Former Tucson High School offensive lineman standout Antonio Rosales was inactive with the Tucson Sugar Skulls for a few weeks, but he came activated last week just in time for their Indoor Football League playoff push.
Rosales, coming off a fine career at San Diego State, will be on the field for Tucson’s important game against the Arizona Rattlers on Saturday. The game starts at 6 p.m. at the Tucson Arena.
The presence of the 6-foot-4, 305-pound lineman will have importance beyond the Sugar Skulls’ mission to strengthen their playoff bid in their inaugural season. He has taken it upon himself to represent respectfully the Tohono O’odham Nation, of which he is a proud member.
“Growing up on the reservation, growing up with that culture, that culture and those ways, with everything that happens on the reservation, you don’t see it anywhere else in the city,” Rosales said. “I’ve been gone for a long time (at San Diego State). Coming back, kind of being grounded in my roots, where I’m from, is nice.
“Being from the Nation and being a professional at this level gives kids and everybody else from the reservation somebody to look at because there’s not many of us from where we’re from as good examples. To be a good example as somebody from our reservation means a lot.”
Next month, Rosales plans to bring along some of his Sugar Skulls teammates to a youth group football training event in Sells. Rosales hopes he is able to inspire young members of the Nation by strengthening their skills in a sport he loves.
What’s at Stake Saturday
The Rattlers (10-0) will take their 10-game winning streak to Tucson Arena hoping to stay unbeaten. The Sugar Skulls (6-5) need a win — they are 0-2 against their in-state rival this season — to strengthen their postseason bid.
Riding a three-game winning streak, Tucson is in a tie for fourth place with the Green Bay Blizzard. The Sugar Skulls and Green Bay will not play each other this season. The third- and fourth-place teams will host first-round playoff games against the sixth- and fifth-place teams, respectively. The first- and second-place teams get first-round byes.
INDOOR FOOTBALL LEAGUE STANDINGS[table “” not found /]
One game behind Tucson and Green Bay with a 5-6 record is the Nebraska Danger, a team that holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Tucson by virtue of a 53-47 victory over the Sugar Skulls on April 6 in Nebraska. The Quad City Steamwheelers also are contending for a playoff spot and are another game back at 4-7. They also have a victory over the Sugar Skulls, but the two teams will meet in the regular-season finale for both teams on June 15 in Tucson. The Steamwheelers visit Nebraska this Friday in a game with significant playoff implications.
The task for Tucson is formidable over the next two games. After Saturday’s game, they have a bye and then travel to Phoenix to take on the Rattlers again on June 8. Arizona won the first two meetings, 63-28 on March 16 in Phoenix, and 55-41 in Tucson on April 14.
Rattlers, Sugar Skulls Offensive Juggernauts
Saturday’s game will feature the two highest scoring offenses in the IFL. Arizona currently leads the league with an average of 65.4 points per game while Tucson is tied for second with 52.5.
The Arizona Rattlers are coming off an 84-63 victory in San Diego against the Strike Force (1-10) last weekend, their third win over them this season. They also piled up 344 yards of total offense, which marked a new season-high.
QB Drew Powell led the offensive onslaught for the Rattlers, completing 12-of-17 passes for 152 yards and four touchdowns. He also added 104 rushing yards on 11 carries while finding the end zone a game-high five times, including a 42-yard touchdown run. RB Jabre Lolley got the start and converted 11 carries into 83 yards and two total touchdowns, giving him 18 touchdowns in only seven games played.
The Sugar Skulls return home this Saturday. It's Military/First Responders Appreciation Night. If you are active military, police, or fire and want two comp tickets open this Facebook message for details https://t.co/JxMbPWTMFW. We want to thank our "heroes" for their service. pic.twitter.com/VCT6zZIGNf
K Jimmy Camacho nailed all 12 of his extra point attempts on Sunday and has now accounted for 94 points which leads all kickers in the IFL.
WR Jamal Miles hauled in two touchdowns, while WR Robert Lewis caught a touchdown pass and also returned a kickoff 50 yards for a touchdown. WR Donta Armstrong also caught his first touchdown pass in a Rattlers uniform in the win.
Tucson QB Jake Medlock started under center for Tucson last week in the win at Bismarck and completed 9-of-14 passes for 114 yards and four scores (no interceptions). QB Matt Behrendt also saw some time, completing 3-of-4 passes and two total touchdowns. Tucson currently holds the fourth-best passing offense in the IFL (160.7 yards per game). RB Mike Jones started for the Sugar Skulls and ran for a team-high 59 yards and one touchdown.
Matt Behrendt to Jeremiah Harris for the game-clincher with 35 seconds left. pic.twitter.com/BYszxFx869
WR Rico Brown hauled in three passes for 60 yards and two touchdowns while WR Jeremiah Harris had three receptions for 48 yards and two scores as well. Harris has only been with Tucson for three games, but has already had three touchdowns.
Against San Diego, Arizona was led by the performance of DE Baron Poole who made his Rattlers debut. He finished with one sack, three tackles for loss, and one forced fumble. DB Phillip Henry added 11 total tackles and one interception, and DB Allen Chapman also picked off a pass. Arizona continues to lead the IFL in interceptions (19) and is second in sacks (21).
Tucson Getting Defensive
Tucson’s defense is also playing impressively. The Sugar Skulls were anchored last week by the performance of DB Micah Eugene Jr. who finished with seven tackles (two for loss), one interception, and four pass breakups in the victory over Bismarck. DB Edward Burns added an interception and K Josh Gable had one forced fumble.
The Sugar Skulls have back-to-back IFL Defensive Players of the Week with Eugene, 5-11 and 190 pounds from LSU, earning the honor this week. It is the sixth Player of the Week award for the Sugar Skulls playing in their inaugural season.
Defensive lineman Rayshawn Henderson won the award two weeks ago for his performance in a 65-48 victory over the San Diego Strike Force. Defensive back and kick returner Dee Maggitt Jr. has won the award twice, once for special teams and once for defense. Behrendt won the award for offense, and former placekicker Diego Marquez won it for special teams.
Information from the Sugar Skulls media relations department contributed to this report.
FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER!
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.