarter with a 34-yard touchdown pass from Sokol to WR Jamal Miles.
The second quarter completely belonged to Arizona, scoring 20 unanswered points. The first was from a 2-yard run from Darrell Monroe. Then, after DL Edward Mosley forced a fumble on QB Lorenzo Brown, DL Joshua Gordon picked it up and ran it back 29 yards for the score. Sokol finished the scoring off with a five-yard touchdown pass to WR Anthony Amos.
The Storm climbed back into the game in the third quarter, scoring 21 unanswered points. WR Judd Harold pulled in a 17-yard touchdown pass from Brown. Shortly after Robbie Rouse ran seven yards for another score. The final score came from DL Brandon Peguese who picked off Sokol and returned it two yards for the touchdown.
The Rattlers finally got back on the scoreboard in the fourth with a seven-yard run by Monroe. Arizona was also able to follow that up with a 23-yard field goal by K Sawyer Petre.
Sioux Falls responded with a five-yard touchdown pass from Brown to Harold, pulling the Storm to within ten.
The Rattlers then extended their lead, again off the foot of Petre, this time a 23-yarder.
The Storm would again close the gap on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Brown to WR Mike Tatum.
Petre came up big again for the Rattlers with 47-seconds left, kicking a 28-yard field goal to put the team up by nine.
The Storm drove down the field one last time, but was picked off by DB Arkeith Brown, who returned it 46-yards.