Phoenix, Ariz. – Fresh off of a bye week, the Arizona Rattlers (2-0) welcome the Tucson Sugar Skulls (2-0) for their inaugural visit to the Talking Stick Resort Arena on Saturday at 5:00 PM Arizona time. The first-ever matchup between these two teams will mark the beginning of a new intrastate rivalry in the Indoor Football League (IFL). It will also be the first game for the Rattlers against another Arizona-based indoor football team, something that has not happened in the 27 years of the franchise. The matchup also features two of the four remaining undefeated teams in the league, which makes it a big early-season test for both sides.
Prior to the bye week, the Arizona Rattlers defeated the Cedar Rapids River Kings 81-37 in their home opener. The offensive attack was led by first-year running back Jabre Lolley who totaled 157 yards and six touchdowns in the route. He leads the IFL in rushing yards per game (87.5), yards per rush (7.3), and total touchdowns (10).
Quarterback Verlon Reed Jr. got the start under center and completed 6-of-7 passes for 120 yards and three touchdowns. He also added an electric 44-yard touchdown run. Jeff Ziemba also saw some action at quarterback, completing 2-of-3 passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns.
As for the Tucson Sugar Skulls, they are coming off a 62-42 victory over the Bismarck Bucks in their home opener at the Tucson Convention Center. Quarterback Matt Behrendt, who spent time with the Rattlers during training camp, started for the second consecutive game and threw for 234 yards and eight touchdowns (no interceptions). He also added 72 yards on 10 carries. Former Arizona Rattlers running back Shadrach Thornton piled up 16 carries for 82 yards and one score while averaging 5.1 yards per carry versus Bismarck.
Wide receiver Brandon Sampson leads the team with 11 receptions thus far, including two touchdown grabs last week against Bismarck. Shaquan Curenton also hauled in two touchdowns versus the Bucks and now has five touchdowns this season. The Sugar Skulls average 346 yards of offense and 124.5 rushing yards per contest.
Defensively, the Rattlers surrender only 29 points per game which is second in the Indoor Football League. They lead the IFL in interceptions with four and are allowing 119 passing yards per game which is fewest in the league. The stout defensive line for Arizona has caused a bevy of problems for opposing teams this season. Their seven sacks leads the IFL by a wide margin, and their ability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks has led to a handful of turnovers.
Albeit their inaugural season in the IFL, the Sugar Skulls boast a tough defensive group. While they allow 43 points per game (6th in IFL), opposing offenses are averaging only 46 rushing yards and 154 passing yards per game. The Rattlers currently average 170 yards through the air and lead the IFL with 148 rushing yards per game.
Tucson tabbed Marcus Coleman as head coach/defensive coordinator during the offseason. Coleman previously coached the defensive unit for the Iowa Barnstormers in 2018. They also brought in Hurtis Chinn (offensive coordinator), and Malcolm Nelson (defensive line/special teams) all of whom won the 2018 United Bowl under Dixie Wooten.
This will be the first of four matchups between the two teams this season, including two games at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The game on Saturday, March 16th will be televised locally on Your Phoenix CW and live on YouTube.