PHOENIX, Arizona – The Tucson Sugar Skulls went toe-to-toe with the unbeaten Arizona Rattlers for 60 minutes, but it wasn’t quite enough when the game went to overtime.
Arizona Coach Kevin Guy called for a two-point conversion trailing by one in overtime, and quarterback Drew Powell ran into the corner of the end zone to stop the Sugar Skulls’ upset bid,50-49, in front of a crowd of 13,755 at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
It was the Sugar Skulls’ last of four chances to make a mark on the Rattlers’ record, and it was the hardest Arizona had to work in the four meetings, having won the first three games by double digits.
The Sugar Skulls now head to the last week of the the regular season and their final home game with one thing in mind – the Quad City Steamwheelers. A victory at Tucson Arena on Saturday and theSugar Skulls are in the playoffs in the first year of the franchise. A loss and they are edged out of the six playoffs spots.
“We played with heart and I hope they understand this is how they’re capable of playing every weekend,” Head Coach Marcus Coleman said of his team. “We thought we had a good game plan coming in. Win or lose, I wanted to see our team play a complete ball game and I thought we did that. They just made one more play than we did.”Tucson built a 35-14 first-half lead behind the arm and legs of quarterback Jake Medlock. Medlock ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more in the first half.
The Sugar Skulls added a touchdown on a fake goal to build the lead. But the Rattlers responded with a kick return for a touchdown after the last Sugar Skulls score to trim the lead to 14 at the half.
The Rattlers defense stiffened in the third quarter, holding the Sugar Skulls scoreless, and the two teams went into the fourth quarter tied at 35. Both teams scored in the first five minutes of the quarter then both defenses held up and the game went to overtime. Running back Mike Jones put the Sugar Skulls in front when he bulled his way into the end zone from four yards out. The extra point by Josh Gable made it 49-42.
The Rattlers took three plays to score on their possession and then came the call to go for two. Powell took the snap and swept to the right corner of the end zone for the win. The task is now simple for the Sugar Skulls’ playoff hopes – win and they’re in.“Quad City is next,” Coleman said. “We’ve got to go back to work as coaches. I’m ready to accept that challenge and I know our guys are too.”The Sugar Skulls and Steamwheelers go into Saturday’s game with identical 6-7 records.
The winner is the playoffs. The Steamwheelers can still get in with a loss if the Nebraska Danger loses to the Iowa Barnstormers next week as Quad City holds the tiebreaker over the Danger by virtue of a win in their only regular-season meeting.
Saturday’s game at 6 p.m. at Tucson Arena is Fan Appreciation Night. Ticket prices have been reduced to as low as $10. The first 3,000 fans will get a set of Thundersticks sponsored by GenesisOB/GYN. The game is also a blackout and all fans are asked to wear black.
Tickets are available at the Tucson Convention Center box office, by calling the Sugar Skulls office at (520) 573-3000, or at Ticketmaster.
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