It was not a homecoming in Albuquerque to remember Saturday night for Tucson Sugar Skulls quarterback Ramone Atkins, who earned Indoor Football League Offensive Rookie of the Year honors last season with the Duke City Gladiators.
Atkins, who played collegiately at New Mexico Highlands at Las Vegas, N.M., threw two interceptions in the first quarter that helped Duke City emerge with a 19-0 lead.
The Gladiators (3-4) ultimately held off Tucson with a 56-49 victory.
The Sugar Skulls are 3-3 after winning the first three games of the season — all on the road — only to lose the last three.
Atkins completed 15 of 20 passes for 128 yards with a touchdown against his former team.
His counterpart at Duke City — Charles McCullum — threw four touchdown passes without an interception while completing 14 of 21 pass attempts for 150 yards.
Tucson’s largest deficit was when it trailed 26-6 with 1:50 left in the first half.
Atkins provided the Sugar Skulls momentum going into halftime rushing for a touchdown and then converting a 2-point conversion run, cutting the lead to 26-14 with 7 seconds left.
The Sugar Skulls continuously tried to cut into Duke City’s lead in the second half to no avail.
On five occasions, the Sugar Skulls cut the margin to a touchdown after Duke City was able to regain a two-touchdown lead.
Mike Jones rushed for three touchdowns in the second half, including a 1-yard plunge with 51 seconds left to cut the lead to 56-49.
Duke City was able to get a first down after fielding the kickoff and proceeded to run out the clock.
Jones finished with 55 yards rushing on 14 carries with four touchdowns. Atkins ran the ball nine times for 39 yards with two scores.
Emetrius Scott led the Sugar Skulls with 48 yards on four receptions.
Tucson returns to the Tucson Arena for the next two games against the Sioux Falls Storm on Saturday and the Bay Area Panthers on May 26.