The Tucson Sugar Skulls picked up a much-needed 41-28 win at Northern Arizona on Saturday evening, coming away with two crucial interceptions during the game and holding the Wranglers to two four-and-outs on its final possessions.
The win for Tucson (7-5) extends its lead over the Wranglers to 1.5 games for the third spot in the IFL Western Conference standings.
The top four teams in the Western Conference qualify for the playoffs.
On the opening drive of the fourth quarter, Atkins connected with wide receiver Tim Lukas on a 35-yard reception that advanced the Sugar Skulls to the 5-yard line, setting up 4-yard touchdown reception for Carrington Thompson a few plays later that put Tucson up 35-28.
On Northern Arizona’s next possession, Tucson picked up its second interception of the evening when linebacker Julian Marcantel picked off a pass up the middle by Wranglers’ quarterback Garrett Kettle, running it back for a touchdown to extend the Sugar Skulls’ lead to 41-28.
Tucson’s defense came up big again when Northern Arizona backup quarterback Nick Watson came up short on fourth-and-1 from the Sugar Skulls’ 2-yard line, all but sealing the win 4:53 left in the game.
The Sugar Skulls’ defense held Northern Arizona (6-7) to another four-and-out from the Tucson 3-yard line with under a minute to go to close out the road win.
Both defenses set the tone early, with Tucson and Northern Arizona trading field goals on their respective opening drives of the game. Neither team took control on offense through three quarters.
Tucson defensive back Rashie Hodge picked up an interception in the end zone on a deep pass from Kettle to set up an eventual 28-yard field goal to put the Sugar Skulls up 20-17 at halftime.
A Northern Arizona field goal on the second half’s opening drive tied the game at 20.
Tucson answered with an 8-yard touchdown reception to Benjamin Jones to take a 27-20 lead on the next possession.
On the ensuing kickoff, Northern Arizona kick returner Jacob Moss couldn’t advance the ball out of the end zone, scoring a one-point rouge for Tucson that extended its lead to 28-20.
A 15-yard rushing touchdown from Jarrod Ware Jr. and a drop kick PAT tied the game at 28 with under a minute to go in the third quarter.
Tucson plays the Vegas Knight Hawks (4-8) next Saturday at 6:05 p.m. Tucson time at Tucson Arena.
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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.