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Coach Marcus Coleman still 'working out the kinks' ahead of Sugar Skulls' home opener
Sugar Skulls

Coach Marcus Coleman still 'working out the kinks' ahead of Sugar Skulls' home opener

“We’re slightly better than what I expected. I thought we were going to be better than how we’ve been, but ... we’ll get there,” says Sugar Skulls coach Marcus Coleman.

First game, first win in the books for Marcus Coleman and the Tucson Sugar Skulls.

The Sugar Skulls beat the San Diego Strike Force 65-44 last weekend in Tucson’s Indoor Football League debut. Coleman and company now turn their focus to the Bismarck Bucks, who will visit Tucson Arena at 3 p.m. Sunday for the Sugar Skulls’ home opener.

Against San Diego, the Sugar Skulls posted 304 yards of total offense while the defense allowed just 38 net yards in the second half. Former University of Hawaii defensive back Dee Maggitt Jr. recorded two interceptions and a pass breakup, which was good enough to win the IFL Defensive Player of the Week award.

Tucson is currently tied for second in the IFL standings with the Sioux Falls Storm and the Iowa Barnstormers; the Arizona Rattlers lead with a 2-0 record.

Coleman discussed the team’s start and looked ahead to this weekend on the “Tucson Sugar Skulls Coach’s Show” on ESPN Tucson earlier this week.

How did it feel to secure the first win of the season?

A: “I think for us particularly after watching the film, we have something good in regards to the continuity of the team and the type of team we put together. I think the guys realized, although we didn’t put together our best game, we still played pretty good. I think it gives them an idea of something we’ve been preaching since we got here with the expectations and the goals we’re trying to reach. Coming out of that game, guys knew we didn’t play our best, but we still have a lot of work to do. Unlike other professional sports, we don’t have preseason games to work out the kinks. For us, live action is working out the kinks; so we’re working out the kinks, winning games and keeping everything rolling at the same time. For the most part, the trip went well and the guys responded well to in-game adjustments. I’m pretty pleased overall to tell you the truth.”

After watching the game once again, what is a Marcus Coleman film session like?

A: “Depends on how the game went. It was pretty tamed today. I’ll use that word. Pretty tamed. Coming out of that game, you get the W so you want to be happy about the W, however being the type of guy that I am, I wanted to have everything as perfect as possible and my other coaches are like that as well. There’s always something technically that you can work on. We usually ride them pretty hard whether you get the W or the L. That’s one of the things on par for the course. You still want them to enjoy the win and have confidence, but there’s a good balance of, ‘We want to keep your confidence high, but I’m not going to completely tear you down so I’ll just take some notches out of you. I’m gonna humble you a little bit, but I don’t want to break you down,’ so there’s a fine line in doing that. Today’s session was kind of like that.”

Along with your experience in the NFL, where does the win rank among experiences in San Diego?

A: “Probably first because it’s the first win as a head coach, first win as an organization, so right now it’s No. 1. Unfortunately I missed the pregame meal — thanks a lot, fellas — but we went to a Brazilian restaurant not far from the stadium, and it was great.”

Wide receiver Shaquan Curenton said offensive coordinator Hurtis Chinn’s offense is simple and easy to understand. What’s the benefit of having an offense like that?

A: “The simpler you keep it, the easier it is for them to go out and play, and the only thing you work on is whatever you plan on running. And we saw that. Mike (Jones) scored three touchdowns, Shaquan scored three touchdowns. Coach Chinn has done a great job with the quarterbacks and the wide receivers in getting them to understand that. I don’t have to call crazy plays like ‘Spider 2-Y Banana.’ It’s ‘This is what we’re running, and this is the type of coverage you’ll see. So if you see this coverage, this guy is open. If you see this coverage, this guy is open.’ And we may expect you to win one-on-one battles and at this level, you have to win those. He’s doing a great job of teaching them not just the plays, but the why. He explains to the guys, this is why we run this play and break it down for them. They’ve bought in so far. After this game, it should only get better.”

Starting quarterback Matt Behrendt had two touchdowns in the first half, but Jake Medlock stepped in and finished the game. How were those two able to perform in those circumstances?

A: “Those guys are like 1A and 1A-and-a-half if that’s even a thing. If you want to label it, 1A and 1B. Both of those guys are capable of starting in this league, and really any team to be quite honest with you. Skill sets are different. I think Matt is a slightly better runner than Jake, but Jake is a little bit better of a passer than Matt is. Both are very intelligent, high-IQ guys that understand how to read coverages. … To have two guys like that where one is a starter and the other is a backup, we don’t really look at it like that. We look at it as having two starters and depending on what the situation is in the game, we’ll have one go in and if the situation changes, we’ll have the other one go back in.”

What does it say about your defense allowing only 38 yards of total offense in the second half?

A: “That all goes back to me. You can play in the dirt all you want to between the (15-yard lines), but once you get in the red zone, that’s my area. That’s usually when I try to own you. You can do whatever it is in the middle of the field, but once you get into the red zone, now you’re playing in my yard. I picked up that philosophy in my first year in Iowa. I was always worried about stopping the ball all the time, but I was like: ‘You know what? You can do whatever you want to do out here. Once you get into the red zone, now you gotta come see me.’ … Our guys understand that teams will score but the less points and less opportunities you give the offense even if they get down to the red zone, you’ll win.”

How much more important is the home-opener than the season-opener?

A: “Everybody gets an opportunity to see us live and in person. It’s the first home game in team history, and we’re having people come out and see what we’re like in person. Not only see us, but see a game. You might get your favorite player in your lap depending on what the play is. There’s a lot going on, and I’m really looking forward to it, and I’m looking forward to us being home and putting on a good show in front of the hometown folks.”

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Sports producer

Justin writes stories and produces digital content about UA football and basketball and high school football. A Tucson native, Justin graduated from the UA in 2017 and is the host of the Wildcast Podcast and a radio host on ESPN Tucson.

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