Arizona Rattlers

Skulls outlast Arizona at the Snake Pit 54-48

 (Phoenix, AZ)  The 2023 Home Opener for the Ratters featured their down state rival the Tucson Sugar Skulls. Arizona had 15-1 record in home openers going in.

The head to head competition has been lopsided as well at 8-1. Tucson broke through last season with their first win in the series.

The Sugar Skulls come in undefeated after beating  San Diego on the road.

Tucson won the toss but deferred to the second half.


Dillion Winfrey took the opening kickoff and took it back to the Sugar Skulls nineteen yard. One the first play from scrimmage, Jorge Reyna hit Isaiah Scott at the five and he twirled his way into score and just like that the Snakes were up 7-0.

On a fourth and two for Tucson at the twenty two, Reyna threw it short and allowed Carrington Thompson to come back and make a spectacular catch in the end zone. The Skulls missed the extra point, so with 10:21 in the opening quarter, it was 7-6 Rattlers.

Arizona scored again on their next possession from the Skulls eleven yard line on a slant pattern to Braxton Haley. Snakes up 14-6.

On the Sugar skulls second possession, a breakdown on defense by Arizona had M.J. Harris standing all alone in the end zone on an easy sixteen yard TD reception. Tucson back within one 14-13 with under a minute and a half left in the quarter.

Arizona led in total yards 74-62


Tucson forced a turnover on downs at the start of the second quarter at their own eleven yard line.

Snakes returned the favor as Simeon Gatling picked off Atkins at the seventeen yard line already in the red zone.

Scott hooked up again with Reyna on a low pass from thirteen yards out and extended the Snakes led to 21-13 with 5:32 left till halftime.

Arizona attempted an onside kick and recovered but the call was challenged by Sugar Skulls Coach Hurtis Chinn and the call was overturned and the ball was awarded to Tucson.

Another blown coverage by the Rattlers allowed Tucson’s Harris to be wide open in the back of the end zone to bring the Sugar Skulls back within one 21-20 with a minute left.

A forty yard field goal attempt was wide but also made Tucson start from their own five yard line instead of deep in Snakes territory. A last second fifty yard filed goal was well short and thats the way the half ended 21-20.


Tucson got first crack at the ball and on a fourth and four they converted when Atkins broke open a keeper to keep the drive alive. Atkins called his own number on the next play and scampered in fron the twelve giving the Sugar Skulls their first lead 27-21.

The Rattlers marched right back but on a fourth and goal from the four yard line, Reyna’s pass was deflected high in the air and the jump ball was possessed by the Skulls Travion Bryant to snuff out the Arizona threat.

Capitalizing on the big defensive play, Reyna it Thompson in stride for a thirty four yard catch and run and the Sugar Skulls now had a two possession lead at 34-21 with less than two minutes left in the third quarter.

Tucson with a strong showing and pitching a shutout in the quarter put a lot of pressure on Arizona going into the final stanza.


Snakes feeling a sense of urgency, marched down and scored from the seven on a short pass to Jamal Miles to bring the score to 34-28.

The Sugar Skulls wanting to put their foot down scored on a six yard pass to Thompson and the lead swelled back to thirteen and 9:30 left.

A big kickoff return by Arizona’s Winfrey was nullified by a holding penalty. Snakes started their possession at their own seven yard line.

The Rattlers drove down methodically and scored on a four yard run by Jager Gardner and set up for an exciting finish with the score 41-35 Sugar Skulls and 2:14 left.

Everyone in the arena knew the onside kick was coming. The ball took a true bounce right into the hands of the Sugar Skulls Thompson who took it into score for Tucson but missed another extra point.

Even with a twelve point lead, this game still wasn’t wrapped up.

One play, one score for the Snakes and they stayed alive with a twenty eight yard touchdown reception to Scott.

With 1:09 left Tucson recovered their second consecutive onside kick but a penalty from the previous Rattler possession was marched off and the Skulls had to keep the ball in their hands to win.

Arizona thinking the Skulls would use the pass, caught them off guard with a twenty yards run by Benjamin Jones.

An after play penalty on the Coach Guy who got a quick whistle and a second unsportsmanlike penalty and an automatic ejection put the ball on the two yard line.

Tucson put the game away with a 6 inc run by Mike Jones and a 53-42 with 19.5 seconds left

On the last play of the game, Scott snagged a twenty seven yard touchdown pass from Reyna but it wasn’t enough as time ran out.

Final Score Tucson 54  Arizona 48.

The biggest takeaway from the Sugar Skulls victory was the scoreless third quarter by the Rattlers. Rarely in Indoor Football does a team go an entire quarter without scoring. With that, it put Tucson in the driver’s seat and put the Snakes in an unenviable situation to have to chase the rest of the contest.

Two time IFL MVP Drew Powell is still weeks away from coming back from a hand injury and Arizona is just trying to tread water until his return.

Next week the Rattlers will host the Duke City Gladiators on Saturday, while Tucson still hasn’t played at home and travels to face the Bay Area Panthers next Sunday.


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