The Arizona Rattlers were just three points short of perfection on July 13. Sioux Falls stormed into Glendale and captured the Indoor Football League’s United Bowl, 56-53, ending Arizona’s hopes for a perfect 16-0 record.
The game was a rematch of the 2017 United Bowl, in which the Rattlers defeated the Storm in South Dakota for the first road championship victory since 2009. With a recent rivalry formed in big-time playoff games, and thousands of fans packed into Gila River Arena, the scene had the makings of an all-time contest.
There was no doubt that it lived up to the hype.
“This was probably the best game in the history of our league,” IFL commissioner Michael Allshouse told fans over the PA system before presenting the Storm with its championship trophy.
Sioux Falls scored on every offensive possession en route to the victory. Besides a fumbled kick return in the first quarter, each time quarterback Lorenzo Brown and the offense took the field, the Storm came away with a touchdown.
The Rattlers, whose defense was one of the best in the IFL during the season, left Brown too much time in the pocket to find open receivers.
“We can’t set back there and cover forever,” Rattlers coach Kevin Guy said.
Being sacked only once and hurried few other times, Brown threw for 200 yards and five touchdowns on the 50-yard field. A similar play on a 3rd and 11 with less than a minute to play resulted in a catch on the 1-yard line, and allowed the Storm to kneel out the clock and secure the victory.
Guy was complimentary to the offensive scheme put together by Sioux Falls coach Kurtiss Riggs, whose Storm have played in every United Bowl since 2010. He also had heavy words for the referees officiating the game.
“Every time we made a key play, there was some stupid penalty. Ticky-tack,” Guy said.
He said officials are not being held accountable the same way players and coaches are on the field.
“There were a lot of no-calls that went against us on key plays,” he said. “You can’t beat the team you’re playing and the refs.”
The Rattlers rolled offensively early in the game, too. Each time it touched the ball in the first half, Arizona came away with a score. The Rattlers led 38-28 at the half. But the second half was flawed, including a late-game fumble by quarterback Drew Powell and a failed fourth-down conversion deep in Sioux Falls territory.
Arizona receiver and running back Jarrod Harrington, who scored two touchdowns — one on a long rush and one on a kick return in the second half — said the difference came down to a few missed reads and the failure to capitalize on the Storm’s mistakes.
“I don’t think they did anything to stop us. We just didn’t execute,” Harrington said.
Harrington, who described himself as a “prideful man,” said it’s going to take a while for the Rattlers to recover from the loss. He acknowledged the fans at the arena.
“I walked out of the tunnel, man, and it felt like we were playing for the Super Bowl; felt like I was playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers with all those towels out there,” he said.