MESA – The Arizona Rattlers are fresh off a weekend when they clinched their 12th-consecutive playoff berth following a 58-38 victory over the Duke City Gladiators.
However, for coach Kevin Guy, the team still has a lot to achieve before the season ends.
“The bigger goal is to get home field advantage and compete for a championship,” Guy said. “So, you know, it’s a work in progress. We still got some work to do these last five weeks.”
The Rattlers sit at 10-3, a half-game behind the Northern Arizona Wranglers for that coveted top spot in the Western Conference standings, and have three more games left in the regular season.
However, for a franchise with championship aspirations, clinching a playoff spot is a step in the right direction.
“The goal is to win the championship, so we got to be in the playoffs first,” Rattlers quarterback Drew Powell said. “That’s one step in the journey. It feels good, but it’s not satisfying yet.”
Powell, a two-time IFL MVP, ranks first in the IFL in passing yards and third in passing touchdowns and has been a key driver to Arizona’s success over the past three seasons. For Guy, it’s a relief to have someone to rely on like Powell.
“He’s been a great player for our organization,” the 2021 IFL Coach of the Year said. “I always tell the players, ‘When the people around the quarterback position play better, he’ll play better.’ He’s obviously coming off an MVP year last year, and he’s having another good year this year.”
Powell has led Arizona to the previous two United Bowls. The Rattlers fell short both times, losing by a combined six points. However, for him, those setbacks have allowed him to be a better leader and veteran for his teammates.
“I think that experience is the best teacher,” Powell said. “So going through it, I can always say, ‘hey, man, you might not want to do that; you might not want to do this.’”
Carrying those experiences with him into this season has provided Powell with some additional clarity to see where and how the team needs to improve.
“It’s some things that me and Lamar Mady, who’s another leader on the team, that we talked about in the offseason,” Powell said. “And we started to see it coming to fruition. Coaches did a great job of recruiting, bringing in a bunch of talented guys that just love to play football and fly around.”
One of those new guys is rookie defensive back Kyree Woods, an Arizona native who played college football at San Diego State. He’s grateful for the opportunity to play football for the hometown IFL team.
“To me, it feels great,” Woods said. “It feels like I’m just going back to Pop Warner days, high school days, like I’m just a valley boy. And it feels amazing to play with this organization.”
A former three-star athlete out of Chandler High School, Woods is second in the IFL with five interceptions and has been named the IFL’s Defensive Player of the Week twice. While he is pleased with his personal success so far, his main focus is where the team can go from here on out.
“It feels good,” Woods said. “But more so, I’m more focused on just team success. Just how I can contribute to making the team better. That’s all I’m really focused on right now.”
The Arizona Rattlers will play the Tucson Sugar Skulls \Saturday in their first of three-consecutive home games to finish the regular season. The Rattlers lost their previous matchup against the Sugar Skulls 74-63 in May.