Sugar Skulls Making History

When they take the field Sunday in San Diego, the Tucson Sugar Skulls will be the first professional football team from Tucson, Arizona to take a snap.

The Sugar Skulls arrive with a first-year head coach Marcus Coleman who is coming off a United Bowl championship as defensive coordinator for the Iowa Barnstormers.

The team 25-man roster is a mix of indoor football veterans and rookies but includes two quarterbacks with IFL experience.

Jake Medlock and Matt Behrendt joined the team late in training camp, and both have impressive résumés. Medlock led the IFL in passing yards (2,616), completions (265) and touchdowns (47) in 2018 playing for the Cedar Rapids Titans, now known as the River Kings. Behrendt spent the 2016 and 2017 seasons with the Green Bay Blizzard. Neither has been named the starter.

The Sugar Skulls have another veteran in the backfield in running back Shad Thornton, 6,1”, 230 pounds, who rushed for seven touchdowns in six games with the Arizona Rattlers last season.

Defensively, the Sugar Skulls have two of the best players in the IFL with All-IFL defensive lineman Keith Jones Jr. and All-IFL linebacker Zach Allen, both of whom were with the Barnstormers in 2018. Jones was third in the league with 5½ sacks. Allen led the Barnstormers with 84 total tackles.

“We will be fast and we will be physical,” Coleman said as the Sugar Skulls prepared for their first game. “I’m happy with the talent we’re putting on the field. We’re not approaching this season as a new franchise building for the future. We’re trying to win a championship right now.”

Notes & Numbers

  • This week’s game pits the two new IFL franchises against each other for the first of four meetings this season. The Sugar Skulls had a season-opening bye week while the Strike Force lost their season opener at the Quad City Steamwheelers, 67-49.
  • The Sugar Skulls have four players on their roster who played their high school football in the Tucson area. Linebacker Robert Metz is from Canyon Del Oro High School, offensive lineman Antonio Rosales played at Tucson High School, defensive back Cam Gaddis played at Santa Rita High School and Pima Community College, and offensive lineman Alejandro Rios played at Sahuarita High School, just south of Tucson.
  • In addition to Coach Coleman, the Sugar Skulls coaching staff has two more coaches from the defending IFL champion Barnstormers. Hurtis Chinn is the team’s offensive coordinator and Malcolm Nelson coaches the defensive line and is the special teams coordinator. The fourth member of the coaching staff is Don Wnek, a veteran coach in the professional ranks.