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Fresh off their first bye in two months, the Tucson Sugar Skulls will return to action Saturday.

There’s plenty to play for: Tucson (6-6) will take on the league-leading Arizona Rattlers (12-0) on Saturday night in Phoenix with their sights set on making the playoffs. The Rattlers recently routed the Skulls 62-47 at Tucson Arena. Tucson trailed by as many as 23 points to fall to 0-3 this year in the in-state rivalry.

“Arizona came out with the gameplan, ‘We’re going to play bully ball.’ We didn’t accept the challenge until the second half,” said Sugar Skulls quarterback Jake Medlock, who threw for five touchdowns in the loss. “When you play the Rattlers, you have to be perfect because you know they’re going to be perfect so we have to attack it like they do.”

Here’s a look at the postseason picture and other notes from around the Indoor Football League:

Playoff picture: Tucson sits in fifth place in the IFL standings; the top six teams make the playoffs. Win its final two regular-season games, and Tucson is in — possibly as a first-round host.

Win one game, or go 0-2, and things get murky.

Tucson is one game ahead of the Nebraska Danger and Quad City Steamwheelers, both of whom are 5-7 this season. While the Sugar Skulls will play at the undefeated Rattlers, the Danger and Steamwheelers have an easier time: Nebraska will play on the road in San Diego on Thursday, while the Steamwheelers host the Bismarck Bucks. San Diego and Bismarck are a combined 3-21 this season.

Both the Danger and Steamwheelers own tiebreakers against Tucson. The Skulls’ regular-season finale against Quad City at Tucson Arena could determine which of the two teams makes the playoffs.

“We need to do everything we can to win these last two games. … We’re not going to look down the road and look at scenarios,” Tucson coach Marcus Coleman said. “We’re focused on winning, and whatever happens after that, happens.”

Tucson can still host a playoff game, if things break right. The team would have to go 2-0 down the stretch, and the Green Bay Blizzard would have to lose its final two games.

Medlock on hosting a playoff game in Tucson: “Man, it would mean a lot especially to me because I’ve missed the playoffs the last two, three years. It would mean a lot to this community because the Tucson fans have showed up to games every week, filled up the stands and they deserve it more.”

Punch ’em right back: The Sugar Skulls have allowed multiple opponents to rally from second-half deficits this season. That wasn’t the case two weekends ago, when the Rattlers took a 21-9 lead early in the second half and never looked back.

“They were the more physical team that night,” said Coleman. “On both sides of the ball, they bullied us a little bit. I told the guys after the game, ‘Even if you do get hit in the face, you gotta punch someone right back and fight back a little harder.’”

Facing the MVP again: Rattlers quarterback Drew Powell is arguably the top offensive weapon in the IFL. Powell scored seven touchdowns and completed 13 of 15 passes for 180 yards when the teams met two weeks ago. He was efficient in last week’s 56-0 win over Cedar Rapids, completing 4 of 6 passes for 70 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 38 yards and a score. The Rattlers ran just 28 offensive plays; 19 of them were rushing attempts.

Powell’s confidence is what separates him from the other quarterbacks Tucson has faced this season, Coleman said.

“In his mind, he feels like — and he plays like — he’s the best player in the room without a doubt,” Coleman said. “You can see it in warmups, you can see it when he’s sitting on the ground or drinking water. He feels like he can drink the water the best out of anyone in the room. That’s his mindset.

“He continues to show that — and until we can get some guys to adopt some of that, we’re always going to struggle and it’s always going to be uphill.

“For him as a quarterback, when you have that mindset and when you play like it, naturally everyone follows. … That’s what makes him special.”

Postseason relocation for Rattlers: The Rattlers have already secured a first-round playoff bye. When they host a playoff game, it’ll be in Glendale. The team announced Monday that it will play postseason games at Gila River Arena instead of Talking Stick Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix. The Rattlers’ longtime home arena is hosting the Native American Basketball Invitational on June 29 and a Nazarene youth conference on July 13.

“Unfortunately, after being in our building for 27 years, the Rattlers do not get first priority for playoff dates,” Rattlers coach and general manager Kevin Guy said, according to The Arizona Republic.

“My understanding is that other events took precedence. We will embrace the opportunity to play in Gila River Arena … The Rattlers will play anyone, anywhere, anytime, and the Rattlers faithful will follow.”

If playoffs began this week, the winner of the Green Bay-Tucson game would play against the Rattlers in the IFL semifinals, to be held June 29. The Rattlers will host the United Bowl if it both advances to the title game and holds a better record than its opponent.

 

 

TUCSON, Arizona – The Tucson Sugars Skulls found the gap between the first-year franchise and the unbeaten Arizona Rattlers was still too far to travel in the third meeting between the two teams.

The Rattlers kept the Sugar Skulls offense out of the end zone on three straight possessions in the first half to build a 16-point lead and kept Tucson at a distance the rest of the way in a 62-47 victory before a crowd of 4,828 at Tucson Arena. It was the Sugar Skulls’ second-largest crowd of the season.

The loss tightens the playoff chase for the SugarSkulls who are 6-6 and in fifth place, one game ahead of Nebraska and Quad City. Six teams earn playoff berths.

The Sugar Skulls opened the scoring on a 13-yard pass from Jake Medlock to Jeremiah Harris. but Tucson managed only two field goals and turned the ball over on downs on their next three possessions. Meanwhile, the Rattlers scored a touchdown on every possession in the game except those at the end of the first half and the end of the game when they got the ball with only seconds left.

“We weren’t physical enough on either side of the ball,” said Head Coach Marcus Coleman. “To be frank I think they bullied us today. That’s what they do. They tackled well.  They covered us well.”

Rattlers quarterback Drew Powell was efficient throwing the ball and effective carrying it. He was13 of 15 for 180 yards and five touchdowns through the air. He led his team rushing with 83 yards and he ran for two more touchdowns.“

Beyond the physical things that he has and all the athleticism, in his mind, he feels like and he plays like he’s the best the player in the room,” Coleman said. “You can see it.”

The Sugar Skulls gave themselves a semblance of hope when Medlock and wide receiver Shaq Curenton connected on a 2-yard jump pass for a TD with 11 seconds left in the first half to cut theRattlers’ lead to nine. But Arizona scored on their first possession of second half, held the SugarSkulls to a missed field goal, and scored again to build a 41-19 lead. They were not threatened the rest of the way.

Tucson now heads into a bye week before facing the Rattlers for the fourth time this season when it travels to Phoenix on June 8.  The Sugar Skulls close the season with what now looks like a game that could be for a playoff berth when Quad City visits on June 15.“

It would mean a lot to the organization to be able to be in the playoffs,” Coleman said. “It would be great for the city. It would be great for the organization if we could finish this off and get into the playoffs and maybe host a game.

 Notes and Numbers

• With nine receptions, Jeremiah Harris has had multiple receptions in all four games he appeared in since joining the team four weeks ago.

• With two touchdown catches, Rico Brown has had four straight games with at least two TD receptions.

• Quarterback Jake Medlock threw five touchdown passes giving him 31 on the season. He entered the game fifth in the IFL in TD passes.

2019 Sugar Skulls Game Notes   Game 12   Arizona Page 01

TUCSON, ARIZONA – When the Tucson Sugar Skullslaunched their inaugural season last fall – forming the organization, hiring a head coach then filling the roster– the word “playoffs” was rolled out as a realistic goal for the expansion franchise.

With three games left in the season, a playoff berth is still on the table for Tucson as it gets set to face the unbeaten Arizona Rattlers on Saturday for the third time this season. It’s Military & First RespondersAppreciation Night at Tucson Arena. Kickoff is 6 p.m.

Tucson is 0-2 against the perennial IFL power, but they seemingly closed the gap between the time they were crushed by 35 points in Phoenix in March to the second meeting in April in Tucson where two untimely turnovers converted for Rattlers touchdowns were the difference in a 14-point loss.

The Sugar Skulls are on a three-game winning streak and tied for fourth place in the IFL. The top six teams earn playoff berths. At 10-0, the Rattlers have clinched their playoff berth and are trying to earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

“We know we can play with them, it’s just a matter of us playing ball,” said Head Coach Marcus Coleman. “We can’t make the mistakes we made the previous game. We have to make sure we play as complete a ball game as we possibly can.”

The Sugar Skulls emerged from a four-game losing streak in April with three straight wins, two of those on the road at San Diego and Bismarck. They face the Rattlers twice before ending the season against the Quad City Steamwheelers, a June 15 game that shapes up to have major playoff implications. The Steamwheelers are two games behind the Sugar Skulls in the standings but currently hold the tiebreaker by virtue of their April 20 victory over Tucson.

Official Game Notes

2019 Sugar Skulls Game Notes   Game 12   Arizona Page 01

TUCSON, ARIZONA – It will be a special night at Tucson Arena for active military, first responders and veterans Saturday as the Tucson Sugar Skulls try to hand the visiting Arizona Rattlers their first loss of the season.

Military & First Responders Appreciation Night will recognize the service and sacrifices made to make our community safe. Sponsors have donated complimentary tickets that have been provided to military members and first responders. Ticket discounts for military, first responders and veterans are available by contacting the Sugar Skulls office at (520) 573-3000.

In addition to the celebration, the Sugar Skulls are introducing the “Dead Zone” section in the north end zone with tickets discounted for the final two home games of the season. Lower end zone seats that had been priced at $45 will be $25. Upper-end zone seats that had been priced at $22 will be $15. Fans are encouraged to be loud, paint their faces and have an impact on the games as the Sugar Skulls make their push for the playoffs.

“It’s been a great season so far and we’re in the thick of the playoff race,” said Sugar Skulls owner Cathy Guy. “We need to pack The Boneyard for these last two games and make Tucson Arena an extremely tough place for visiting teams to play.”

Among the special events and activities on Saturday:

  • The Sugar Skulls will unveil a yellow and black camouflage jersey for the Memorial Day game. Game-worn jerseys can be signed by the players and will be for sale right after the game and online.
  • A commemorative Memorial Day Sugar Skulls t-shirt will be on sale at the game. Adult sizes are $20. Youth sizes are $15.
  • The first 2,000 fans in attendance will get a Sugar Skulls Rally Towel courtesy of Farhang & Medcoff law firm.
  • A joint color guard of the Tucson Police Department and Tucson Fire Department will present the colors before the game, and the national anthem will be sung by an active member of the Arizona Air National Guard.
  • The Tucson Sugar Dolls will perform a patriotic dance routine at halftime.

Kickoff is 6 p.m. The doors open at 5 p.m. for the Rally Towel giveaway. The pre-game public tailgate party begins at 4 p.m.

The Sugar Skulls head into the game with a 6-5 record and tied for fourth place in the IFL with three games left. The top six teams earn playoff berths. The Rattlers are 10-0 and have already clinched a playoff spot.

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