The Arizona Rattlers have a chance to be the first team since 2015 to go undefeated and win the Indoor Football League championship in Saturday’s 2019 United Bowl. The last team to do so was the Sioux Falls Storm, the same bunch Arizona faces at 6 p.m. at Gila River Arena in Glendale.
The two teams have formed a budding rivalry after several late-season battles the past few seasons. Sioux Falls defeated the Rattlers 69-68 in overtime in last year’s playoff semifinal, and eventually reached the United Bowl – it has been in every championship game since 2010 – before losing to Iowa. The Rattlers claimed a championship the season before in a 50-41 victory.
Arizona coach Kevin Guy says it is an honor every time he gets to face them, especially with a league trophy at stake.
“When we looked at leaving the Arena Football League and coming over to the indoor football league, Sioux Falls was a big reason why we wanted to do that,” Guy says.
Playing at Gila River Arena, the Rattlers will have their first home field advantage in an IFL championship game. The team has been able to keep a regular practice schedule and the players and coaches have slept in their own beds, rather than the usual travel schedule required for a road championship game.
And, if history says anything, the home team in the United Bowl has a major advantage. Since 2009, just one road team has been crowned the champions. That one game came in 2017 when the Rattlers won in South Dakota.
“We’ve got 10,000 rally towels that are going out to all the seats tomorrow, so it should be a great atmosphere. We’re expecting a huge crowd,” Guy says.
The previous matchups between the Rattlers and Storm this season have been offensive explosions. The two teams have combined for 211 points in just two games, and the Rattlers have scored no less than 51 points in games this season.
Rattlers quarterback Drew Powell, who joined the team mid-way through the season after Arizona suffered several injuries, expects that trend to continue Saturday.
“It’s arena football, so you score points, that’s the only way we’re going to win. So, I think we’ve had a good week of practice and we’re ready to show up offensively,” Powell says.
Both teams will likely change some aspects of their strategy, implementing some new plays for this game, and Guy says all the past matchups are thrown out the window with a championship on the line.
However the game plays out, though, both teams are confident they can take what the other throws at them. League commissioner Mike Allshouse is excited to see what happens.
“This could be one of the best games in the history of our league,” he says.