by Jay Luster
In 2003, the Sioux Falls Storm of the IFL hired Kurtiss Riggs to be their Head Coach. Riggs had been a player in Sioux Falls before taking over as Offensive Coordinator in 2002. When they promoted him to the big chair in 2003, they had been a middling team with a three year accumulated record of 23-20. What has happened since then has made Kurtiss Riggs an indoor/arena football legend. Under his guidance, the Storm has amassed a 216-36 record, including an incredible 40 game-winning streak. The streak began towards the end of the 2005 season when the 8-8 team, as Coach Riggs put it, “squeaked into the playoffs.“ After that they went on the road and beat the 9-6 Omaha Beef, to advance to the conference finals against the Southern Division Champion 11-4 Lexington Horsemen. They came away with an unexpected win there to gain the privilege of traveling to Sioux City, Iowa to play the Bandits. Sioux City featured a Running Back named Fred Jackson, who went on to be a starter with The Buffalo Bills in the NFL. Riggs continued, “They’d beat us numerous times during the season, but we knocked them off in the championsip.” It’s not often an 8-8 team can go on the road and put together a championship run the way they did. To put this in perspective, the only time it’s happened in the NFL was 2007 when the 8-8 New York Giants went on to beat the undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. The streak lasted into the 2008 season and included four United Bowl victories in a row. Riggs said, “it was a team that didn’t wow you with their physical dominance but as soon as the whistle blew, and the game started, they left it all on the field. When the game ended every guy walked off knowing they’d left it all out their for their teammates.”
When asked if the 2017 version of the Storm left it all on the field he said, “I think this is a much different team. They’ve had some ups and downs this year and haven’t meshed well at times. They find a way sometimes to put themselves behind the eight ball, but then they do such a good job of finding a way to make that trick shot.” Continuing he said, “They’re very resilient, but they can be very frustrating to coach. They sometimes make decisions in a game that my D-Coordinator (Brian Hermanson) and I just shake our head at, then later they respond with a play that’s really amazing. So it’s been frustrating, but it’s been really fun in the same regard.” When asked for an example he said, “Lorenzo Brown, my QB, will make a throw, and I’m like what are you doing? They were in the defense exactly how we expected them to be. We knew exactly what they were doing but he’ll throw to the complete opposite side and throw an interception. Then he’ll come back the very next drive and make an unbelievable play where you’re just like wow, no one else in this league can do that. I think, at times, you saw that with our offense, defense, and special teams”
None of this means he believes his team will fail, but knowing how good the Arizona Rattlers are it is by no means a slam dunk. Riggs said, “Arizona is one of the hottest teams in the league right now. I think they’re healthy and playing with a lot of momentum.” He’s right. Since opening 4-4, The Rattlers have gone on a nine game-winning streak. One of those losses was on the road in the Denny Sanford Premier Center against Sioux Falls. Coach Riggs said, “They’re coming to our place, and they play smash mouth football. If they get their run game going it makes (Arizona QB #19 Cody) Sokol a much better player. If he knows he can have a little more play action pass because the defense is worried about the run, he’s a lot more comfortable.” Arizona led the league on the ground this year averaging 4.5 yards per carry, for more than 1800 yards. The team with the second best rushing stats is Sioux Falls which are not far behind in any category. This means as the Coach said, “Defensively they’re going to be really aggressive. The way they align they make it difficult to run and we’re not a team that’s had a lot of big plays this year. I’m sure they’re going to try to make us have big plays to beat them instead of working our way down the field like we’re accustomed to.” If that’s the Arizona game plan, then how will The Storm approach the game? Riggs continued, “We’re pretty determined about our run game it’s kind of the staple of our offense, So we’ll still find ways. We’re pretty good in the trenches; I think that’s what’s been the key to our success.” So what’s his prediction for the game? “I think what fans will see is an extremely physical game from both teams.” Despite winning the last six IFL Championships in a row, and playing at home, the Arizona Rattlers are currently 2-1 favorites to beat the Sioux Falls Storm. Kickoff will be at 5:05pm (CDT) on July 8th. That’s 6:05pm Eastern, 4:05pm in Arizona, and 3:05pm Pacific. To watch the game go to http://www.goifl.com and click on the Watch Live tab.