The Tucson Sugar Skulls secured a three seed in the Western Conference Playoffs with a 50-41 road win over Bay Area in the regular season finale on Saturday night.
Tucson will face Northern Arizona in Prescott Valley in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Sugar Skulls were up 40-28 with 3:38 left in the third quarter when Tucson defensive back Mike Minter got ejected for contacting an official.
Bay Area quarterback Isaac Hurd would score on a 7-yard touchdown scramble later in the drive. The Panthers came up empty on a two-point conversion attempt that followed.
Then it was the David Haney show, for the most part.
Haney, who just recently joined the team, ran back the following kickoff 38 yards for a touchdown, putting Tucson up 47-34 at the end of the third quarter.
Bay Area didn’t take long to respond when Duane Gary scored on an 11-yard touchdown run that narrowed the gap to 47-41 with 13:05 left in the game.
Tucson kicker Logan Justus gave the Sugar Skulls some breathing room with a 29-yard field goal, extending the lead to 50-41 on the next possession.
A few plays into Bay Area’s next drive, Haney picked up a crucial interception.
Following the interception, Tucson’s offense came up short in Bay Area territory when Panthers’ defensive back Elijah Belle came away with an interception in the corner of the end zone with 3:28 left on the clock.
With 30 seconds left, as Bay Area attempted to score a touchdown from Tucson’s 9-yard line to set up a last-ditch onside kick effort, Haney came up big again.
He knocked a pass out of Panthers’ wide receiver Daniel Crowell’s hands in the end zone, into the hands of Tucson defensive back Robert Rolle for the interception, and that was that.
Crisis averted. A three seed in the West secured.
The Sugar Skulls last reached the postseason in 2019 in the franchise’s inaugural season.
Tucson missed the postseason in head coach Dixie Wooten‘s first season with the team in 2021.
In Wooten’s three seasons as head coach of the Iowa Barnstormers, his teams reached the playoffs all three years, and the Barnstormers won the 2018 United Bowl championship.
The Sugar Skulls (9-7) play the Northern Arizona Wranglers (12-4) next Saturday at the Findlay Toyota Center in Prescott Valley in the IFL Western Conference Playoffs opening round. Kickoff is at 6:05 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.