IFL Spotlight: Arizona Rattlers

Oliver Nissi
Pirates Insider
October 25, 2020

Next up for the Massachusetts Pirates’ IFL Spotlight is the winningest professional sports franchise in Arizona history: the Arizona Rattlers. Next season will be the Rattlers twenty-eighth year on the field, longer than any other current IFL team. The Rattlers were a part of the Arena Football League (AFL) from 1992-2016, and joined the IFL ahead of the 2017 season. They are one of three IFL teams in the Grand Canyon State, along with the Tucson Sugar Skulls and the Northern Arizona Wranglers.

The Rattlers are coming off a very impressive 16-1 season in 2019. They won all 14 regular season games and were ultimately defeated by the Sioux Falls Storm in the league championship game (United Bowl). The team ranked first in multiple categories, including yards per game and total rushing yards on offense, and interceptions and touchdowns on defense. Although they came short of a title, it was the seventh time in the past nine seasons the Rattlers made it to the title game.

Rattlers raising their fifth ArenaBowl trophy in August 2014.

In 2019, the Rattlers had nine players selected to the All-IFL Teams, three more than the next team. One of those players, Jarrod Harrington, was also named 2019 Most Improved Player. The wide receiver led the Rattlers with 696 receiving yards and 14 receiving touchdowns. He also had two touchdowns as a kick returner. The team’s quarterback, Drew Powell, is coming off a 2019 campaign where he threw 18 touchdown passes in six games. In 2018, Powell won the IFL MVP award as a member of the Iowa Barnstormers.

On defense, two selections from the 2019 First Team All-IFL list are returning. Defensive back Allen Chapman tied for the league lead in interceptions and defensive lineman Nikolaus D’Avanzo finished second in the league in tackles for loss and tied for fourth in sacks.

The Rattlers success, though, truly lies with team president and head coach Kevin Guy, who has guided the Rattlers to playoff appearances in every season since taking over as head coach in 2008. Over that time, 51 players have gone on to sign NFL contracts. Guy coached the Rattlers in the AFL from 2008-2016 and finished with 105 regular season wins, which ranks fifth on the league’s all-time list. He also owns the best regular and postseason winning percentages in AFL history. One could argue that Guy is one of the greatest arena football coaches ever.

Guy says the keys to his success starts with his relationship with Rattlers owner Ron Shurts. “Ron has owned the team for nine years, the same amount of time I’ve been here. We’ve always worked well and set the tone for the team’s direction together.” Guy has established a ‘culture of accountability’, which includes players going to meetings and practices, training immensely in the weight room and serving the Phoenix community.

When it comes to competition, Coach Guy says the Rattlers don’t need to look any further than their home turf. “A lot of people don’t understand Phoenix has the most competitive corporate partnerships in the country. The NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL teams are here. Then there’s the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA, the Phoenix Rising of the MLS. Arizona State and Grand Canyon University. We have to compete against the MLB’s Spring Training.”

Even with the other teams nearby, the Rattlers have been able to carve out a loyal fan base in Phoenix and one of the largest crowds in the IFL. Thanks to the success, the team averages a whopping 14,000 fans per home game. Overall, the Rattlers own six league titles. One in their inaugural IFL season and five in the AFL: 1994, 1997, 2012, 2013, 2014. With strong roots and a well-built team, the Rattlers should be a preseason favorite for another United Bowl appearance next season.

The Massachusetts Pirates are members of the Indoor Football League (IFL). The Pirates play all home games at the DCU Center located at 50 Foster St. Worcester, MA. 01608. For more information on the Massachusetts Pirates please call (508) 452-MASS (6277), email contact@masspiratesfootball.com or visit http://www.masspiratesfootball.com. Single-game tickets are available online at ticketmaster.com or the DCU Center Box Office. For season, half-season, luxury, or group ticket packages please call 508-452-MASS (6277). Follow the Pirates on Facebook via Facebook.com/MAPirates, Instagram @mass.pirates, and Twitter @mass_pirates. #GetHooked #AllAboard