The Rattlers (14-3), who held Duke City (8-9) scoreless after the first quarter, saw defensive back Kyree Woods set a new franchise record for interceptions in a single game with four.
“Just outstanding execution on the players’ part,” Rattlers head coach Kevin Guy said. “They did a great job tonight. We had a bye week and we got to study them. We felt really good.”
Early on, it seemed as though the Rattlers and Gladiators would take part in a back-and-forth battle that featured the league’s two best passing offenses by yards-per game. Arizona and Duke City were either tied or in a one-possession battle, but that flipped quickly toward the end of the half.
At the onset of the one-minute warning and the Rattlers up 21-14, the Gladiators looked to tie the game deep in Arizona territory after it fumbled the previous drive. Quarterback Ramone Atkins threw a pass that was deflected off his receiver’s hands and ended up with Rattlers defensive back Dillion Winfrey, who gained five yards before being tackled.
Arizona struck quickly after the turnover, as quarterback Drew Powell immediately hit wide receiver Braxton Haley for a 41-yard touchdown downfield to give the Rattlers their first two-possession lead of the night at 28-14.
The chaos was hardly over. On the ensuing kickoff, Guy decided to onside and attempt to put the Gladiators away. The aggressiveness from the Rattlers’ coach paid off, as Arizona recovered and set up shop at their own nine-yard line. Once again, the Rattlers made things happen fast.
Powell dumped a short throw off to Arizona running back Shannon Brooks, who took the pass all the way to the end zone for the Rattlers’ second 41-yard touchdown in as many plays from scrimmage. Brooks’ score gave Arizona a sudden 35-14 lead and put it in total control of the game.
It was an absolutely dominant game for Powell, the 2021 IFL MVP.
He completed two 41-yard passes on Saturday and another 26-yard strike, all three of which went for touchdowns. The big throws helped Powell earn 175 passing yards on the day. He also threw five touchdowns and only three incompletions.
The Rattlers allowed Gladiators wide receiver Greg Dent Jr. to score two touchdowns – including a 44-yard one to tie the game at seven – in the first quarter.
Arizona didn’t allow the Gladiators to score again after the first quarter, thanks in large part to Woods’ four-pick performance.
In addition to Woods’ historic game, Arizona was dominant against the run on Saturday. It allowed just 19 rushing yards, and limited Atkins to under 50 percent passing.
In the other Western Conference semifinal, second-seeded Northern Arizona defeated No. 3 Tucson 49-30.
In the Eastern Conference semifinals, No. 1 Frisco beat No. 4 Iowa, 64-39, and No. 3 Quad City pulled off a mild upset of No. 2 Massachusetts, 39-38.
On Friday, Quad City is at Frisco, with that game’s winner advancing to the championship game, where it will face the winner of the Norther Arizona at Arizona Saturday contest.
The IFL National Championship Game is set for Aug. 13 in Henderson, Nev., at the Dollar Loan Center, a new, 5,567-seat arena just minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, and home to the IFL’s Vegas Knight Hawks.