Kevin Guy is the owner of the Tucson Sugar Skulls.
But the team he coaches, the Rattlers, owned the Skulls in Saturday’s debut of the in-state Indoor Football League rivalry, creating turnovers and scoring 35 consecutive points in a 63-28 rout before an announced crowd of 16,110 at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
“It was just another game,” said Guy, whose team has begun its third year in the IFL with a 3-0 record. “It didn’t even enter my mind (about being owner of the Sugar Skulls). I was just out there doing my job. At the end of the day, Coach (Marcus) Coleman and his staff have to do their job.
“They exploited us early in the game with hurry-up offense. We were expecting it. But until you do it live and get the speed of the game, you can’t get a feel for it.
“Once we got some turnovers, they stopped doing hurry-up offense, because they had to throw the ball more. They were in chase mode at that point. The bottom line is I thought the turnovers were the difference in the game.”
The Sugar Skulls (2-1) didn’t look like an expansion team early. And quarterback Matt Behrendt didn’t look like a cast off from the Rattlers’ camp.
Tucson scored first on a 2-yard run by Mike Jones and Behrendt sprinted 16 yards on busted coverage to keep the Sugar Skulls within a touchdown, 21-14, with 8:25 left in the second quarter.
But the defense took over for the Rattlers, who were without defensive end Josh Gordon, who was placed on season-ending IR earlier in the week.
Early in the second quarter, the Rattlers took a 14-7 lead after Nikolaus D’Avanzo blocked a 51-yard field goal try that was recovered in thee end zone by Dillon Winfrey for a touchdown.
Rattlers beat Tucson 63-28 in first in-state pro football game
Richard Obert, azcentral sports
On the Skulls’ next possession, Behrendt fumbled after getting hit by Davontae Merriweather. Lance McDowdell recovered on the Tucson 7, and two plays later, quarterback Verlon Reed Jr., was in the end zone with a 3-yard run.
After Behrendt’s TD run, the Rattlers ran off 35 unanswered points and had a 49-14 lead late in the the third quarter.
“It’s definitely a big wake-up call,” said Behrendt, who was replaced in the third quarter by Jake Medlock, who struggled, completing 6 of 12 for 56 yards and a TD. “Players are either going to take it a good way or a bad way. We’re going to see who the true, real ball players are, the way we respond.
“We wanted this one. It’s unfortunate. But they were the better team today.”
For the third consecutive game, the Rattlers played two quarterbacks, but Reed, who played the first half, started the second half, before giving way to Jeff Ziemba midway through the third quarter.
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Reed was 7 of 12 passing for 121 yards and three TDs. He also ran for two scores.
Ziemba kept the offensive running smoothly. He completed both passes he threw for 24 yards and ran for a TD.
“There was a little bit of anticipation, especially when you’re playing a new opponent,” Reed said. “The situation that we have, being in the same state, and the head coach the owner (of the other team), as well. A lot of us were looking forward to this.
“Coming out of the bye week, I wanted to see how we responded. We made some great plays on defense and special teams. Offensively, we got through the slow start. But once we got the ball rolling, we were pretty unstoppable.”
To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at [email protected] or 602-316-8827. Follow him at twitter.com/azc_obert.