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Team W L
Iowa Barnstormers 10 2
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Sioux Falls Storm 9 3
Nebraska Danger 4 9
Cedar Rapids Titans 2 10
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RATTLER KNOCK OFF PERENNIAL CHAMPS TO WIN IFL UNITED BOWL CHAMPIONSHIP

by Jay Luster

2017 United Bowl
8 July 2017

The Arizona Rattlers have defeated the Sioux Falls Storm 60-51 to win their first United Bowl Championship Trophy. After a brief tie early in the first quarter, the visiting Rattlers held the lead for the entire game. While they moved the ball methodically with a nice mix of passes and runs it was RB Darrell Monroe who proved to be to much for the reigning champion Storm to handle with three touchdown runs. Sioux Falls, providing only sporadic pressure on Cody Sokol, held the Rattlers QB to just 7 completions on 12 attempts for 33 yards and 2 TD’s which helped them remain competitive. While his average yards per carry were low, aside from the TD’s it also accounted for a timely fourth down conversion to keep a scoring drive alive. The rest of the team added 17 more runs for another 28 yards. Lorenzo Brown, the Sioux Falls QB, on the other hand was under constant pressure from the Arizona defense all night. The D finished the night with 3 sacks, a forced fumble which resulted in a TD by defensive lineman Joshua Gordon several defended passes and a critical stop on a 2 point conversion attempt. The Storm makeshift offensive line had a difficult time holding off the continuously blitzing Rattlers defensive front, but it was obvious from the beginning the pressure bothered Brown. During Arizona’s dominating 2nd quarter, kicker Petre Sawyer missed an extra point attempt which held their scoring to 20 points instead of 21. That missing point is one of this things that drove the drama all evening.

Whatever adjustments Coach Kurtiss Riggs made at halftime worked as the Storm came out of the locker room on fire. Scoring 20 unanswered points to pull within 6, at the end of the third quarter Sioux Falls began to look like the team everyone had become accustomed to seeing for the last decade. The missed PAT loomed large because a TD would tie, and the extra point would give Sioux Falls the lead. With all the momentum, it seemed as if the reigning champions could possibly reel in their 7th in a row. The game turned on three plays, and three Sawyer FGs. In their own end of the field and needing about a yard, Arizona lined up for a FG attempt. Sioux Falls sniffed out the fake and shut it down. With first and ten inside the 20, Lorenzo Brown fumbled the ball which resulted in the Rattlers defensive TD. In the fourth Quarter, down by 8, the Storm elected to go for 2 after a TD which would have pulled them back to within 6 with plenty of time on the clock. They completed the play, but a penalty backed them up 10 yards. The next attempt failed, but an Arizona penalty gave them back the lost yardage and a third attempt at the conversion. The Rattlers rallied up and made the stop just short of the goal line, and it left Sioux Falls in a hole they ultimately couldn’t climb out of. United Bowl MVP, Arizona LB Justin Shirk’s timely sack late in the game gave Arizona the ball back in the Storm’s end of the field with under two minutes. While the Rattlers didn’t score on the drive, they maintained their 9 point lead and took valuable time off the clock which virtually clinched the game.

The Arizona Rattlers, along with other teams, defected from the AFL after last season. They began the season 4-4 looking very much unlike the team that had dominated the AFL. After being near or at the top of the AFL pecking order, Coach Kevin Guy figured out the IFL and then rattled off nine wins in a row to enter the playoffs hot. Coach Riggs of Sioux Falls understood his squad wasn’t the same team who had dominated the league for more than a decade. He knew Arizona planned on bringing the pressure and he was absolutely right. Arizona which relentlessly attacking with the blitz, required Sioux Falls to keep their RB in to block thereby taking away one of their biggest offensive weapons. That strategy exposed the weaknesses in Lorenzo Brown’s game. He has a somewhat elongated throwing motion which requires a clean pocket and even then his accuracy and decision making are spotty. On one play, he had a receiver open deep. Had he put some air under the ball and led the WR into the end zone it was an easy touch. Instead, he threw a line drive which, despite trailing by 2 yards, allowed the DB to bat it away. Unless he can overcome those types of mistakes, he will never develop into the championship caliber QB Sioux Falls fans have come to expect. Arizona has quickly become the dominant team in the league and there is no question they will build upon this success during the off season. Next year, everyone will want their shot at the newly crowned Champions, and you can bet Sioux Falls will be the team with the biggest gun.