Category Archives: Iowa Barnstormers

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Connor Hollenbeck becomes first signing for Barnstormers 2020 Roster

The Iowa Barnstormers have consistently had one of the best receiving corps’ in the Indoor Football League over the past few seasons.

With the imminent coaching change that became official on Thursday with the hiring of Ameer Ismail, it’s wondered on if the Barnstormers will elect to maintain the focus on pass catchers.

They already took a big step towards it when they signed their first player on Friday.
Connor Hollenbeck becomes first signing for Barnstormers 2020 Roster
Connor Hollenbeck, a standout from the team’s 2019 roster became the first player to sign for 2020 as well as the first to announce he was returning to Des Moines.

For him, the process was easy.

After he found out former head coach Dixie Wooten would be leaving the franchise, he wanted to see who Iowa hired next before he signed to play for the Barnstormers for a second season.

“[Barnstormers Vice President and Chief Operating Executive] John [Pettit] called me a told me who it was,” Hollenbeck said. “We talked and I signed an hour later.”

Hollenbeck said he’s heard and seen nothing but good things about Coach Ismail and that it made his decision easy.

The returning standout was looking for another high energy coach to lead the Barnstormers and he got exactly that in Ismail.

“I wanted to see [Iowa hire] a coach with the same energy as [Wooten],” Hollenbeck said. “As long as he can keep us motivated and keep that energy and practice like it’s a game, we’ll [be good].”

Hollenbeck finished in the top 10 category in a number of receiving stats for the IFL in 2019.

The Edinsboro graduate finished eighth in total yards with 627, tied for seventh in touchdowns with 14, and was fourth in the league with 58 receptions in 13 games played.

Wide receiver Connor Hollenbeck tosses a ball to a ref following a first down. Hollenbeck is already making an impact at the position just two weeks into his career in Iowa. Photo by Connor Ferguson

“Obviously I’d like to increase my catches and yards,” Hollenbeck said. “That’d be awesome. I mean, like last year, I had better stats than I did any other year and our record was good. You know, I think you kind of look at your role on the team and know what you’re going to get no matter the situation, so maybe [I’d want to look at] consistency I guess.”

Though Hollenbeck’s goals lie within the team he’s playing on.

After playing two seasons with the Cedar Rapids Titans and only seeing four combined wins in his time on the east side of the state, the move to the Des Moines squad that was trending upward was easy.

“I’m going to keep just playing my game,” Hollenbeck said. “I’m all about the team. As long as we have a record like we did last year, I could really care less about how many catches I get.”

One thing that Hollenbeck is trying to improve on this year is playing at an even lighter weight than he did a season ago.

That’s what scouts have given Hollenbeck for feedback as he works, like the rest of the league, to reach the next level.

“I want to get quicker and faster,” Hollenbeck said. “That means playing at a lower weight and get a little leaner. See if I can get a little faster and develop some break-away speed; stuff like that.”

Hollenbeck came into camp last season weighing 240 pounds, which was a little on the heavy side for him, but he planned to cut weight during the two-week period.

That meant he was playing last season around 230 pounds.

“I felt better with the way I was playing on the field like that, so maybe if I lost five or ten more, I might feel even better,” Hollenbeck said.

He wants to take his range from 220-240 pounds during the year and shift it to around 215-230 pounds.

“I want to maybe come into camp a little bit lighter this year,” Hollenbeck said. “And bulk up a bit before, still so I can lose it.”

The team is slated to begin the 2020 Indoor Football League season in February, but the official schedule won’t be released for at least a couple of weeks.

Look for more news and profiles on Last Word On Sports’ Indoor Football department and make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more offseason news.The post Connor Hollenbeck becomes first signing for Barnstormers 2020 Roster appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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Ameer Ismail hired as newest Iowa Barnstormers Coach

The search for the Iowa Barnstormers newest head coach is over, the team announced on Thursday, as they have hired Ameer Ismail to take the reins in Des Moines.

Ismail becomes the eighth head coach in Iowa Barnstormers history and will follow the most successful coaching stint the team has seen in Dixie Wooten.
Ameer Ismail hired as newest Iowa Barnstormers Coach
The former NFL and arena league player brings experience from all over the place, including stints with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars as well as the AFL’s Jacksonville Sharks (Pre-NAL) and a plethora of IFL teams.

“It is such an amazing honor to be named the new Head Coach of the Iowa Barnstormers, the most prestigious and historic team in all of indoor or arena football,” Ismail said in a press release from the team. “[Barnstormers Vice President and COO] John Pettit and I have known each other and maintained a great relationship over the years despite being on different teams or even in different leagues.”

Ismail started off his coaching career with assistant roles in the IFL in 2014. He spent time with the Cedar Rapids Titans, Tri-Cities Fever, and Spokane Empire.

In 2017, Ismail took his first head coaching job with the Champion Indoor Football league’s Bloomington Edge, where he would lead his team to a 7-6 record and a berth in the CIF Playoffs.

The next year, Ismail packed up shop and accepted the head coaching position for the newly formed Massachusetts Pirates in the east coast’s National Arena League.

There, Ismail led his team to an 11-6 record and another berth in the playoffs. He was also named NAL Coach of the Year during that time.

In 2019 Ismail took a break from head coaching in the arena league to take a spot coaching the outside linebackers at Albion College.

Now, he’ll return to the indoor ranks carrying an 18-12 record as a head coach and a resume that includes two playoff appearances in as many seasons.

“To be able to work with someone of his expertise and experience is another major reason why I wanted to be here,” Ismail said in the release. “We will continue the winning ways with tremendous positive culture for our community and fans. I am very grateful for the opportunity and can’t wait to bring another championship to Des Moines.”

Expect the Barnstormers as well as other teams in the Indoor Football League to start announcing player signings soon as well as an announcement regarding Iowa’s assistant coaching staff.The post Ameer Ismail hired as newest Iowa Barnstormers Coach appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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Carolina Cobras, Billy Back part ways

The National Arena League has been home to the Carolina Cobras and head coach Billy Back for each of the past two indoor football seasons – one of which that saw the expansion team go from rags to riches and win a title in their first year.

Today, the Cobras announced that Back has submitted his resignation from the head coaching position in Carolina, making him available as one of the top available coaches in an off-season that has been filled with moves.

Team owner Rob Storm released a statement that has been posted on the team’s website. The full release can be found here.

“On behalf of the entire Cobras organization, we thank Billy Back for everything he has done for us over our first two seasons, and know that wherever he lands, that team will be getting one heck of a good coach. He will definitely be missed by many,” Storm said in the release. “We wish Billy, Stacie and the entire Back family the best of luck! We know he will be successful wherever his path may lead. You will always be part of the Cobras family.”

Now, Back will take his championship experience to a new home so long as he continues coaching football, and the Indoor Football League could be a spot for a reunion.

Back got his big break coaching for the Wichita Falls Nighthawks when the team was in the IFL and was even originally signed to lead the Cedar Rapids Titans in 2018 before being bought out by Carolina.

I mentioned his name in my column a week ago on where the Iowa Barnstormers – a championship program that just lost their coach as well – will look to next.

Back could be a great fit for the franchise, and no matter where he goes, he’ll bring a barrage of talented players with him.The post Carolina Cobras, Billy Back part ways appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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FERGUSON: Where Iowa will go Following Dixie Wooten Era

The Iowa Barnstormers went 10-20 in their first two seasons in the Indoor Football League. After that stretch, Iowa had gone seven straight years without a winning season.

Dixie Wooten entered. He went 36-8 in his three seasons at the helm in Des Moines, winning IFL Coach of the Year twice and also the franchise’s first championship.

The Barnstormers announced last week that the pair had parted ways and on Wednesday, the Tucson Sugar Skulls announced that Wooten would be their next head coach.

The full press release from the IFL can be found here.

So. Where does Iowa go now?
FERGUSON: Where Iowa will go Following Dixie Wooten Era
Well, the right candidate will likely have a strength in recruiting. That’s how the Barnstormers were successful under Wooten.

Even with rosters that only included five to eight players returning each season, Wooten rounded up talented teams in each of his three seasons.

Iowa’s front office as well as its fans are going to be looking for the same quality in their next leader.

Now, with Wooten’s departure, it’s expected that some of the stars from Iowa’s roster will not be returning to the team in the upcoming season.

The most obvious is 2019 LWOS IFL MVP Ryan Balentine, who has played under Wooten since their days in Billings.

Rocky Hayes was another standout during this past season in the heartland. When asked if he was coming back after Iowa’s last game he said it would depend on what Wooten would do.

And what’s to make of standout quarterback Daquan Neal? Wooten brought him to Iowa and he shined. Will he follow to Tucson?

October 1 is the first day that returning players from 2019 can sign with teams for 2020, so we won’t know much of anything in concrete until then.

As for coaching candidates for the team, it’s not likely that a former player of recent years will be taking over the ship. It didn’t work for Joe Brannen and of the players that have gone on to coach, most headed to the college ranks in position coaching spots.

Although, there is one exception to that in Jason Simpson. 

Simpson was an stand out defensive back and has been involved with Iowa for a number of years. Last season, he was the team’s defensive back coach and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the 2020 staff in some capacity.

Another pair of names to look at are those that were assistant coaches when Wooten was in Iowa.

Hurtiss Chin and Marcus Coleman both have experience with Wooten, were on the Iowa staff during the United Bowl season, and coached in Tucson this past season.

Now, there’s still a chance the two stay in Tucson for 2020, but the Sugar Skulls did not announce any plans for their assistant coach when Wooten’s hire was announced.

The last time Iowa was staffed with hiring a new coach, Mark Stoute’s name was thrown around as the next potential coach instead of Wooten.

Stoute ended up taking the job in Jacksonville and most recently finished off the 2019 season with the Cedar Rapids River Kings. The team finished 1-13 last season.

If you’re looking for Iowa to get what some would consider a home run hire, I’d pick one out of left field in current Carolina Cobras (NAL) head coach Billy Back.

Back has plenty of experience and has proved his worth in Carolina, earning back-to-back trips to the east coast league’s championship game and winning the whole thing back in 2018.

Not to mention, Back has history with the IFL and was at one point signed to coach in Iowa with Cedar Rapids right before accepting the Carolina job.

No matter who Iowa hires as its franchise’s next head coach, fans in the stands are going to expect wins – rightfully so. That’s what they should expect after the Dixie Wooten era.

The thing that’s important to remember is that in a sport filled with uncertainty year after year, Iowa is still here in Des Moines at Wells Fargo Arena, and come February, we’ll all be sitting back, watching some good, old Barnstormers football.The post FERGUSON: Where Iowa will go Following Dixie Wooten Era appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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2019 LWOS All-IFL Teams Announced

With the Indoor Football League’s (IFL) semifinal playoff games wrapped up and in the books, it’s time again for Last Word On Sports annual awards announcement.
Our department is proud to be celebrating our third annual selection announcement for the IFL.
We’re keeping it simple for this week and putting out our All-IFL teams today before releasing our Individual Awards such as MVP, Coach of the Year, etc. on Wednesday morning.
As always, thanks for following along to our coverage this season.

2019 LWOS All-IFL Teams Announced
The Arizona Rattlers finished the 2019 regular season with an unblemished, 14-0 record. Rightfully so, they lead all teams in the IFL with seven players on our all-league rosters.
The Iowa Barnstormers put seven players on all-league rosters as well, with a league-leading five making the first team.

All 10 IFL teams had at least one representative earn LWOS’ all-league honors. All but two teams had multiple players selected.
2019 LWOS All-IFL Teams
First Team
Offense
Quarterback | Daquan Neal, Iowa
Running Back | Mike Jones, Tucson
Wide Receiver | Ryan Balentine, Iowa
Wide Receiver | Quinton Pedroza, Quad City
Wide Receiver | Brandon Shepherd, Sioux Falls
Offensive Line | Steven Gurrola, Arizona
Offensive Line | Forrestal Hickman, Sioux Falls
Offensive Line | Oliver Lumpkin, Iowa

Defense
Defensive Line | Chris Martin, Nebraska
Defensive Line | Nikolaus D’Avanzo, Arizona
Defensive Line | Claude Davis, Sioux Falls
Linebacker | Treyvon Williams, Iowa
Defensive Back | Tyrell Pearson, Iowa
Defensive Back | Allen Chapman, Arizona
Defensive Back | Brandon Roe, Nebraska
Defensive Back | Bakari Triggs, Green Bay

Special Teams
Kick Returner | Eric Thomas, Nebraska
Kicker | Jimmy Camacho, Arizona

 
Second Team
Offense
Quarterback | E.J. Hilliard, Quad City
Running back | Davonte Sapp-Lynch, Nebraska
Wide Receiver | Marques Rodgers, San Diego
Wide Receiver | Keyvan Rudd, Quad City
Wide Receiver | Jazeric Peterson, Iowa
Offensive Line | Lamar Mady, Arizona
Offensive Line | Kyle Saxelid, Cedar Rapids
Offensive Line | D.J. Loving, Iowa

Defense
Defensive Line | Deldrick Canty, Green Bay
Defensive Line | Silverberry Mouhon, Green Bay
Defensive Line | LaTreze Mushatt, Bismarck
Linebacker | Zach Allen, Tucson
Defensive Back | Davontae Merriweather, Arizona
Defensive Back | Danzel McDaniel, Quad City
Defensive Back | Marquez Gollman, Green Bay
Defensive Back | Omar Cook, San Diego

Special Teams
Kick Returner | Jarrod Harrington, Arizona
Kicker | Jacob Stytz, Quad CityThe post 2019 LWOS All-IFL Teams Announced appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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IFL: Danger upset Barnstormers, Clinch Playoff Spot

The Nebraska Danger had their backs against the wall.

They needed to win on Saturday night on the road, against a team that was one play away from being undefeated heading into the final week of the year, to clinch their spot in the 2019 Indoor Football League (IFL) playoffs. Otherwise, they would have to rely on Quad City beating Tucson – which also didn’t happen – to make the postseason.

Thanks to a late interception by Brandon Roe and a touchdown from Davonte Sapp-Lynch with just seconds to play, Nebraska upset the Iowa Barnstormers 46-40.
IFL: Danger upset Barnstormers, Clinch Playoff Spot
With 3:31 to play in the game, though, it looked bleak for Nebraska. The Danger had just drove the length of the field only to falter near the red zone, as they had done a couple times in the game.

Nebraska’s kicker, Diego Marquez, faced a 25-yard field goal – something that is relatively trivial for him.

But, he missed. It gave the ball back to Iowa, who still held a two-point lead at the time.

That’s when Roe made his interception.

“The resiliency of my team is unbelievable,” Sapp-Lynch said. “We’re always getting the short end of the stick when it comes to calls and the momentum of the game, but the way we fought [for that chance at the end] we had no choice but to go score.”

Former Nebraska Cornhusker Tommy Armstrong Jr. led his offense out onto to the field to lead the way on the game-winning drive.

“Roe made a great play and we had another chance to go out and score. I think our offensive line did a great job of establishing the run game early in that series.

The Danger have been the victim of late losses a few times this season.

In fact, one of those came to the same Iowa team that was on the field on Saturday.

“[Sapp-Lynch] had that long catch on third down then getting the ball in the end zone with [four] seconds left,” Armstrong Jr. said. We had to play four quarters and we did.”

Sapp-Lynch finished with 38 yards on the ground, 37 yards through the air, and two touchdowns.

That includes the game-winning run.

“He’s a heck of a competitor,” Armstrong Jr. said. “He’s a playmaker. I think we have probably one of the best offenses in the IFL and I think we showed it in four quarters today.”

Finishing was something that Nebraska has vastly emphasized as the season has gone on.

With how many games they had fall away in the closing seconds, it was almost the only thing they really needed to work on.

“We’ve been preaching finish, and we finally put together four quarters and finished,” Eric Thomas said. “[The win] just shows how hard we’ve been working.”

The aspect of finishing comes full circle for IFL veteran Mike Tatum.

He started the year off playing with the Bismarck Bucks who finished the season with a 2-10 record.

Three weeks ago, Tatum joined Nebraska, and so far the move has paid off.

Tatum finished the game as the leading receiver, corralling 53 yards and a pair of touchdowns himself.

Winning on Saturday was the icing on the cake.

“It’s surreal,” Tatum said. “I joined this team for a reason and I feel like we have everything we need to go ahead and make this playoff run.”

2019 IFL Playoff Schedule

First Round
Friday, June 21 – 7:00 p.m. CT
No. 4 Green Bay vs. No. 5 Nebraska

Sunday, June 23 – 3:00 p.m. CT
No. 3 Sioux Falls vs. No. 6 Tucson

Semifinals
Saturday June 29
4-5 winner @ No. 1 Arizona (8:00 p.m. CT)
3-6 winner @ No. 2 Iowa (7:05 p.m. CT)The post IFL: Danger upset Barnstormers, Clinch Playoff Spot appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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Barnstomers beat Sioux Falls, clinch No. 2 seed

The Iowa Barnstormers beat Sioux Falls on Saturday evening and might have looked as sharp as they have all season while doing it.

Thanks to big nights from Ryan Balentine and Daquan Neal, the Barnstormers offense thrived against the Storm and helped the Barnstormers to a big 55-43 win at Wells Fargo Arena.
Barnstomers beat Sioux Falls, clinch No. 2 seed
The victory means a couple of things for Iowa.

The Barnstormers now cannot finish worse than second place in the league, even if they lose to Nebraska next Saturday in the regular season finale.

Though, Iowa could still capture first place if Arizona (13-0) loses to San Diego (1-12) next week and they take down Nebraska – even if it’s unlikely.

The Rattlers escaped Tucson on Saturday with an overtime win – showing that anything can happen.

Iowa’s victory also gives the team some reassurance on some extra rest coming up for them.

A top-two seed means a first-round bye for the Barnstormers that will give the players an extra week of rest and potentially help in the aid of defensive back Jourdan Wickliffe, who has been off the field with an injury.

Though if the offense plays like it did Saturday, Iowa may not need a defense.

Neal was money throughout the night, completing 17 of his 23 passes good for six touchdowns on the night.

Jazeric Peterson, Connor Hollenbeck, and Balentine each scored two a piece while Balentine led the way with 123 yards through receptions.

It helped the Barnstormers win their 14th straight game at home, and they don’t have to wait long to try for 15.

The team will return to the field for their regular season finale on Saturday June 15 to take on the Nebraska Danger once again at Wells Fargo Arena. The game is scheduled to kick off at 7:00 p.m. and can be seen live on YouTube, Mediacom, and also heard on live radio 1040AM WHO.

IFL Standings

Position
Team
Record
Games behind

1
Arizona
13-0

2
Iowa
12-1
1

3
Sioux Falls
10-3
3

4
Green Bay
8-5
5

5
Tucson
6-7
7

6
Quad City
6-7
7

Playoff Cutoff

7
Nebraska
6-7
7

8
Bismarck
2-11
11

9
San Diego
1-12
12

10
Cedar Rapids
1-12
12

The post Barnstomers beat Sioux Falls, clinch No. 2 seed appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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Barnstormers set to play for First Round Bye against Sioux Falls

The second biggest game in franchise history, at least for right now.

Dixie Wooten is never one to circle games on the calendar. Week after week, no matter the opponent, Wooten and co. treat every game the same.

The philosophy is that if his team has a mindset that they are playing a championship game every Saturday night, then they won’t be playing down to any of their opponents’ levels.
Barnstormers set to play for First Round Bye
But, when the Sioux Falls Storm come to Wells Fargo Arena on Saturday night, it’s got the ramifications to be a major one.

“This is the second most important game in [franchise] history,” Wooten said. “We want to beat Sioux Falls this week so we can get that first round bye. At the end of the day, that bye is huge.”

The Iowa Barnstormers (11-1) will welcome Sioux Falls (10-2) this weekend in a game that will decide who has the rights to the No. 2 seed and final first round bye in the 2019 IFL Playoffs.

Because Sioux Falls took down Iowa in the teams’ first meeting, if the Storm beat Iowa and win next week against Bismarck, they will have the No. 2 seed no matter what.

It’s created a unique situation.

Saturday’s game is winner take all. The team that doesn’t win this one will have to play a play-in game before traveling to the home of who they lose to Saturday, in the second round.

“We’ve practiced hard,” Wooten said. “My guys have put in the work to be successful.”

This is the first game between the two teams at “The Well” since they faced off in the 2018 United Bowl.

Since then, Wooten has brought a young team to Des Moines and turned them into winners. Iowa’s 11-1 record would be the best in the league if Arizona hadn’t rattled off what looks to be a perfect season.

That’s part of why Wooten was nominated for the IFL Hall of Fame for the third straight year, earlier this week.

“We’re young,” Wooten said. “We can’t look down on teams a lot. We can only focus on what’s in front of us, and this week that’s Sioux Falls.”

The game will kick off at 7:00 p.m. from Wells Fargo Arena live on YouTube.The post Barnstormers set to play for First Round Bye against Sioux Falls appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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IFL: Rattlers rout San Diego to end hectic Week 9 in IFL

The San Diego Strike Force took a 14-7 lead after a big, over-the-boards touchdown grab from Victor Dean early in the second quarter in Monday’s Week 9 finale in the Indoor Football League.

From then on, it was all Arizona Rattlers as the 2017 league champions propelled themselves to their seventh win of the season.
Rattlers rout San Diego to end hectic Week 9 in IFL
Arizona scored 45 unanswered points to prove that the Strike Force (1-7) were no match for themselves.

Roland Genesy Jr. went off for 75 yards and three touchdowns while filling in for the injured Jabre Lolley at running back.

On the defensive side, Dillion Winfrey took home two interceptions, including a pick-six to bring the win home for the Rattlers.

It put a bow on a wild Week 9 in the league that saw four teams losing games they were expected to win as the season makes the turn to the back end of the regular season stretch.
A week to be remembered
Aside from Monday’s blowout, it was anyone’s game in the other four bouts.

The Sioux Falls Storm took down the Iowa Barnstormers with a tipped-ball touchdown with one second remaining on the clock to avenge their 2018 United Bowl loss.

The result knocked the Barnstormers from the top of the standings.

In a rematch from just a week before, Nebraska managed to get past the Green Bay Blizzard, giving this year’s surprise team its first loss since March 9.

The win kept the Danger in the playoffs in what has become a tight race for the last two spots – all are separated by half a game.

Two of the teams in that race battled on Saturday as well, when Quad City picked up its first win since March 15, beating the Tucson Sugar Skulls in Moline.

For now, that result is the difference between a playoff spot.

The pair of teams will face off again in the season finale on June 15.

To top it all off, the Bismarck Bucks defeated the Cedar Rapids River Kings to earn their first win of the season – becoming the second team to accomplish the feat after San Diego did it a week ago, as well.

Luckily for Cedar Rapids, it can’t happen again as the result ensured no teams will finish the 2019 season without a win.

Below is a visual look at the league’s current standings.

2019 Indoor Football League Standings

Position
Team
Record
GB

1
Arizona
7-0

2
Sioux Falls
6-1
1

3
Iowa
6-1
1

4
Green Bay
5-3
2.5

5
Nebraska
4-4
3.5

6
Quad City
3-4
4

Playoff Cutoff

7
Tucson
3-4
4

8
Bismarck
1-6
6

9
San Diego
1-7
6.5

10
Cedar Rapids
1-7
6.5

 
More Intrigue Ahead
Who’s to say that the unpredictability stops there?

Week 10 promises to be action packed with a four-game slate headlined by Arizona and Sioux Falls facing off in the Denny Sanford Premier Center.

Add on a hungry Bismarck team trying to keep things rolling as well as a Cedar Rapids team that’s in need of a big win, and the standings could be shook up even more this week.

Week 10 Schedule
Friday, April 26
7:05pm CT | Cedar Rapids @ Nebraska
Saturday, April 27
7:05pm CT | Arizona @ Sioux Falls
8:00pm CT | Iowa @ Tucson
Sunday, April 28
2:05pm CT | Quad City @ Bismarck

Stay informed and up to date on all of the latest indoor football happenings by following LWOS Indoor Football on Instagram and Twitter.The post IFL: Rattlers rout San Diego to end hectic Week 9 in IFL appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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