Phoenix, Ariz.- Strong defensive play propelled the six-time world champion Arizona Rattlers (2-1) to a 37-31 win against the Green Bay Blizzard (0-4) in front of 8,495 fans at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
The final two minutes featured multiple defensive stops from the Rattlers. A Justin Martin forced a fumble, and an Allen Chapman interception would help clinch the victory for the Rattlers.
"We found a way to win, that's the important thing," General Manager and Head Coach Kevin Guy said.
Offensively for the Rattlers, Shadrach Thornton shined in his first start. Thornton had 88 yards, on 19 carries with three touchdowns.Also for the Rattlers, quarterback Jeff Ziemba produced a solid game going 9-16 with 113 yards and one passing touchdown.
"I did think Jeff played better tonight," Coach Guy said. "He made some better decisions."
For the Blizzard, quarterback Christian Lemay went 6-13 for 70 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. On the ground, Jasen Oden Jr. carried the ball 19 times for 55 yards and one touchdown.
Defensively, the Rattlers were led by DE Joshua Gordon who had 12 tackles. DE Justin Martin had 1.5 sacks for the defensive unit, and one forced fumble and recovery. The Rattlers secondary had three interceptions on the day, Chapman with two, and Arkeith Brown with the third.
The game started with a big play when defensive back Allen Chapman intercepted Green Bay's Christian Lemay on the opening drive giving the Rattlers an opportunity to get a lead early.
The ensuing drive culminated with a Jeff Ziemba one-yard keeper. The Rattlers would lead 7-0 and never relinquish the lead all game.
Green Bay would drive down the field before Brown would force and recover the fumble.
Starting from their own five-yard line, Shadrach Thornton would cap off a 42-yard drive with a touchdown of his own to make it 13-0 in favor of the Rattlers.
Green Bay would respond though with a three-minute drive that featured eight rushes from Blizzard running back the duo of Jasen Oden, and Washaun Ealey. The drive would finish with an Oden two-yard run into the end zone to cut the Rattler lead to 13-7.
Thornton would take the ball on the next drive and find himself in the end zone with his second touchdown on the day which gave the Rattlers a 20-7 lead.
Green Bay ended the half with an 18-yard field goal by K Jordan Endries.
Arizona started the scoring in the second half with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Ziemba to Amos, making it 27-10 late in the third quarter.With less than two minutes left in the quarter, the Blizzard would find the end zone, from a Lemay to Chris Malott 24-yard connection to make it a 10-point game deep into the third.
After the kickoff, Ziemba would get hit and fumble the ball, which would fall into the Blizzard's DL Sean Daniels hands, who would ultimately take it to the house, cutting the deficit to three, 27-24.
The Rattlers would get great field position after a return of 46 yards from Jamal Miles and a personal foul on the Blizzard, putting the Rattlers at the Blizzard six-yard line. Thornton would take it in the end zone to make it his third touchdown on the day.
Heading into the last five minutes of the game, the Blizzard would make it interesting after a Lemay to Malott 11-yard touchdown pass to bring the deficit to three once again, 34-31 Rattlers still ahead.
Rattlers K Sawyer Petre extended the lead to six with a 22-yard field goal. The game would end 37-31; Arizona.