The Tucson Sugar Skulls fell to the Northern Arizona Wranglers 36-21 in Prescott Valley on Saturday night behind a quarterback playing in his first IFL game.
The Western Conference matchup between Tucson’s high-powered offense and Northern Arizona’s hard-nosed defense, both IFL-bests, was set up to be a battle of two equal and opposite forces before fate threw a wrench into the Sugar Skulls’ gameplan.
Tucson quarterback Daquan Neal who leads the IFL in completion percentage and touchdown to interception ratio, did not play because he has a tryout scheduled with the Indianapolis Colts, leaving rookie quarterback Gabriel Cunningham to run the offense.
Neal’s absence from the lineup was apparent, with Tucson’s first score coming with 6:20 remaining in the third quarter on a 6-yard rushing touchdown from Mike Jones, narrowing Northern Arizona’s lead to 22-7.
Tucson was down 22-14 to start the fourth quarter and was able to get within one possession of tying the game once again when Jones scored on another 6-yard rushing touchdown to cut Northern Arizona’s lead to 29-21 with 8:20 left in the game, but that was a close as the Sugar Skulls would get.
While Tucson’s defense held up its part of the bargain for the first half, the Sugar Skulls trailed Northern Arizona 9-0 at halftime.
The 21 points Tucson scored against Northern Arizona was a season-low and the second-lowest scoring performance in franchise history. The 57 total points in the game mark the second-lowest combined point total in Tucson’s history.
The loss snaps a three-game winning streak for Tucson.
The Sugar Skulls (4-4) play Saturday in San Diego against the San Diego Strike Force (2-6). Kickoff is at 7:05 p.m.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writing intern 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 is currently attending the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU where he is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies.