IFL

Rattlers get revenge, take down Wranglers 40-28

Win propels Arizona back to top of Western Conference

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PHOENIX -- The Arizona Rattlers defeated the first-place Northern Arizona Wranglers 40-28 on Saturday night, avenging their 37-34 loss on June 11 to the Wranglers in Prescott Valley and regaining control of the top spot in the IFL's Western Conference.

"Overall, it was a great team effort," Rattlers head coach Kevin Guy said. "Very pleased with our effort and mindset tonight. We were mentally and physically tough and finished this out."

The plays that swung the game

As expected, it was a tight, back-and-forth contest between the Rattlers and Wranglers on Saturday night. Through three quarters, neither team took a lead of more than six points, and the only score between the two teams wasn't a go-ahead one.

"It was the best two defenses," Guy said. "But we got the No. 1 scoring offense, so you saw flashes of a little bit of everything."

But that changed once the final frame began. Facing a 4th and 6 down 27-21, Wranglers quarterback Kaleb Barker dropped back to pass, only to be sacked by Arizona defensive linemen Robert Landers and Theo Majette, giving Arizona the ball back deep within their own territory.

Thanks to some key throws by Powell, Arizona was able to get out of the field position jam and score later in the drive on a short run by its quarterback to take a 34-21 lead with 9:29 left.

"The poise is there, it was there today," Powell said. "We took a step as a team. We grew."

Guy added: "When we played Northern Arizona earlier in the season, we had a chance to close them out. We were up four with a minute left and we fumbled the ball away.

"We didn't have a fumble tonight."

Northern Arizona struck back quickly to cut the deficit to one possession, but a deep pass from Powell to Rattlers wide receiver Jamal Miles gave Arizona its two-score lead back with 5:15 left in the game.

"Last two times we lost, we were winning in the fourth quarter going into the fourth quarter," Powell said. "That was a big thing on my mind coming in tonight."

Wranglers passing game held in check

Northern Arizona entered Saturday's game ranked around the middle of the pack in the IFL in terms of offensive production, but quarterback Kaleb Barker presented a unique threat to the Rattlers' defense.

While he ran for 101 yards and threw for 112 and three touchdowns, the Rattlers' ability to match a tough Wranglers' defense was a major key in Saturday's contest.

"Our defense played excellent tonight," Guy said. "They had the ball nine times and we stopped them five times. I was very excited about how we played defensively."

At halftime, Barker was just 3-12 for 39 yards, with one of his three completions – which was a 20-yard touchdown to wide receiver Jerrime Neal – accounting for almost half of his yards.

"I'm proud of our guys," Winfrey said. "[Northern Arizona] is always tough."

As a sundae-topper, Barker's night was ended thanks to an interception by Rattlers defensive back Dillion Winfrey with 3:29 left in the game and the Wranglers down 12 points.

"They finished it off," Guy said. "...Dillion did a good job of overplaying it inside to make sure [the Wranglers wide receiver] did go outside and [Winfrey] made a play."

Winfrey added: "I showed him a little flavor and now I'm here."

Haley's dominance continues

After a season-best game for himself and for a Rattlers pass catcher in 2022 last week, Braxton Haley returned to dominating on Saturday against the Wranglers' league-leading defense.

Haley scored three touchdowns against Northern Arizona in the win, which included two go-ahead scores in the second and third quarter, and finished with 82 yards on the night.

"It starts with confidence more than anything," Haley said. "Confidence comes from trusting your training. …If you stay locked in, things like tonight will happen."

His second touchdown of the night was a two-yard pass from Powell, putting the Rattlers up 20-14 with 27 seconds left before halftime.

"I can't say enough about Braxton," Powell said. "...His mindset has completely changed and he's become one of the leaders for us. He's always made plays, but now he's really starting to become one of those guys."

His third score of the night once again put Arizona in the lead, giving it a 27-21 lead with 4:27 left in the third quarter.

"Our receivers made some big plays tonight," Guy said.

IFL, Powell, Rattlers, Wranglers, football

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