Nighthawks Edge Rattlers 60-53

Photo Credit: Matt Hinshaw
Photo Credit: Matt Hinshaw

Phoenix, Ariz. – The five-time World Champion Arizona Rattlers (2-3) lost to the Wichita Falls Nighthawks (5-1) by a score of 60-53 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona in front of 10,879 fans.

The Rattlers went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the Indoor Football League (IFL), but fell short in an offensive shootout.

"I just wasn't happy with our overall performance," General Manager and Head Coach Kevin Guy said after the game. "We are going to address that in the morning."

In his first start in a Rattlers uniform, QB Cody Sokol went 15 of 28 passing with four touchdowns and only one interception, amassing 224 yards passing in the loss.

"The pace definitely is a lot quicker," Sokol said recapping his performance in a post-game interview, "I got ahold of it in the second quarter when I got into my rhythm."

Ketrich Harmon had a record setting night, rushing for 123 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. Harmon averaged just over six yards per rush against the Nighthawks.

"We had a great day running the ball. The offensive line was opening holes," Harmon stated after the game. "There were some drives we needed to capitalize on and we didn't."  

Defensively, Arizona had three tackles for loss, one sack, and one hit on Wichita Falls QB Charles McCullum. However, on the most important drive in the game the Rattlers came up short, allowing the game winning touchdown in the final seconds. 

"Their receivers were better than our coverage." Guy said. "For whatever reasons, we weren't getting it done."

The Rattlers kicked off to start the game, pinning the Nighthawks down inside their own 15-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, Wichita Falls QB Charles McCullum threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to WR Tyron Laughinghouse. K Rockne Belmonte hit the PAT to make the score 7-0.

On the Rattlers opening drive, QB Cody Sokol in his first start with Arizona, threw an interception to Nighthawk DB, Michael Carter. Wichita Falls took possession at their 17 yard-line with 8:41 remaining in the first quarter. The Nighthawks wasted no time, scoring on the feet of RB Tyler Williams in under two minutes. Belmonte hit the PAT pushing the Nighthawk's lead to 14. 

On the ensuing kickoff, returner Jamal Miles provided a spark to the Rattlers, returning the kick out of the end zone past the Arizona 20-yard line. Sokol would then connect with WR Demarius Washington on a 25-yard pass play to the Nighthawks four-yard line. Two plays later, Sokol would keep it himself, scoring on a one-yard run for Arizona's first score of the night. K Sawyer Petre would hit the PAT to bring the Rattlers within a touchdown of the Nighthawks.

During the next kickoff, Rattler's DB, Tee Shepard upended the Nighthawk's return man on Wichita Falls' own nine-yard line. Arizona's defense played tough, forcing the Nighthawks to a three-and-out. Belmonte would miss the long field goal attempt, giving the Rattlers possession at their own five-yard-line.

Directly after the missed field goal, Ketrich Harmon carried the ball 30 yards to the Wichita Falls 15-yard line. The drive however would stall after Sokol was sacked on third down by DE Kewan Alfred.  Rattlers attempted a field goal but it flew wide left.

The Nighthawks would capitalize with a seven-play scoring drive that culminated with a six-yard touchdown pass from McCullum to WR Angelo Pease.

Arizona responded with an eight-play scoring drive of their own that ended with a three-yard touchdown rush from Harmon.  The Rattlers followed that up with an onside kick, which was recovered by DB Arkeith Brown.  Six plays later, Sokol would pitch the ball to Miles, who scampered six yards for the score.

Nighthawks WR Tyler Williams would take the ensuing kickoff 34 yards.  McCullum would finish off the drive with a five-yard touchdown pass to WR Phillip Barnett.

Rattlers end the half with a 42-yard touchdown bomb from Sokol to WR Anthony Amos.  The two teams entered halftime tied at 28 apiece.

Starting the half from their own five-yard line, Arizona drove the length of the field, and ended the drive with a 23-yard field goal from Petre.

Nighthawks responded on the next drive by scoring on a 44-yard pass from McCullum to WR Jordan Jolly.

 The Rattlers took the lead, when Harmon split defenders on a seven-yard rushing touchdown.

Down by three, McCullum connected with Jolly for a 15-yard Wichita Falls' touchdown pass.

With just over two minutes to go in the third quarter, Arizona scored on a scramble pass from Sokol to WR Jamal Miles. On the point after, QB John Wolfe scored the two-point conversion to put the Rattlers up 46-42. 

To start the fourth, the Rattlers were able to hold the Nighthawks to a 45-yard field goal kicked by Belmonte.

Sokol extended the Rattlers lead by throwing a jump ball in the end zone to WR Demarius Washington. 

McCullum responded by throwing a touchdown pass to WR Troy Evans for a 30-yard score. The Nighthawks converted a two-point conversion, which tied the game.

With three seconds left, Jolly caught a six-yard game-winning touchdown pass to end the game with a score of 60-53

The Rattlers will now head to Nebraska this Friday, April 7th, to take on the Danger (3-2).  Nebraska is coming off a 42-36 victory against the Spokane Empire. The game will be streamed online on YouTube Live.