By Ross Struss, Staff Writer
Fans filled the stands of the Heartland Events Center for the last time this season as the Arizona Rattlers came to Grand Island, handing Nebraska a loss, 59-23 to end the season.
Arizona made an early statement taking the opening kick 37 yards. After a holding call negated their first attempt of making into the end zone, the Rattlers punched in a touchdown for good with 12:41 left in the first quarter. Less than four minutes later, Arizona scored again but missed the point after attempt, taking a 13-0 lead. The Danger failed their first attempt to score by way of a missed field goal from kicker Brad Hatfield. As the end of the quarter rolled around, the Danger defense stepped up when lineman Davion Belk got a sack and forced a fumble that he recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. That score put the Danger on the scoreboard, but they still trailed 13-7 at the end of the quarter.
The second quarter got going with the Danger forcing another fumble, but they were not able to convert it into any points. Arizona scored a field goal of their own and then returned a missed Nebraska field goal 58 yards for a touchdown extending their lead, 22-7. Nebraska tacked on a field goal of their own but an Arizona touchdown and rouge point on the ensuing kickoff saw the Rattlers take a 31-10 lead into the half.
“We gave ourselves opportunities on both sides of the ball but couldn’t finish the job. Missed field goals and not being able to get off the field killed any momentum we built,” said Danger Co-Head Coach Pig Brown.
The Danger got the ball to start the second half and turned the ball over after quarterback Jesse Scroggins Jr. threw an interception while in the red zone. Arizona converted the turnover into points with a touchdown with 9:34 left in the third quarter. On the ensuing drive, the Danger were penalized for intentional grounding in their own end zone, resulting in a safety and two points for Arizona who had a 39 -10 lead after the score. Nebraska got a good drive going near the end of the quarter, utilizing the short chip throws. Working their way down the field, five to ten yards a play, Nebraska put the ball in the end zone with 33 seconds left in the quarter to cut Arizona’s lead to 28, 45-17.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Arizona had only been penalized once on the night and looked to keep that clean sheet going. The Rattlers worked their way quickly down the field, capping the drive with a seven-yard touchdown run, only taking three minutes off the clock. Nebraska nearly got a touchdown, but a forced fumble at the goal line was recovered and returned by Arizona. The Rattlers took nearly seven minutes off the clock on their drive following the fumble recovery and scored again on a seven-yard quarterback rush. Another Nebraska score couldn’t help as the game ended with Arizona winning 59-23.
“We didn’t play well today but the season starts over for the playoffs. We have a lot of work to do and things we need to pull together before then,” said Brown. The Danger next play in the first round of the IFL playoffs.