The Gun Fight!
Deep in the nether-regions of the southwest, inhabitants of the saguaro-riddled desert were treated to dessert on Saturday night! ‘Twas a tale of two Western-themed franchises with entirely different pasts. The Arizona Rattlers are one of the oldest, and most championed arena football franchises. The Tucson Sugar Skulls, on the other hand, is a newly minted expansion team in the Indoor Football League–and they are certainly a welcome addition!
A year ago, the Rattlers had to travel 1,166 miles to play their closest opponent. Now, with the addition of their Tucson neighbors, a bus ride of 113 miles can result in a fantastic matchup!
A week ago, Arizona had traveled over 1,500 miles but returned from their visit with the Cedar Rapids River Kings with a 56-0 victory–their first shutout in their 27-year history (according to some sources). Sitting at 12-0, with their Tucson neighbors coming to town at 6-6, an undefeated season seemed inevitable for the Rattlers.
The stage was set. The 8-man football teams put their backs together and paced 50 yards. An eagle must’ve screeched high in the sky as the wind picked up and a tumbleweed rolled across the dusty floor. Players from both teams squinted their eyes under the bright lights of Talking Stick Resort Arena. Their lips quivered with a passionate desire to best their opponent. The Hateful Eight on each side of the ball was ready for battle. The result was a story that not even Quentin Tarantino could duplicate.
The Rattlers drew first, but…the Sugar Skulls had a quicker draw. Their revolver propelled from the holster–gunning five touchdowns that gave them an early 35-14 lead. Jarrod Harrington returned the ensuing kickoff for a score. The Rattlers found themselves in the unfamiliar position of being down by 14 at the half. Rattlers Coach Kevin Guy spoke with his team. “I told them we were being outplayed and we were being outcoached.” A humble admission by a gunfighter who coached the franchise to over 200 wins.
The second half was different, as the intensity built in the sweltering desert. The Arizona Rattlers heated up and tied the game at 35 after another Jarrod Harrington TD. Skulls QB Medlock continued his inspiring performance with a 28-yard scamper for the score…42-35.
After trying the AAF and AFL, Rattler receiver Anthony Amos returned and contributed with a TD of his own. A five-yard dart from QB Drew Powell. 42-42. After some suspenseful theatrics, regulation ended. We were going into overtime!
Tucson won the coin toss. They received. They scored. Arizona marched the ball down the field. Powell found Dez Stewart for a 7-yard score. The Skulls led 49-48, and Kevin Guy puts his undefeated season on the line…he goes for the 2-point conversion. The tension was so palpable; it could be cut with a Bowie knife. Guy elected to put some big boys in the game who led the charge like herding buffalo allowing last years MVP, the speeding stallion, Drew Powell to get around the defenders and hop into the endzone. The Snake Pit erupted, 13,755 voices screamed and cheered. A rivalry…had been born.
Why This Was More than a Game
This was far-and-away the most challenging match for the 13-0 Rattlers. Their in-state opponents have cemented themselves as viable rivals for a long time to come. It’s good for the Arizona Rattlers. It’s good for the Sugar Skulls to hang with the league’s best team. And it’s certainly good for the IFL to have games like this. This was good football! The desert had served late-season dessert to some Sugar-craving fans!
What this means for the Rattlers, is that they can now win close games, which is essential with the playoffs a couple of weeks away. What it means for the Sugar Skulls, is they are essentially, already in the playoffs. Their next opponent, the Quad City Steamwheelers are coming to town, and the winner likely gets a playoff spot, while the loser likely goes home. Fans have got to be excited about this Tucson team, who come in as a new franchise and show such resilience. At 6-7, they’ve got to be happy with their inaugural season.
This game is in the past now, but what it means for the future is even more exciting than the game turned out to be. This game means that we will be enjoying this desert rivalry for a long time, and all of arena football is better for it!
Tune in Saturday, June 15th at 6 PM MST to witness another fantastic matchup between Tucson Sugar Skulls and the Quad City Steamwheelers. The playoffs come a week early for these teams!
By Ducon Williams