By Matt Loeschman
PHOENIX — Running back Jabre Lolley is very new to Arizona, but the rookie from Shepherd University is already making a huge positive impact for the Rattlers.
Lolley tallied six total touchdowns — four rushing and two receiving — as the Rattlers dominated start to finish in an 81-37 blowout win over the Cedar Rapids River Kings on Sunday at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
“This is definitely fun — I’ve never scored six touchdowns in one game,” Lolley said after the win that improved Arizona to 2-0 this season. “I just need to stay focused and make sure I keep getting better from week to week.”
Lolley is making the most of his opportunity. With all-Indoor Football League Darrell Monroe sidelined with an injury, Lolley now has 10 total touchdowns through two weeks of play.
“When our offensive line is playing like they are, it makes it easy for me to find yardage,” said Lolley, a college teammate of Rattlers QB Jeff Ziemba. “I’m still learning a lot but so far it’s been a great fit.”
Rattlers Head Coach Kevin Guy was pleased with his team’s explosiveness on both sides of the ball. Offensively, the Rattlers racked up 359 yards on just 28 snaps.
“We were very efficient today with some explosive offensive plays. We ran the ball as well as we threw the ball,” Guy said. “We had about 30 snaps and scored 81 points. Big plays were the difference.”
In the first two games this season, Ziemba and Verlon Reed Jr. have split time at quarterback for Arizona. Ziemba started in Week 1 as the Rattlers won 51-21 and Reed played the second half. On Sunday, they flip-flopped roles. It didn’t take long to realize that Cedar Rapids (0-2) was in trouble.
On the second play from scrimmage, Lolley rushed in from 5 yards out and rookie kicker Jimmy Camacho connected on the extra point to make it 7-0. Arizona’s defense held strong on the ensuing possession but River Kings’ kicker Henry Nell split the uprights with a 50-yard field goal.
Dezmon Epps made his presence felt with an electrifying 54-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to extend the lead. Nell then missed a field goal and Reed made Cedar Rapids pay. Epps broke free down the middle of the field and Reed dropped in a perfect 34-yard bomb to his wide receiver. Epps possessed the ball as he hit the back wall for the touchdown. Camacho connected and it was 21-3.
“That ball was thrown a little late but Dezmon made a great play on it,” Reed said.
After Cedar Rapids scored on a Nathaniel Chavious run, Reed got the announced crowd of 14,470 on its feet again with a 44-yard touchdown run. Using his blazing speed, Reed outran the River Kings’ defense down the left sideline. Camacho missed the point after but the Rattlers held a 27-10 lead after one quarter.
“I’m not trying to do too much,” Reed said. “You see the results.”
Reed noted that the two Rattlers quarterbacks are each other’s biggest fans.
“Jeff and I are in a heated competition but we want success for each other. We are pushing each other to be better,” Reed said.
The teams traded scores as Cedar Rapids QB Kurt Palandech connected with Kahri Kimbrough but Rattlers’ speedster Jamal Miles countered with a touchdown on a 4-yard jet sweep run.
Guy called for an onside kick and his special teams executed to perfection. Camacho’s chip shot was recovered by Ricky Wyatt Jr. and Arizona’s offense was back in business. Lolley cashed in from 6 yards out at the 6:39 mark of the second quarter and the lead was 39-17.
Palandech scored on a 25-yard scramble but the River Kings’ defense offered little to no resistance. Anthony Amos hauled in a short pass from Reed, broke a tackle and scampered 18 yards for another score.
Perhaps the only negative in the half was Rattlers’ defensive leader Josh Gordon limping off the field with an undisclosed injury.
“We came into this game with some injuries and we sustained some more,” said Guy, who didn’t have further information on Gordon after the game. “It’s actually a good time for us to have a bye week so we can get some guys healed.”
Arizona’s defense stiffened in the red zone, forcing a 19-yard Nell field goal on the next drive. Fittingly, Lolley capped a 53-point half with a 36-yard touchdown reception with 7 seconds left.
“We were the top scoring offense last year and we were able to bring everybody back,” Guy said. “Our players weren’t happy with the way the season ended last year — they want to take a shot at the title.”
Amos scored on a pass from Ziemba to start the second half as Arizona hit the 60-point mark. Nell responded with a 43-yard field goal but the Rattlers still led 60-30.Lolley was determined to finish strong and that’s what he did, adding three more scores in the final 19 minutes of the game.
All that was left to determine was whether the Rattlers would set a single-game franchise scoring record. They didn’t, but no one was complaining.
Arizona has outscored its opponents 132-58 in two games. On Sunday, Arizona’s offense averaged 9.1 yards per rush and 12.8 yards per play.
Lolley ran for 87 yards on 10 attempts with 4 TDs. Reed added 44 yards on the ground and a score. Reed was 6-of-7 in the air for 120 yards and 3 scores with no picks. Both of Ziemba’s completions in the game went for touchdowns.
Chavious led Cedar Rapids with 89 yards rushing and a score.
The Rattlers are off next week. They will return to the Snake Pit on Saturday, March 16 for a 5 p.m. kickoff against the expansion Tucson Sugar Skulls, a team owned by Guy.
“We believe in our defense as much as we believe in our offense,” the Rattlers head coach said. “We had 8 or 9 stops tonight. These guys worked hard in the offseason and it’s paying off for us.”