PHOENIX, Ariz. – The six-time world champion and first place Arizona Rattlers (7-1) defeated the Cedar Rapids Titans (1-7) by a score of 84-83 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona, and set several records in the process. They did so in front of 16,742 fans, their largest crowd since 2004. The Rattlers have now won their sixth straight game and have won 11 straight games at home.
This victory is win number 300 in the history of Arizona Rattlers football. No other team in the history of indoor football has won as many games as the Rattlers. The closest active team is the Sioux Falls Storm with 245 wins. The Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League were closer with 265 wins, but are now an inactive franchise.
Head Coach and General Manager Kevin Guy had many people to thank after the historic victory, and made sure to recognize the ones who were part of the beginning of Rattlers football.
"I really want to thank Rattler Nation, they've been with us since 1992," Guy said. "I don't want to forget the old regime from '92 all the way through 2007, they were a big part of those 300 wins too. There are a lot of people that deserve credit for getting to 300."
The Rattlers were down by as many as 18 points in the fourth quarter, but Arizona was able to manage the clock efficiently enough to go up by one with only two seconds left in the game.
"We keep on-side kicking because if they were going to score we wanted them to score quick so time was on our side," Guy said. "It worked out well there at the end."
It was a special night RB Darrell Monroe, who set an IFL record and Arizona Rattlers record for most rushing touchdowns in a game with 11.
"I like having the ball and when the game on is my shoulders," Monroe said. "It makes me play better."
Tonight's game was the highest scoring game in Rattlers history, breaking the previous record set in where the Rattlers won 82-81 against the Grand Rapids Rampage in overtime on April 19th, 2003.
The Rattlers offense was consistent all night and put up 84 points. Along with his 140 yards and 11 touchdowns, Monroe was also the leading receiver with 65 yards. QB Jeff Ziemba was 19-25 and threw for 166 yards. WR Dezmon Epps had a big night on special teams, running back 263 kick return yards and one touchdown, setting a record for the most return yards in a single game in IFL history.
"I just try to do what Coach [Jeff] Jarnigan says," said Epps. "He always has the right plan. He says every time, 'Epps, just fly and hit the hole.'"
Defensively for Arizona, DE Josh Gordon had two and a half tackles for loss and DB Arkeith Brown had a huge pass breakup on fourth down. DB Devontae Merriweather and LB Justin Shirk had a team high six tackles.
The Titans offense gave the Rattlers defense problems all night. QB Jake Medlock was 12-13 and threw for 210 yards and six touchdowns. RB Raphael Lawson-Gayle rushed for 112 yards and two touchdowns. WR Marquel Wade had 124 receiving yards and three touchdowns, and WR Javon Bell had 77 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
On defense for the Titans, DB James Calhoun had 12 tackles and a fumble recovered for a touchdown. DL Ricarlo Bell had a sack and two tackles for loss.
The Titans came out swinging and scored on the very first play of the game. RB Raphael Lawson-Gayle rushed 44 yards for the touchdown, giving Cedar Rapids a quick 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Rattlers WR Dezmon Epps returned the kickoff 51 yards for a touchdown, tying the game up at seven.
Cedar Rapids would march down the field on their next possession that ended with one-yard touchdown pass from QB Jake Medlock to WR Connor Hollenbeck, giving the Titans a 14-7 lead.
After Arizona turned the ball over on downs, the Titans pushed back into the red zone, but had to settle for a field goal and extended their lead to ten.
At the start of the second quarter, RB Darrell Monroe ran in a one-yard touchdown to bring the Rattlers within three.
Cedar Rapids responded quickly with Medlock's second passing touchdown of the game, a 39-yard pass to WR Marquel Wade, bringing their lead back to ten.
Epps would have another big return on the ensuing kickoff and put the Rattlers in Cedar Rapids territory. A few plays later, Monroe rushed six yards for his second score of the game, once again pulling the Rattlers within three.
The Rattlers caught the Titans off-guard on the kickoff recovered an on-side kick. They were able to get in the red zone, but a Monroe fumble near the goal line gave the ball back to Cedar Rapids.
A big run by Lawson-Gayle brought Cedar Rapids to the two-yard line. Wade would run it in two plays later and put the Titans back up by ten.
Late in the second quarter, Monroe rushed three yards for his third score of the game, bringing the Rattlers within three.
Medlock would connect with WR Javon Bell for 30 yards and put Cedar Rapids in scoring position late in the half. Medlock would connect with Bell again on the next play and extended their lead to ten.
Arizona got the ball to near mid-field on the next possession, but Titans DL Ricarlo Bell sacked Ziemba and the ball was scooped up by DB James Calhoun, which he returned 14 yards for a touchdown.
The first half would end with a score 45-28 Cedar Rapids.
At the start of the second half, Epps had another big kick return and brought the Rattlers to the six-yard line. Monroe ran in his fourth touchdown of the game on the very next play and brought Arizona within ten.
The Titans would respond with a five-play drive that ended with another Medlock touchdown pass to Bell, increasing Cedar Rapids' lead to 52-35.
The Rattlers came right back as Monroe found the end zone for the fifth time, once again pulling the Rattlers within ten.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Rattlers recovered their second on-side kick of the game, keeping the offense back on the field. A two-yard touchdown from Monroe pulled the Rattlers within three.
Two plays later, Lawson-Gayle rushed four-yards for the score, increasing the Titans lead back ten.
With two minutes to go in the third, Cedar Rapids forced another interception from Ziemba. On the next play, Medlock connected with Wade for a 17-yard touchdown pass and increased their lead to 66-49.
Near the end of the third, Monroe ran in his seventh score of the game, a six-yard rush, bringing the score to 56-66 heading into the fourth.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Arizona attempted their third on-side kick of the game, but this time Cedar Rapids recovered and ran it in from eight yards out. The Titans would recover a blocked PAT in the end zone for a two-point conversion, extending their lead to 74-56.
Arizona moved the ball all the way to the one-yard line, and Monroe ran in touchdown number eight of the game, an IFL and Rattlers record. The two-point conversion was successful, pulling the Rattlers within ten.
Another failed on-side kick attempt from the Rattlers put Cedar Rapids back in the red zone. A strong goal-line stand from the Rattler defense made the Titans settle for a field goal, increasing their lead to 77-64 with seven minutes remaining in the game.
The Rattlers were able to quickly get back into scoring position, and Monroe rushed one yard for the touchdown, bringing the Rattlers within six with five minutes to play.
Cedar Rapids would respond on the next play. Medlock would connect Wade for a 34-yard touchdown pass. The point after was missed, keeping the score 71-83.
Epps would return ensuing the kickoff 51 yards and put Arizona on the two-yard line. Monroe would punch it in on the next play, bringing the Rattlers within five with 3:26remaining.
After another failed on-side kick attempt from Arizona, the Titans got the ball to the one-yard line. The Rattlers defense came up with a big stop on fourth down and took over on downs with one minute remaining in the game.
The Rattlers pushed the ball all the way to the Titans one-yard line, and Monroe punched in the go-ahead score with two seconds remaining.
Cedar Rapids could not return the ensuing kickoff and the Rattlers would win the game 84-83.
"When you win these kind of games, you know you got the makings of a team that can make a run for a championship and that's a great sign," Guy said. "We got to learn how to handle success. That's a mental approach that we're going to have to address. We can't get comfortable."
The Rattlers will travel to Iowa next Saturday, May 5th and face the Cedar Rapids Titans (1-6) on the road. The game will kick off at 5:05 p.m. PDT at U.S. Cellular Center, and will be streaming on YouTube Live.
For more information, head to azrattlers.com.