BISMARCK, North Dakota – With the Tucson Sugar Skulls’ playoff future hanging in the balance, quarterback Matt Behrendt made a relief appearance and rallied the Skulls’ to their third straight victory, 52-40, over the Bismarck Bucks.
Combined with a last-second Nebraska Danger loss to the Sioux Falls Storm, the Sugar Skulls’ victory put them in sole possession of fifth place in the IFL with a 6-5 record. The top six teams make the playoffs.
“We knew it was going to be tough to come in here and play,” said Head Coach Marcus Coleman. “Bismarck has been playing teams tough all year. It was just a matter of us finishing a game which I thought we did.
“We showed a lot of mental toughness and made the plays we needed to make to seal the game,” Coleman said. “From a character standpoint, it was one of those team-building moments where we came together and finished the ball game.” Behrendt, who has split starting duties with Jake Medlock, entered the game early in the fourth quarter after the Bucks took a 37-35 lead on a field goal set up by a Tucson fumble, the Sugar Skulls’ only turnover of the game.
Behrendt drove the Sugar Skulls 38 yards in five plays to regain the lead, 42-37, scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a 2-yard run. The teams then traded field goals leading to a dramatic finish. With Tucson holding a 45-40 lead, the Sugar Skulls lined up to kick off after their field goal with 57 seconds left in the game. The kick by Josh Gable hit directly at the feet of a Bucks return man, bounced away, and Mike Jones recovered for the Sugar Skulls.
But there was more drama left. The Sugar Skulls were trying to run out the clock and were facing third down and 14 with 40 seconds left after being set back by a 15-yard penalty. Behrendt lined up under center, faked a handoff to Jones and found wide receiver Jeremiah Harris in the end zone from 30 yards away for the game-clinching touchdown.
“We knew what they were expecting so we dialed up that play and it was a great throw and catch,” Coleman said. “Sometimes you’ve got to make those calls and seal the game. That was the moment that showed us the team got mentally tougher tonight.”
The Sugar Skulls return home to face the unbeaten Arizona Rattlers on Saturday, May 25, for the first of back-to-back meetings split by an off week. Kickoff is 6 p.m. at Tucson Arena. It will be Military and First Responders Appreciation Night. The first 2,000 fans at the game will also receive a Sugar Skulls Rally Towel sponsored by Farhang & Medcoff. Gates will open at 5 p.m.
Notes & Numbers
- The two-headed quarterback of Medlock and Behrendt was an efficient 12 of 18 passing for 162The two-headed quarterback of Medlock and Behrendt was an efficient 12 of 18 passing for 162yards and five touchdowns. Medlock had four of the TD tosses, all in the first half, bringing his season total to 26.
- Harris joined the Sugar Skulls for their May 4 game against San Diego and made an immediate impact on kick returns. However, his big contribution against the Bucks came at wide receiver where he caught two touchdown passes, both in clutch situations. His first TD catch came with14 seconds left in the first half, on a 7-yard toss from Medlock. His second was the 30-yarder from Behrendt with 31 seconds left in the game.
- Jones rushed for 59 yards and scored two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving. He entered the game leading the league averaging 60 yards rushing per game. He also had 51yards receiving.
Post Game Notes