Rattlers at Sugar Skulls Game Preview

Photo Credit: Matt Hinshaw
Photo Credit: Matt Hinshaw

Phoenix – The Arizona Rattlers (5-0) begin a three-game road trip with their second matchup of the season against their intrastate rivals, the Tucson Sugar Skulls (3-2). This game will feature two of the top offenses in the Indoor Football League (IFL). Tucson comes into the game leading the IFL with 279 yards per game, while the Rattlers rank second with an average of 274.6 yards. This matchup could have big implications for postseason seeding, as the Rattlers are currently tied for first place while the Sugar Skulls currently stand at fifth in the standings. 

For the first time in Arizona Rattlers history, the team will visit the city of Tucson.  It will also be the first time the Rattlers play a game as the visiting team in the state of Arizona. Only 113 miles separate these two teams from their respective arena, making it less than a 2-hour commute.

The Rattlers defeated the Sugar Skulls 63-28 on March 16th in the inaugural intrastate rivalry game between the two teams.

Arizona is coming off a 91-58 victory against the San Diego Strike Force last Saturday at the Talking Stick Resort Arena. Arizona's 91-point effort broke their previous scoring-high of 86 points which was set on the road in 2012 against the Utah Blaze of the Arena Football League.

Against the Strike Force, quarterback Jeff Ziemba started and completed 11-of-15 passes for 124 yards and five touchdowns (no interceptions). The five passing scores is a season-high for him thus far.  Darrell Monroe, the 2018 IFL Offensive Player of the Year, made his 2019 season debut last Sunday. He carried the ball 10 times for 64 yards and two touchdowns. He also added four receptions for 25 yards.

Versatile RB/WR Jamal Miles broke out for a career-night that included four receiving touchdowns and one rushing score. The five touchdowns all came in the first half for the Peoria native.

As for the Tucson Sugar Skulls, they are coming off a 53-47 road loss to the Nebraska Danger last Sunday night in the Heartland Events Center in Grand Island, Nebraska.

Both quarterbacks for Tucson (Jake Medlock and Matt Behrendt) saw playing time under center. Medlock completed 7-of-11 passes for 100 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Behrendt completed 7-of-13 passes for 82 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. RB Mike Jones turned five carries into three touchdowns for Tucson, while Behrendt also added a rushing score. Jones currently leads Tucson with nine rushing touchdowns. WR Brandon Sampson led the team with five receptions for 69 yards and one touchdown.

Defensively, the Rattlers were led by the performance of mac linebacker Ricky Wyatt Jr. Against San Diego, he accumulated eight solo tackles, one sack, a season-high four tackles for loss, and two quarterback hurries. His 3.5 sacks this season rank third in the IFL. DB Davontae Merriweather intercepted his second pass of the season while also adding one pass breakup. DB Dillion Winfrey also intercepted a pass and returned it 37-yards, just short of a pick-6. With two interceptions last weekend, the Rattlers are now tied for first in the Indoor Football League with eight interceptions.

The Sugar Skulls defensive unit was anchored by DB Kenneth James last Sunday who totaled five tackles, one tackle for loss, one interception, and two pass breakups. Defensive end Shakore Philip contributed one sack, and linebacker Zach Allen led the team with nine total tackles versus Nebraska. For the season, he leads the Sugar Skulls in total tackles (47), sacks (three), and tackles for loss (6.5).

Kickoff is slated for 3:00 p.m. AZT at the Tucson Arena. This will be the second of four matchups between the Rattlers and the Sugar Skulls, and the contest can be streamed live on YouTube.