The Tucson Sugar Skulls experienced their first-ever home loss on Sunday, when they fell to the Arizona Rattlers 55-41 at Tucson Arena.
Quarterback Jake Medlock received the nod as a starter for the second straight game over Matt Behrendt, who was coming off a two-interception performance against Nebraska.
Medlock completed 11 of 23 passes for six touchdowns, but threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter, including a 45-yard pick that was returned for a touchdown by Arizona’s Phillip Henry.
“Early on, he played well. Obviously the two turnovers don’t help It was just Jake pressing a little bit and relying too much on his arm and not enough of his head,” Sugar Skulls coach Marcus Coleman said.
Tucson will get two more shots at the Rattlers, including a May 25 contest in Tucson.
In the meantime, Tucson (3-3) will prepare for this week’s road game against the Quad City Steamwheelers.
The Sugar Skulls boast the top offense in the league, averaging 275.7 yards per game, but have been tormented by turnovers lately. Medlock and Behrendt have combined to turn the ball over five times in the last two weeks.
The three interceptions and a fumble against Nebraska ultimately cost Tucson in a 53-47 loss. The Sugar Skulls hung around, just like they did against the Rattlers, but turnovers and momentum plays did them in. On Sunday, the Sugar Skulls led 14-7 after the first quarter and had a chance to lead by two scores, but Diego Marquez missed a field goal.
At halftime, the game was tied at 21, and Arizona took a 34-28 lead in the third quarter. When Marquez attempted to cut into that lead, Arizona defensive lineman Chris McAllister blocked the field goal, sending the ball into Tucson’s end zone where cornerback Dillion Winfrey recovered it for a touchdown. A blocked field goal recovered in the end zone is what sparked Arizona’s 14-point swing against the Sugar Skulls in Phoenix.
Tucson’s three losses all came roughly the same way, Coleman said.
“It’s all self-inflicted. A lot of those scores that we’ve given away this year has been because of what we didn’t do, not necessarily a team beating us,” he said.
“If we had less talent and got beat and outcoached, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. But we’re making the mistakes and killing ourselves.”
Secondary stepping up
Normally, linebacker Zach Allen is the week-by-week leader of Tucson’s defense. Sunday, however, it was the secondary that stepped up. Cornerback Cam Gaddis and ex-LSU defensive back Micah Eugene led the team with six tackles each. Eugene had a pass breakup and a spectacular near-interception.
He picked off Rattlers quarterback Jeff Ziemba in the corner of the end zone and flipped over the out-of-bounds wall, but a roughing-the-passer penalty by Tucson voided it.
“I got up like it didn’t hurt me because the adrenaline was going,” Eugene said. “I flipped over and hit my legs on a chair and then once we got into halftime, I felt it in my calves and my Achilles.”
At 3-3, Tucson is fifth in the IFL standings. The Rattlers and Iowa Barnstormers are tied at the top with 6-0 records, while the Sioux Falls Storm are 5-1 and the Green Bay Blizzard sit a 5-2. The San Diego Strike Force’s win over Cedar Rapids means there’s only one winless team left in the league: Bismarck at 0-6.
Where in the world is Quad City?
The Quad City Steamwheelers are based in Moline, Illinois, which is close to the Iowa border.
The team is named after sternwheelers, large steam paddleboats that can be seen on the Mississippi River that separates the Iowa-Illinois border.
The franchise was a part of AF2 from 2000-09. The team then folded, but returned in 2018 to join the Champions Indoor Football league; it moved to the IFL at the start of this season. Quad City plays its home games at the Tax Slayer Center, which seats 9,200 fans.
Before last Sunday’s loss, the Sugar Skulls added wide receiver and return specialist Treydonte Hill. The Tabor College (Kansas) product returned seven kickoffs for 100 yards, including a 31-yard return.