The unbeaten Arizona Rattlers host the Tucson Sugar Skulls this afternoon at the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix knowing they are in for tougher competition than they encounter from most Indoor Football League opponents.
The Sugar Skulls (6-6) are in their inaugural season but they have proven to be challenging against the Rattlers, who are 12-0 and outscoring their opponents by an average margin of 27.2 points a game. The game starts at 5 p.m. and is available to watch live on YouTube.
Tucson playmaking WR Jeremiah Harris, who set the Sugar Skulls' single-game standard with nine receptions tonight, asked about how far the Sugar Skulls are from the unbeaten Rattlers (Tucson now 0-3 vs. Arizona). pic.twitter.com/2q7KIjhK62
Arizona is outscoring Tucson by an average margin of only 21.3 points a game in its three victories over the Sugar Skulls. Tucson’s 14-point loss (55-41) on April 14 and 15-point defeat (62-47) on May 25 at the Tucson Arena are two of the closest games the Rattlers have won this season.
Only Nebraska with a 10-point loss (56-46) on May 4 in Phoenix and Sioux Falls with a 13-point setback (63-50) on April 27 at home have come closer to the Rattlers.
Sugar Skulls Playoff Push
The path for Tucson to host a first-round playoff game appears to be a tough one with fourth-place Green Bay (7-5) playing struggling Cedar Rapids (1-11) in the last two weeks of the season. The No. 3 and No. 4 teams host the first round games against the No. 6 and No. 5 teams, respectively.
Tucson appears to be more realistic with the No. 5 or No. 6 spots. The Sugar Skulls are currently No. 5 with Quad City at No. 6 with a 6-7 record. The Steamwheelers, who have won three consecutive games, defeated visiting Tucson 72-54 on April 20.
Tucson Sugar Skulls coach Marcus Coleman needs a win either over Arizona or Quad City in the last two games to have a shot at the IFL playoffs in the first year of the franchise. pic.twitter.com/pe3a5NAjsF
The Sugar Skulls host Quad City next Saturday in a game with significant playoff implications. If Tucson loses today at Arizona, the Sugar Skulls would need a win next week to clinch a playoff spot.
What would making the @IndoorFtballLge playoffs in the Tucson Sugar Skulls' first season mean to QB Jake Medlock? "It would mean a lot to this community. Tucson fans have shown up … They deserve it more." pic.twitter.com/svjT2VMNj5
Nebraska (6-7) is still in contention, but the Danger end their regular season next weekend at Iowa, which is 11-1. The Danger have defeated Tucson and they have lost to Quad City.
If Tucson loses against Arizona and Quad City, it would finish 6-8 and out of the playoffs with Quad City and Nebraska taking the No. 5 and No. 6 spots.[table “” not found /]
Focused on the Rattlers
Tucson coach Marcus Coleman has told his players that they need to focus only on ending the Rattlers’ unbeaten season.
“I’m trying to make sure they know not to listen to anyone outside of our locker room where everyone is saying we only need to win the Quad City game and we’re in the playoffs,” Coleman is quoted as saying in a Sugar Skulls press release.
“No, we need to win every game. You can’t depend on winning one game because you never know what happens with everybody else.”
The Sugar Skulls were overwhelmed by the Rattlers 63-28 in Phoenix on March 16 in what was their third game as a franchise. On April 14 in Tucson, a blocked field goal for a Rattlers touchdown and an interception return for a TD were the difference in an otherwise competitive game. In the most recent game two weeks ago, the Rattlers got a couple of defensive stops in the first quarter to build a lead that was never threatened.
“When you play good team like that you have to be able to close out those games and play those games all the way through,” Coleman said. “Talent isn’t the issue. We’ve shown we can play with them. It’s a matter of us playing a consistent game and playing it all the way through.”
RB Mike Jones still holds the league lead in rushing yards per game despite being held to a season-low 15 yards in the last meeting with the Rattlers. He’s averaging 55.4 yards per game and is fourth in the IFL with 17 rushing touchdowns. … QB Jake Medlock’s 31 touchdown passes rank him fifth in the league. Nine of those have come in the three games against the Rattlers. His five TDs in the May 25 game were a season high. … DB Cam Gaddis, formerly of Santa Rita High School and Pima College, leads the Sugar Skulls with three interceptions. Seven different Tucson players have accounted for its 10 interceptions this season.
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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.