Matchup: Arizona Rattlers (10-2) at Iowa Barnstormers (9-2)
Arena: Wells Fargo Arena (15,110)
Location: Des Moines, IA
Kickoff: 7:05 p.m. CT
TV: Mediacom Channel 22
TV Commentators: Larry Morgan (PxP) and Jason Simpson (Color)
Radio: 1040am WHO
Radio Commentators: Joe Stasi (PxP) and Larry Cotlar (Color)
A late-season home game that could catapult the Iowa Barnstormers to the top of the Indoor Football League (IFL) standings and have major playoff implications scheduled for a Saturday night in June: An opportunity the Barnstormers will have for the second year in a row.
This Saturday, the Barnstormers will play host to the defending IFL champion Arizona Rattlers, in a game that could see Iowa clinching a clear path to home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Barnstormers-Rattlers lll a game for the history books
Iowa comes into the game with a 9-2 record, half a game back of the Rattlers at 10-2. However, with a win, the team will all but clinch the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
Iowa has the tiebreaker with Arizona thanks to two head-to-head wins in a row coming into this matchup.
As for the other situation of a three-way tie for first place, Iowa owns a better strength of schedule than both Arizona or Sioux Falls and would earn the first seed even if they lost to Sioux Falls next week.
Essentially, it will be the biggest game the teams play in the regular season.
The game bears many similarities to last season’s finale against the Sioux Falls Storm.
Iowa was looking for a win and would hold the number one seed in the playoffs had they beaten the Storm, and Barnstormer fans were well aware.
Wells Fargo Arena was packed with Barnstormer fans and had a certain spark that hadn’t been in the arena for a long time.
“It was awesome, just to know that the people came out and supported us last year during that home game,” defensive back Bryce Enyard said. “We talk about wanting to fill the stands every game and that Sioux Falls game last year had a good amount of people. “We’re just hoping that the game Saturday will be more filled up than the Sioux Falls game last year.”
Iowa has of course had previous success against the Rattlers, winning all three matchups since the team joined the IFL.
The last time out, it was an offensive shootout that ended in a 69-68 Barnstormers win. Although, Iowa coach Dixie Wooten doesn’t think it will be like that this time.
“I think they have more success when they try to grind it out,” Wooten said. “The thing is we can match that and we can play the shootout game as well.”
Wooten also said that Arizona plays much better when their defense is carrying the weight and playing well.
With the team’s season ending injuries to all-IFL talents, Allen Chapman and Justin Shirk, the Rattlers have been forced to move away from their defensive-centric methods.
“When you lose guys like that, you’re definitely taking a hit,” Wooten said. “I know Coach Guy, he’s a great recruiter and he’s always going to have a guy to replace them, but if you lose Shirk and Chapman, that hurts.”
One player that could make or break this game for Guy and the Rattlers is Arizona quarterback Jeff Ziemba.
In his first game in Iowa, Ziemba was picked apart by the Barnstormers defense. He threw three interceptions in route to a 38-28 loss.
Though, just two weeks ago in Arizona, Ziemba looked as elite as Joe Flacco against the Barnstormers defense. He finished the game with five passing touchdowns and added two more on the ground in an impressive performance, despite the loss.
“[Ziemba’s] a great quarterback,” Wooten said. “He’s playing lights out. He’s gonna come out and make some plays. The think that coach Kevin Guy does a lot with him is putting him in a situation where guys are running good routes [backed up] with a good running game. If we don’t get pressure on him he’ll have another game [like that].”
Not to mention, the league leader in rushing touchdowns will be back after a short stint on the Injured Reserve list that left him out of the last Iowa game in Darrell Monroe.
“We need to make sure we play one of our best games on the defensive end,” defensive end B.J. Butler said. “We’ve just got to fix the mistakes we had. We’re the number one defense for a reason and when we played them [last time] we didn’t show that.”
Saturday’s game against Arizona at Wells Fargo Arena will kickoff at 7:05 p.m.
It can be watched on Mediacom Connections Channel 22 (Larry Morgan and Ben Bruns), YouTube, and listened to on 1040 WHO (Joe Stasi and Larry Cotlar).
“It’s for first place, It’s a must win game,” Wooten said.