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QB Powell, defense rallies Rattlers to beat NAZ for top spot

The Ratters drew their biggest crowd of the season. And they didn’t let them go home disappointed on Saturday night.

With Drew Powell making big plays and the defense passing, including a late Dillion Winfrey interception, the Rattlers snatched top spot from the Wranglers with a 40-28 victory in front of 9,677 fans at the Footprint Center.

The Rattlers (12-3) can clinch the top seed in the Football League Indoor West Division next week at home with a win over the Vegas Knight Hawks. Northern Arizona (11-3) has two more games to play.

It was a complete turnaround this season for the Wranglers under one coach. Rattlers manager Kevin Guy played in the Arena Football League in 1999. But Les Moss failed to crack the Rattlers in the rematch, after the Rattlers fumbled the ball. six times in the 37-34 loss at Prescott Valley last month.

This time Powell, after an early interception, was magnificent. He completed 17 of 21 passes for 175 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 67 yards and two scores.

Wide receiver Braxton Haley continued his incredible play, once jumping into the front row after a catch late in the first half, unnerving the fans with a wave.

He finished with nine catches for 82 yards and three scores.

And the defense showed why it’s ranked No. 1 in the league, stopping the Wranglersons on five of their nine possessions.

“I was very excited with the way we played defensively,” coach Kevin Guy said. “Overall a great team effort. Happy with our mindset. Mentally, physically strong. We have one more to play for home advantage.”

The atmosphere was electric, but Powell said he felt like last week, in the 54-24 win over the Tucson Sugar Skulls, it was even stronger.

July 2, 2022;  Phoenix, Arizona;  UNITED STATES;  Rattlers Jarrod Harrington (16) gets the crowd going during a game against the Wranglers at the Footprint Center.  Mandatory Credit: Patrick Breen-Arizona Republic

“Last week everyone was on their feet,” Powell said. “They were a bit more laid back. They were still loud. The energy of the crowd last week was unmatched.”

The Rattlers want to continue to ride that wave of fan-provided energy. But they realize they need to be nearly clean against a team like the Wranglers to try to qualify for a championship in August in Las Vegas.

“I’m proud of the guys,” Winfrey said. “We haven’t finished yet, because this team is tough. Mass (Massachusetts Pirates) last year, they had guys. Look at NAZ, they don’t have a lot of guys. But their efforts, they’re relentless , man. Teams like that are always tough. If they come here for the playoffs, it’s gonna be another tough game.

After turning the ball over six times in a three-point loss to NAZ in Prescott Valley three weeks ago, the Rattlers had only one turnover on Saturday, an early interception by Powell.

The Rattlers had to scramble to take the lead late in the first half, scoring two touchdowns in the 2:50 finale, erasing a 14-7 deficit.

The fourth and first of the Rattlers 16, the Wranglers got stuffed on a running play and quarterback Kaleb Barker lost five yards with 40 seconds left in the half.

Drew Powell hit Braxton Haley along the sideboard. Haley jumped into the front row after making and motioned for the crowd to make some noise.

“I just felt the energy before the game even started,” Haley said. “I made this play. It was a critical situation just before half-time. I had to go out of bounds. I happened to jump over the wall. crowd.”

Two plays later, Powell found Haley again, this time in the corner of the end zone from 3 yards out to take a 20-14 lead with 14 seconds left.

The NAZ moved to 15 from the Rattlers, before Brandon Fischer’s placement try went wide as time ticked away.

“Once they had a chance to get two touchdowns before halftime, our defense stuffed them on fourth down,” Guy said. “I think we did a great job playing situational football at that point, finishing the first half.

“They were the two best defences, ranked 1 and 2. But we have the No. 1 attack. I saw flashes of everything. They are strong mentally. I played for coach (Les) Moss in 1999 (in the Arena League). I know he’s a great coach and he was going to have his team ready.”

To suggest ideas for human interest stories and other news, contact Obert at [email protected] or 602-316-8827. Follow him on Twitter @azc_obert.

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