Week 18 Preview
TUCSON, AZ -Â The Tucson Sugar Skulls (5-8) will play their final game of the regular season against the Northern Arizona Wranglers (1-12) in Prescott Valley on Saturday.
The Wranglers and Skulls have split the season series (1-1), and the last game ended in a 48-46 triple-overtime win for the Sugar Skulls at the Boneyard.
After last week's come from behind victory over Duke City, the IFL announced WRÂ Ryan BalentineÂ as 'Offensive Player of the Week' (OPOW) and KÂ Jimmy CamachoÂ as 'Special Teams Player of the Week' (STPOW).
And if Tucson is going to make the playoffs, this game is a must win. Plus, it needs help from two other teams Saturday. More on that below.
The Sugar Skulls have found their footing behind the leadership of quarterbackÂ Cory Murphy, who has led Tucson to three wins over his four starts this season. Murphy has proved to be one of the best dual-threat players in the league with the second-best rushing yards-per-game (57.5) average and quarterback efficiency (165.6) in the IFL.
After wide receiverÂ Ryan BalentineÂ exploded against the Duke City Gladiators on Saturday with nine catches (52) for 130 yards (653) and three receiving touchdowns (12), Balentine received the OPOW nod. The veteran wideout's connection with Murphy improves each week.
The recent success of the Sugar Skulls offense is based on their ability to convert in key situations. Headed into the final week of the regular season, Tucson is ranked fifth in the league on third downs (46%) and fourth on fourth down (58.1%).
Led by defensive backÂ Delondo Boyd, who ranks seventh in the IFL with 49 solo tackles and is tied for a team-high two interceptions, the defense has forced five turnovers in their last three wins.
Despite the eighth-best scoring defense in the IFL (43.4), the Sugar Skulls have made important stops when it counted. The Sugar Skulls are ranked fourth in the league against teams on fourth-down (46.7%).
Needing Some Help
The Wranglers will play their second home game in a row at home for the final regular season game. Last week, Northern Arizona fell to the Massachusetts Pirates by a score of 51-16.
To grab their second win of the season, the fourth-ranked Wrangler rushing defense (69.8) will have to stop the dynamic dual-threat QB Murphy and the Sugar Skulls fourth-best rushing offense (78.5).
For Tucson to clinch a playoff spot, it must defeat the Wranglers and get help from two other teams.
Sioux Falls (5-7) must defeat Green Bay (5-8) at home at 5:05 p.m. Arizona Time & Bismarck (7-7) must beat Duke City (6-7) on the road at 6:05 p.m. Arizona Time.
The combination of Tucson, Sioux Falls and Bismarck wins means the Sugar Skulls are in.
Tucson versus Northern Arizona is this Saturday, August 21 at 6:05 p.m. MST at the Findlay Toyota Center.
The game can also be viewed on the IFL YouTube page.
• Discuss this story on the Indoor Football League message board...
Indoor Football League Stories from August 21, 2021
- Barnstormers Battered at Massachusetts - Iowa Barnstormers
- Pirates Make It Eight Straight Wins After Defeating Barnstormers, 55-19 - Massachusetts Pirates
- Fighters Sign Dolezel to Multi-Year Extension - Frisco Fighters
- Week 18 Preview - Sioux Falls Storm
- Week 18 Preview - Bismarck Bucks
- Week 18 Preview - Arizona Rattlers
- Week 18 Preview - Tucson Sugar Skulls
- Week 18 Preview - Massachusetts Pirates
- Spokane Shock Use Bye Week To Prepare For Playoffs - Spokane Shock
The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.