TUCSON, ARIZONA – The bad news in the Tucson Sugar Skulls loss to the Arizona Rattlers on Sunday was that it gave them back-to-back losses and three in the last four games, albeit two of those to the unbeaten Rattlers.
The good news is that the Sugar Skulls remain in playoff position as they hit the midseason mark, sitting in fifth place, a half game ahead of the Nebraska Danger and full game ahead of the seventh-place Quad City Steamwheelers. Six teams will qualify for the IFL playoffs.
All of that makes Saturday's visit to Quad City for the first of two matchups this season a critical game for both teams in the playoff chase.
"I stressed the importance of this game and this stretch," said Head Coach Marcus Coleman, noting that the Sugar Skulls are looking at a visit from the IFL Champion Iowa Barnstormers on April 27. "You've got to take care of business the week that you're in, and when you get done with that you move on to the next week. We only have to worry about Quad City right now. We can't look down the road."
After losing by 35 points in the March 16 meeting with the Rattlers, the Sugar Skulls put up a much tougher fight Sunday, going into halftime tied at 21. But the Sugar Skulls were doomed by the same issues as in the first meeting, a blocked field goal for a touchdown and turnover for a touchdown. The 14 points on those two plays were the final margin of victory for the Ratters.
"We have to stop making mental mistakes and shooting ourselves in the foot," Coleman said. "That's really been our Achilles heel this year."
Saturday's game pits two teams relatively evenly matched. The Sugar Skulls still lead the league in total offense, but they rank fifth in scoring average at 49 points per game, one point more than the Steamwheelers. Defensively, Quad City is giving up 47.8 points per game and the Sugar Skulls are right behind them at 48.0.