PHOENIX, Ariz. – The Arizona Rattlers (11-4) lost to the Sioux Falls Storm (12-3) by a score of 69-68 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona in front of 16,479 fans. This loss ends the Rattlers season, and the Storm advance to the 2018 United Bowl in Des Moines, Iowa.
It was a back-and-forth game that saw several lead changes, as the two teams traded scores throughout the game. A missed field goal by Arizona led to overtime. A blocked extra point following a Rattlers touchdown became the difference, as the Storm were able to score and convert the point after to escape with a one-point win.
The decision to run the clock down and kick the field goal didn't work out for the Rattlers, but Head Coach and General Manager Kevin Guy stands by his decision.
"That was our decision to manage the clock that way," Guy said. "I would manage it the same way again if we had to do it again. We're not going to second guess ourselves. At the end of the day we got to execute as players on the field."
It was another close loss for the Rattlers, who lost all four games this season by a total of 11 points. Coach Guy thought a lot of his players made some big plays, but the mental mistakes are what kept them from finishing the game.
"At the end of the day, we just weren't mentally tough enough to finish the game off," Guy said. "We lost four games by a total of eleven points, and that speaks to mental toughness. We were just good enough to get beat."
Rattlers QB Verlon Reed Jr. went 15-of-18 and threw for 158 yards and five touchdowns. WR Dezmon Epps and WR Anthony each caught two touchdowns, while WR Jamal Miles ran in two scores and caught another.
Despite missing a majority of the season, Verlon Reed stepped in and made a big impact on offense, which really stood out to Coach Guy.
"We made the right move with putting Verlon in," Guy said. "He had a great night tonight. Made some plays with his feet. He delivered time after time in tough situations and showed some mental toughness."
Storm QB Lorenzo Brown Jr. went 13-of-22 and threw for 167 yards and four touchdowns. Brown also rushed for 72 yards and three touchdowns. WR Damons Powell caught two touchdowns, and RB Lyle McCombs scored twice.
Defensively for the Rattlers, DB Nathan Lindsey had an interception that he returned for a touchdown. DB Davontae Merriweather was the leading tackler with 7.5.
On defense for Sioux Falls, they totaled four tackles for loss as a team. DB Damond Smith was the leading tackler with 12.5.
The Rattlers started the game on offense, and pushed the ball to the red-zone. WR Jamal Miles would rush three yards for a touchdown, and put the Rattlers up 7-0 early in the first quarter.
A roughing the passer penalty by Arizona quickly put Sioux Falls in scoring position. The Storm tied the game up at seven after QB Lorenzo Brown rushed five yards for a touchdown.
The Rattlers responded with a 41-yard touchdown pass from QB Verlon Reed to WR Dezmon Epps, putting the Rattlers up 14-7.
Sioux Falls tied it up at 14 with a long pass of their own, as Brown found RB Lyle McCombs for a 31-yard touchdown.
A short kick and good return from Miles put the Rattlers in Storm territory to start their next drive. Reed connected with WR Anthony Amos for a 21-yard touchdown. K Sawyer Petre would miss the point-after attempt, putting Arizona back in front 20-14.
A penalty by Sioux Falls on the kickoff put them deep in their own territory to begin their next drive. Brown went deep and found WR Damond Powell for a 33-yard score, giving Sioux Falls the lead 21-20.
At the start of the second quarter, Reed would find Amos for an eight-yard touchdown, his second of the game, putting the Rattlers back in front 27-21.
The Storm would return the ensuing kickoff for touchdown, 49-yards by Powell, quickly regaining the lead, 28-27.
Arizona took the lead back when Miles rushed five yards for the go-ahead score, giving the Rattlers a 34-28 lead.
Sioux Falls responded with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Brown to Powell, taking a 35-34 lead.
The Rattlers regained the lead after Reed hit Miles for an 11-yard score, putting the Rattlers up 41-35.
The Storm found themselves pinned on their own one-yard line following the kickoff. Rattlers DB Nathan Lindsey intercepted the ball and return it for a touchdown, extending their lead to 48-35.
Near the end of the second quarter, a long field goal by Storm K Miles Bergner brought the score to 48-38 at halftime.
Sioux Falls started the second half with the ball. Brown strung together a few nice runs in a row and punched it in from one yard out, bringing the Storm within three.
The Storm took the lead after a 28-yard touchdown run from Brown, putting Sioux Falls ahead 52-48.
Near the end of the third quarter, a 15-yard touchdown run by WR Dezmon Epps put the Rattlers back in the lead 55-52.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Sioux Falls regained the lead with a two-yard touchdown run by McCombs, bringing the score to 59-55, Storm.
A two-yard run by Reed put the Arizona back in the lead 62-59.
Sioux Falls tied the game at 62 with a 30-yard field goal with 3:30 remaining.
The Rattlers took over in Storm territory after a late hit penalty by Sioux Falls. With eight-seconds remaining, K Sawyer Petre missed the potential go-ahead field goal to force overtime.
Arizona started overtime with the ball, and Reed connected with Epps for a 16-yard touchdown on fourth down. The point-after attempt was blocked by Sioux Falls, keeping the Rattlers lead at six.
The Storm scored on their first play, a 20-yard touchdown pass from Brown to WR Damien Ford. The point-after attempt was good, giving the Storm a 69-68 victory.
With the loss, the Arizona Rattlers finish the season with an 11-4 record. The Storm join the Iowa Barnstormers in a matchup for the 2018 United Bowl Championship. The game will be played at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, IA on Saturday July 7th, with kickoff schedule for 7:05pm. Tickets can be purchased by contacting the Barnstormers office at (515) 633-2255.