Arizona Rattlers fighting through early-season injuries, defensive issues

Three-time league MVP Drew Powell placed on short-term injured reserve


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Hannah Hamilton, Reporter

It seems that early-season injuries at key positions are slowing down the Arizona Rattlers 2023 hope-filled season.

Following Arizona’s second game of the season, a narrow loss to the Bay Area Panthers on March 27, the team placed starting quarterback Drew Powell on short-term injured reserve.

Powell was signed during the 2019 season.  In 2021, Powell won the league MVP title while leading the IFL in rushing yards (1,105) as well as yards per game (65) and touchdowns (43).

The injury vaulted backup Jorge Reyna into the starting position last Saturday night against Tucson.

Reyna started in eight games as a rookie last season for the San Diego Strike Force, scoring 28 touchdowns against only four interceptions.

After starting off strong in the first quarter, Reyna began to struggle.

“I got to get back in the play book and learn everything, fine tune a lot of stuff,” said Reyna after Saturday’s game.  “Again, Tucson did a great job today and they got us, but I got to get back in the play book and study.”

The tough loss should serve as motivation for the Rattlers, as they look to get back on track before hosting the Duke City Gladiators on April 15.

“A lot of reps, getting a lot of repetition with the guys and understanding what we like heading into certain situations,” Reyna said.

Rattler’s Head Coach Kevin Guy voiced his injury frustrations Saturday night after their first home opener loss since 2016.

“We have a receiver getting hurt early in the first quarter putting us down three already. Okay, this is uh — you know, third receiver that we’ve gotten hurt out of five that’s on our roster. We’re pretty desperate right now — so it’s affecting our offense,” Guy said.

Despite Arizona’s poor start and injury problems, Guy seemed optimistic.

“We got to look at the tape — we got to coach better — we got to play better.  2017 — I just told the team, we started off 0-2 and I think we got to 1-3, and eventually we got to 4-4.  All four of those games I think we lost by eight points or less, and we’ve lost two this year…one by one and one by six,” Guy said.  “We’re going through some growing pains, we just got to stay focused and we just got to go back to work.”

In his sixth season with the team, 2021 IFL Defensive Player of the Year, #15 Dillon Winfrey took the blame for the team’s defensive issues.

“It’s defense man — uh put all the blame on me man.  Communication — that’s two weeks in a row we give up 14 points from blown coverages. So, I got to figure out a way to get us all on the same page. So, tonight’s loss on 15,” Winfrey said.

Winfrey spelled out his plan to make the defense better.

“I gotta communicate better, I gotta figure out what works for certain guys, what doesn’t work for certain guys, and we gotta get on the same page man.  And make these offenses earn their play,” Winfrey said.

To ensure adequate depth at quarterback while Powell is out, Arizona signed eight-time IFL champion and IFL Hall of Famer Chris Dixon.