The Tucson Sugar Skulls beat the Arizona Rattlers for the second time in franchise history, hanging on for a 54-48 win Saturday evening at the Footprint Center.
So what if the Rattlers were down three-time IFL Most Valuable Player Drew Powell because of injury, a road win against the Western Conference foe and perennial powerhouse up north is a big win.
Tucson now holds sole possession of first place in the Western Conference.
The Sugar Skulls defeated the Rattlers for the first time in franchise history in their matchup in 2022 at Tucson Arena.
Tucson was up 27-21 at the 3:54 mark in the third quarter as the Rattlers (1-2) threatened to tie or take the lead from within the Skulls’ 5-yard line.
Then on fourth-and-four, Traivon Bryant came up with an interception off Jorge Reyna in the end zone, running it back to the 16-yard line.
Tucson extended its lead to 34-21 on the first play of the next drive when Ramone Atkins found Carrington Thompson for a 34-yard touchdown reception.
Tucson’s defense held firm and the deficit was ultimately too much for the Rattlers to overcome.
A 4-yard rushing touchdown from Jager Gardner at the 2:15 mark in the fourth quarter trimmed Tucson’s lead 41-35.
The Rattlers then opted to kick an onside kick on the following kickoff, and Thompson scooped it up and ran it into the end zone. After a missed extra point, Tucson was up 47-35.
With 1:11 left in the game, Reyna found Isiah Scott for a 30-yard touchdown reception to trim Tucson’s lead to 47-42.
Tucson recovered the ensuing onside attempt.
A 1-yard rushing touchdown from Mike Jones with 19 seconds remaining sealed the deal for Tucson.
Scott hauled in a 28-yard touchdown pass from Reyna as time expired, but it only changed the score on the scoreboard, not the outcome.
After an evenly matched first half in which both teams struggled to take control of the game, the Rattlers clung to a 21-20 lead.
Tucson is now 2-0 for the first time in franchise history.
Next week, the Sugar Skulls will face-off with the Bay Area Panthers, whose offensive coordinator is Tucson’s former head coach Dixie Wooten.
Wooten went 15-16 in the previous two seasons with the Sugar Skulls.
Tucson (2-0) next plays against the Bay Area Panthers (1-1) Sunday, April 16, in San Jose at 5:05 Tucson time.
FOLLOW @KEVINMURFEE ON TWITTER!
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writer Kevin Murphy was born and raised in Tucson, and has followed Arizona Wildcats athletics since childhood. Murphy is a journalist product manager with the Green Valley News & the Sahuarita Sun. He has a bachelor’s degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU.