Game preview: Salt Lake Screaming Eagles host Arizona Rattlers

Sports Illustrated
<p>On Friday, the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles will face the Colorado Crush for the second time this week. But this time, there&#39;s a twist: Both teams, which are part of Project FANchise, will let their fans call the plays in the contest.</p><p>The Screaming Eagles have handed over play-calling to their fans all season, becoming the <a href="https://www.si.com/nfl/2016/06/06/project-fanchise-indoor-football-league-fans" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:first fan-run" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">first fan-run</a> professional football team. But this will be Colorado’s debut with fans calling plays, and it should create a fascinating night of football.</p><p>Here are five reasons you’re not going to want to miss Friday&#39;s game.</p><p><strong>1. History will be made</strong></p><p>How often can you say that about a sporting event? Yes, often there are player debuts, season openers, new records previously unseen. But the game between the Screaming Eagles and Colorado Crush will be a unique type of first. Every year, hundreds of professional football games are played as coaches with clipboards in hand and headsets over ears pick plays for their team. On Friday, it will be fans rather than coaches calling offensive plays throughout the game. Sports history will be made. </p><p><strong>2. It will probably be a shootout</strong></p><p>Fans have already displayed a clear <a href="https://www.si.com/indoor-football/2017/05/02/salt-lake-screaming-eagles-play-calling-pass-verlon-reed" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:proclivity for the pass" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">proclivity for the pass</a> this year as they’ve guided the Screaming Eagles play-calling from their phones. Salt Lake passes the ball 66% of the time. Against Colorado, both squads will be in the same boat, with their destinies tied to the impulses of their fans. Letting the fans call the shots for both teams might lead to a pass-fest. That is, of course, if the fans go in that direction.</p><p><strong>3. There will be plenty of scoring</strong></p><p>With a field that runs just 50 yards, even the Cedar Rapids Titans, the league’s worst offensive team, score 29.3 points per game. Both the Screaming Eagles and the Crush score quite a bit. If both teams throw the ball as often as just suggested, that could pump up the point total even more. When the two teams met on Monday, they combined for 105 points. Another triple digit point total would hardly be a surprise.</p><p><strong>4. It could be the future</strong></p><p>Still in its infancy, Project FANchise has plenty of room to grow. And given the success of fantasy sports, it’s not hard to imagine that there will be other efforts to increase fan engagement in professional sports. OK, maybe you won’t be calling the plays for your favorite NFL team or setting the lineup card for your favorite baseball team 10 years down the road. But from fan-voting in professional All-Star games to fan play-calling in Salt Lake City, it’s clear what direction sports are headed.</p><p>​</p><p><strong>5. It will be a fan vs. fan competition</strong></p><p>Fans love to get after each other, whether their antagonism comes in the form of chants at the stadium or arguments over lunch. In this game, though, talk will truly be cheap for the fans of the Screaming Eagles and the Crush. With the fans guiding the course of the game, they’ll have no excuse for a loss and plenty of reason to gloat over a victory.</p>

Five reasons to watch Friday's Salt Lake Screaming Eagles vs. Colorado Crush game

On Friday, the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles will face the Colorado Crush for the second time this week. But this time, there's a twist: Both teams, which are part of Project FANchise, will let their fans call the plays in the contest.

The Screaming Eagles have handed over play-calling to their fans all season, becoming the first fan-run professional football team. But this will be Colorado’s debut with fans calling plays, and it should create a fascinating night of football.

Here are five reasons you’re not going to want to miss Friday's game.

1. History will be made

How often can you say that about a sporting event? Yes, often there are player debuts, season openers, new records previously unseen. But the game between the Screaming Eagles and Colorado Crush will be a unique type of first. Every year, hundreds of professional football games are played as coaches with clipboards in hand and headsets over ears pick plays for their team. On Friday, it will be fans rather than coaches calling offensive plays throughout the game. Sports history will be made.

2. It will probably be a shootout

Fans have already displayed a clear proclivity for the pass this year as they’ve guided the Screaming Eagles play-calling from their phones. Salt Lake passes the ball 66% of the time. Against Colorado, both squads will be in the same boat, with their destinies tied to the impulses of their fans. Letting the fans call the shots for both teams might lead to a pass-fest. That is, of course, if the fans go in that direction.

3. There will be plenty of scoring

With a field that runs just 50 yards, even the Cedar Rapids Titans, the league’s worst offensive team, score 29.3 points per game. Both the Screaming Eagles and the Crush score quite a bit. If both teams throw the ball as often as just suggested, that could pump up the point total even more. When the two teams met on Monday, they combined for 105 points. Another triple digit point total would hardly be a surprise.

4. It could be the future

Still in its infancy, Project FANchise has plenty of room to grow. And given the success of fantasy sports, it’s not hard to imagine that there will be other efforts to increase fan engagement in professional sports. OK, maybe you won’t be calling the plays for your favorite NFL team or setting the lineup card for your favorite baseball team 10 years down the road. But from fan-voting in professional All-Star games to fan play-calling in Salt Lake City, it’s clear what direction sports are headed.

5. It will be a fan vs. fan competition

Fans love to get after each other, whether their antagonism comes in the form of chants at the stadium or arguments over lunch. In this game, though, talk will truly be cheap for the fans of the Screaming Eagles and the Crush. With the fans guiding the course of the game, they’ll have no excuse for a loss and plenty of reason to gloat over a victory.

You can catch every Salt Lake Screaming Eagles game live on SI.com. The fan-run Screaming Eagles make all their decisions, including playcalling, based on fan voting.

The Arizona Rattlers (3-3) travel to Salt Lake City, Utah, to take on the Screaming Eagles at the Maverik Center this Friday. Arizona is looking to capitalize on the momentum gained in their last victory against the Intense Conference leading Nebraska Danger (4-3). This marks the first time that either of these teams have faced each other.

The Rattlers enter the matchup just a game back from the top spot in the conference, while the Screaming Eagles will look to make up some ground in the playoff hunt. A win for the Rattlers keeps them within a game of first place, with the showdown against the conference leader next week looming large.

The Rattlers offense is starting to come together. Quarterback Cody Sokol earned the IFL Offensive Player of the Week in his second start after completing 17 of 30 passes for 165 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for 33 yards. Running backs Darrell Monroe and Ketrich Harmon combined for 52 yards on the ground. The two of them are now ranked first and fourth in the league in yards per game.

On special teams, kicker Sawyer Petre made three out of four field goals, including the game winner. Petre’s three field goals tied for the most made in a game in team history.


Defensively, the Rattlers held Nebraska to only 149 total yards of offense. Only 85 of those yards were surrendered through the air, boosting the Rattlers pass defense back to number one in the rankings after it sunk to third following their loss to the Wichita Falls Nighthawks (6-1). Arizona still has league's leader in tackles per game, defensive back Adam Sauder. Sauder is averaging 7.5 tackles per game. On the defensive line, Chris McAllister has 6.5 tackles for loss, third most in the league.

Salt Lake's last game was against the Wichita Falls Nighthawks (6-1). Quarterback Verlon Reed threw for 205 yards and completed 17 of 27 passes against Wichita Falls, and running back James Poole rushed nine times for 21 yards. Despite the loss, the Screaming Eagles defense held the Nighthawks to 214 total yards.

Defensively, Salt Lake is only ranked two spots behind the Rattlers in pass defense. They rank third, allowing 127.2 yards per game. The Screaming Eagles secondary has been able to get its hands on the ball quite often through six games. The secondary has recorded seven total interceptions which is tied for fourth most in the league. Defensive back Don Unamba is tied for first in the league with four interceptions so far on the season.

The Rattlers will face the Screaming Eagles in West Valley City at 9 p.m. ET. The game will be streamed live on SI.com.

This article was originally published on SI.com

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