PHOENIX, Ariz. – The Rattlers hit their first speed bump last Sunday on their attempt to clinch home field in the playoffs. However, they still control their own destiny. They win out and the playoffs come through the desert. First stop is at home against the Nebraska Danger.
Both the Rattlers and Danger have playoff implications in this game. The Rattlers need to keep pace with the Iowa Barnstormers and the Sioux Falls Storm, while the Danger are trying to hold on to the final playoff spot.
Last week, the Rattlers took the Barnstormers to overtime, but a two-point conversion was the difference. QB Jeff Ziemba completed 22 of his 27 passes for a season high 237 yards. He also had five touchdowns in the 69-68 loss.
Nebraska led the Green Bay Blizzard at halftime but went scoreless in the second half and lost the game 31-20. QB Greg Hankerson led the team in rushing with 99 yards on 11 carries. However, he only completed eight of his 31 pass attempts for 49 yards and no touchdowns.
Led by the IFL's top rushing attack, the Rattlers lead the league in both scoring and yards gained. The offensive line for Arizona has been a big reason for that. The Rattlers have started several different running backs this season and have not lost a step on the ground. QB Jeff Ziemba has also been the least sacked quarterback in the league.
The Rattlers defense currently leads the league in sacks, with 19, and turnovers, with 21. DB Arkeith Brown is second in the league with four interceptions. The Danger defense is second in sacks with 15, and is ranked third in both scoring defense (41.4 PPG), and total defense (235 YPG). Nebraska DL Xzavie Jackson leads the league in tackles for loss with 12, while DB Darion Monroe leads the IFL in total tackles with 68.5
The Rattlers are also on top of the league in kickoff returns. WR Dezmon Epps averages 26.6 yards per return, which is six yards better than the second-best returner; who happens to be Nebraska's Korey Ringer. K Sawyer Petre leads the league in PAT's made and was the IFL's Special Teams Player of the Week last week.
Offensively for Nebraska, QB Gregory Hankerson will likely be getting his third start of the season. In his first two games, he has completed 25-of-60 for 155 yards and four touchdowns. He also has 164 yards on the ground and averages 7.9 yards per carry.
The Rattlers will also be inducting former defensive lineman Anttaj Hawthorne into their Ring of Honor this Sunday. Hawthorne will join Sherdrick Bonner, Hunkie Cooper, and Randy Gatewood as the fourth Rattler to receive such an honor. Hawthorne spent eight seasons in Arizona, and went to five Arena Bowls, winning three, (2012, 2013, 2014). Hawthorne recorded 118.5 tackles, 26.5 sacks, and 12 fumble recoveries. He was also a First-Team All-Arena selection in 2011. The induction ceremony will take place at halftime.
Kickoff is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. on Sunday, May 27th, at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Arizona, streaming on the Fox Sports GO App and YouTube Live, and broadcasted on 1580 The Fanatic.