(Glendale, AZ) The inaugural United Bowl was set for the Gila River Arena, home of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes.
The Arizona Rattlers who play at Talking Stick Arena for the regular season, traveled west to Glendale in what was basically a home game for them to faced the Sioux Falls Storm.
The Rattlers who ran the table to a league best 14-0, won their lone playoff game 62-45 over the Nebraska Danger to punch their ticket to today’s game.
Arizona in their storied history in the Arena Football League has six championships. This is the first year of the Indoor Football League and the first time the Rattlers have gone undefeated.
On the other side of the ball the Sioux Falls Storm the other storied team in the league has been to the last nine consecutive championship games. The Storm ran off six wins in a row from 2011-2016.
The Storm got on the board first on a seven yard pass from quarterback Lorenzo Brown Jr to wideout Damien Ford on the opening drive to go up 7-0.
Arizona came right back on their initial drive and marched down the field to tie it up 7-7 on a Jerrod Harrington three yard run.
Sioux Falls was snake bit on the ensuing kickoff as kick returner Damon Powell fumbled on the five yard line to give the ball right back to the Rattlers.
Two plays later the Snakes scored on a three yard run up the middle by Jamal Miles to go up 14-7 with just over four minutes left in the first quarter.
The game quickly turned into a track meet as Brandon Sheperd scored a touchdown on a forty yard fly route and perfectly thrown pass from Brown to tie it up again 14-14 to finish off the opening quarter.
The first quarter stats indicated that Sioux Falls had the edge with a 79-46 lead in total yards, but the Rattlers led in time of possession 8:28 to 6:32. The Storm had one turnover on a lost fumble which resulted in an Arizona touchdown.
Arizona used the clock on the first drive of the second quarter by keeping the ball on the ground. On a forth and goal from the one yard line, Rattler’s quarterback Drew Powell scored on a keeper off the right end.
All possessions in the game to that point each team had scored touchdowns. Rattlers up 21-14 at the 10:50 mark of the second quarter.
The Snakes dug themselves a hole with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that put the ball on the Snakes twelve yard line. Three plays later Shepard scored again on an eleven yard run around the right end to knot it up again 21-21. Defense was non existent for both teams in the first half.
Arizona showed some big play ability of their own as quarterback Powell hit Anthony Amos in stride from twenty nine yards to go up again 28-21.
With under a minute to go till halftime, Storm signal caller Brown took it in himself on a keeper right up the gut to tie it up 28-28.
The Sidewinders closed out the first half with a Jimmy Camacho thirty one yard field goal as time expired to light up the raucous crowd in the Snake Pit and a 31-28 lead.
Halftime stats evened up with the Storm up in total yards 123-105, but the key to the first half was the lost fumble from Sioux Falls that flipped the possessions in favor of Arizona.
Rattlers took the opened the second half with an electrifying twenty eight yard gain on the first play from scrimmage from Harrington down to the Storm seven yard line. Two plays later, an eight yard pass to Jamal Miles extended the Arizona lead 38-28.
The script remained the same as Sioux Falls on their first possession off the third quarter lit up the Rattler secondary on a twenty eight yard pass from Brown Jr. to Sheperd down to the Arizona three yard line. The next play Brown Jr tossed a short pass into the end zone to Kent Shelby to pull the Storm within three 38-35 with just over ten minutes to go in the quarter.
Arizona put together three first consecutive first downs on their next drive to put them in the red zone at the Storm eleven yard line. For the first time in the game, the defense rose to the occasion and Sioux Falls stopped the Rattlers on downs and took possession on the Snakes eleven yard line. The tide had seemed to turn back in favor of the Storm as they took the lead back 41-38.
Before any disappointment set in, Harrington took the kickoff fifty eight yards to pay dirt and the Snakes went back up in a millisecond 45-42 to end the third quarter.
After three quarters, Sioux Falls still had a slight lead in total yards 197-180 but the big kickoff return by the Rattlers kept the ever so slight lead.
Sioux Falls not shaken, came right back and regained the lead on a twenty six yard pass to Calen Campbell and more importantly went up by four points on a two point conversion 49-45 to put the pressure back on the Rattlers to score a touchdown.
Arizona’s attempt to regain the lead went awry as they fumbled it back to the Storm.
Sioux Falls tried to put the game away with 3;37 left in the contest scored on pass that Brown Jr. had an eternity to throw to put the Storm up by eleven 56-45. The Rattlers would need to two touchdowns to regain the lead while holding the Storm scoreless.
Arizona broke out the hurry up offense and drove down the field, but a second down sack with the line of scrimmage at the Storm’s four yard line put the ball back to the eleven.
With no receivers open, Powell took it the corner on a nifty run with 52.9 seconds left to score the Rattler touchdown. The Snakes got a two point conversion to bring it back within a field goal. Storm still up 56-53.
Arizona’s attempted an onside kick which they recovered but were called offsides and the Storm got the ball at the Rattler’s twelve yard line.
Sioux Falls needed to just run clock but two good defensive plays by the Rattlers brought up an all important third down with 42.8 seconds left. A competed pass to the one yard line did in the Snakes and the Storm was crowned the IFL United Bowl Champs 56-53.
In a game where offense was king, an Arizona turnover on downs and a defensive lapse late in the game was the winning combination for Sioux Falls.
The announced crowd was 14,365 .