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.”