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The Tucson Sugar Skulls are playoff bound in their first season as an Indoor Football League franchise. They are the first IFL expansion franchise to earn a playoff berth in their first year of existence.

“We never would have accomplished this amazing goal without the support of the Tucson fans and the business community,” said Sugar Skulls owner Kevin Guy. “We’re honored to be the first expansion team in IFL history to make the playoffs.

“The playoffs are a reality because of the leadership shown by Head Coach Marcus Coleman,” Guy added. “We will give everything we have to represent Southern Arizona in a way that represents what our fans deserve.”

The Sugar Skulls earned the playoff berth with a winner-take-all, 55-50 victory over the Quad City Steamwheelers on Saturday night at Tucson Arena.

“It was just a matter of us coming together, getting the right players in here, making sure we’re on point and carrying that out,” said Coleman. “And we did that. We got in.”

Tucson will open the playoffs on Sunday, June 23, visiting the Sioux Falls Storm after qualifying as the No. 6 seed in the IFL. The Sugar Skulls finished the regular season with a 7-7 record and tied for fifth place with the Nebraska Danger. However, the Danger earned the fifth seed by virtue of their victory over the Sugar Skulls in April. Nebraska will visit the Green Bay Blizzard in the other first-round game on Friday.

The Tucson-Sioux Falls winner will face the No.2 seed Iowa Barnstormers in the United Conference Championship the weekend of June 29 in Des Moines, Iowa. The Barnstormers earned a first-round bye with a 12-2 record. The Green Bay-Nebraska winner will face the unbeaten Arizona Rattlers the same weekend in the Intense Conference Championship. The two conference champions will play for the IFL championship in the United Bowl the weekend of July 6.

The Sugar Skulls will conduct a regular week of practice this week and then travel on Saturday for the game in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Kickoff is 1 p.m., Tucson time, on Sunday at the Denny Sanford Premier Center. The game can be watched via live stream on the IFL YouTube channel.

The Tucson Sugar Skulls’ season has come down to one game for everything the franchise set it sights on last summer.

A win over the Quad City Steamwheelers on Saturday at the Tucson Arena and the Sugar Skulls will pack their bags for their first playoff game the following weekend at either the Green Bay Blizzard or Sioux Falls Storm. A loss and the season ends short of a goal the franchise set when its formation was announced in August.

“This is the start of the playoffs for us,” said Head Coach Marcus Coleman. “You either win or you go home.”

The Sugar Skulls will be facing a team that dominated them on April 20, scoring on every offensive possession with only one of those scores being a field goal. The 72 points by the Steamwheelers were a season high against the Tucson defense. The loss was the third in a four-game midseason losing streak for the Sugar Skulls.

Tucson came out of the skid and won three straight games to put it in playoff position despite back-to-back losses to the Arizona Rattlers, the latest a heart-breaking overtime loss in Phoenix on Saturday.

“Everybody has moved on from last week,” Coleman said earlier this week. “Usually we go back and make corrections on the game before. We didn’t even watch the Arizona film. We went straight to Quad City the next day.

“I like where the focus is right now. It seems like everybody’s got that tunnel vision that you need to play a game like this.”

Notes & Numbers

  • There are three playoff scenarios for the Sugar Skulls: A win coupled with a loss by Nebraska to Iowa and Tucson is the 5th seed in the playoffs. The Sugar Skulls would play at No. 4 Green Bay on Friday at 5 p.m., Tucson time. A Sugar Skulls win and a win by Nebraska, and Tucson is the 6th seed. That would mean a playoff game at No. 3 Sioux Falls at 1 p.m. Sunday. A loss and Tucson is eliminated.
  • Although they don’t own a win over the top two teams in the IFL, the Sugar Skulls can hang their hats on giving the unbeaten Arizona Rattlers and second-seed Iowa Barnstormers all they could handle. In addition to taking the Rattlers to overtime, the Sugar Skulls lost to Iowa on a touchdown with seven seconds left in the game.
  • After practice Thursday, the majority of the team along with the coaching staff held a youth clinic on the Tohono O’odham reservation in Sells in support of teammate Antonio Rosales, who is a member of the Tohono O’odham nation

PHOENIX, Arizona – The Tucson Sugar Skulls went toe-to-toe with the unbeaten Arizona Rattlers for 60 minutes, but it wasn’t quite enough when the game went to overtime.

Arizona Coach Kevin Guy called for a two-point conversion trailing by one in overtime, and quarterback Drew Powell ran into the corner of the end zone to stop the Sugar Skulls’ upset bid,50-49, in front of a crowd of 13,755 at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

It was the Sugar Skulls’ last of four chances to make a mark on the Rattlers’ record, and it was the hardest Arizona had to work in the four meetings, having won the first three games by double digits.

The Sugar Skulls now head to the last week of the the regular season and their final home game with one thing in mind – the Quad City Steamwheelers. A victory at Tucson Arena on Saturday and theSugar Skulls are in the playoffs in the first year of the franchise. A loss and they are edged out of the six playoffs spots.

“We played with heart and I hope they understand this is how they’re capable of playing every weekend,” Head Coach Marcus Coleman said of his team. “We thought we had a good game plan coming in. Win or lose, I wanted to see our team play a complete ball game and I thought we did that. They just made one more play than we did.”Tucson built a 35-14 first-half lead behind the arm and legs of quarterback Jake Medlock. Medlock ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more in the first half.

The Sugar Skulls added a touchdown on a fake goal to build the lead. But the Rattlers responded with a kick return for a touchdown after the last Sugar Skulls score to trim the lead to 14 at the half.

The Rattlers defense stiffened in the third quarter, holding the Sugar Skulls scoreless, and the two teams went into the fourth quarter tied at 35. Both teams scored in the first five minutes of the quarter then both defenses held up and the game went to overtime. Running back Mike Jones put the Sugar Skulls in front when he bulled his way into the end zone from four yards out. The extra point by Josh Gable made it 49-42.

The Rattlers took three plays to score on their possession and then came the call to go for two. Powell took the snap and swept to the right corner of the end zone for the win. The task is now simple for the Sugar Skulls’ playoff hopes – win and they’re in.“Quad City is next,” Coleman said. “We’ve got to go back to work as coaches. I’m ready to accept that challenge and I know our guys are too.”The Sugar Skulls and Steamwheelers go into Saturday’s game with identical 6-7 records.

The winner is the playoffs. The Steamwheelers can still get in with a loss if the Nebraska Danger loses to the Iowa Barnstormers next week as Quad City holds the tiebreaker over the Danger by virtue of a win in their only regular-season meeting.

Saturday’s game at 6 p.m. at Tucson Arena is Fan Appreciation Night. Ticket prices have been reduced to as low as $10. The first 3,000 fans will get a set of Thundersticks sponsored by GenesisOB/GYN. The game is also a blackout and all fans are asked to wear black.

Tickets are available at the Tucson Convention Center box office, by calling the Sugar Skulls office at (520) 573-3000, or at Ticketmaster.

POST GAME NOTES

2019 Sugar Skulls Post Game Notes   Game 13   Arizona Page 01

 

TUCSON, ARIZONA – The Tucson Sugar Skulls have one more shot at their in-state nemesis, the unbeaten Arizona Rattlers, with a playoff berth still on the table when the teams meet Saturday at 5 p.m. at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix.

With two games left on the regular-season schedule, the Sugar Skulls, 6-6, are in fifth place with a one-game lead over the Nebraska Danger and Quad CitySteamwheelers. If the Sugar Skulls can do what no other team has done this season – beat the Rattlers –and then have Nebraska or Quad City lose this weekend, they are in the playoffs. Barring that, a winner-take-all game for a playoff berth will take place on June 15 when Quad City visits Tucson Arena.

While there are a number of scenarios that can play out over the last two weeks of the IFL season, Sugar Skulls Coach Marcus Coleman has preached to his players that they need to focus on the task at hand – 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 said. “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 three games with the Rattlers have been a mixed bag of scenarios that led to the same result. The Sugar Skulls were overwhelmed 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 was the difference in an otherwise competitive game. In the most recent game, the Rattlers got a couple of defensive stops in the first quarter to build a lead that was never threatened.

“When you play a 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.”

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