Coming off their sixth championship in franchise history, the 26th season of Rattlers football will kick off on February 25th at 3:05 p.m. at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Arizona Rattlers host the Sioux Fall Storm in a rematch of the 2017 United Bowl championship, where the Rattlers defeated the Storm 50-41 to claim their first United Bowl championship. The all-time series between the Rattlers and Storm is tied at 1-1. Sioux Falls and Arizona have a combined 16 championships, with the Storm winning six straight United Bowl championships before the Rattlers ended that streak last season.
This matchup will feature two of the highest-powered offenses in the league last year with Arizona averaging 240.4 yards per game while Sioux Falls averaged 223.9 yards per game, which ranked the teams second and fourth respectively.
Offensively, the Rattlers return the league's leading rusher for running backs in Darrell Monroe, who averaged 55.2 rushing yards per game. Monroe also had 18 rushing touchdowns on the year which ranked third in the IFL. The Rattlers also bring back last season's team-leading receiver in Anthony Amos. Amos caught 602 yards and 19 TDs last season.
New to the Rattlers this season are quarterbacks Verlon Reed Jr., and Jeff Ziemba. Reed Jr. will hope to replicate last season's success he had with the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles, where he produced 170.6 passing yards per game and threw for 54 touchdowns, which placed him third in the IFL in both categories. Ziemba produced over 3,600 yards of offense in his senior year at Shepherd University and 3,400 yards his junior year.
Defensively, the Storm and the Rattlers were two of the top teams in the IFL a year ago. Sioux Falls and Arizona ranked first and third respectively allowing 29.2 and 38.1 points per game. Arizona's defense led the IFL in sacks last season with 27. The Rattlers return most of their defense including defensive end Chris McAllister, who finished third last season in the IFL in sacks (10). Linebacker Justin Shirk, the United Bowl MVP, is also back for another season.
Offensively, Storm quarterback Lorenzo Brown returns. He produced over 1,800 passing yards, 34 touchdowns, with a 160.7 passing efficiency rating which ranked him third in the IFL. His 62% completion percentage placed him second in the IFL, and averaged 42 yards per game on the ground with 24 rushing touchdowns, tied for first in the IFL.
On the defensive side for the Storm, J'Vontez Blackmon was fifth on the team in tackles with 42, and third on the team in interceptions with three.
This game will be broadcasted on FOX Sports Arizona as will all eight home games during the season, and on 1580 the Fanatic 99.3FM and 95.9FM.
The Rattlers will be unveiling their United Bowl championship banner pregame, kickoff is slated for 3:05 p.m. at Talking Stick Resort Arena.