The Tucson Sugar Skulls are off to a sweet start in their inaugural season in the Indoor Football League. The Sugar Skulls (2-0) took down the Bismarck Bucks (0-2) 62-42 at Tucson Arena in the franchise’s first home game.
Tucson debuted its gameday atmosphere with gray turf, live bands performing outside, a beer garden, rock and party music pumping over the arena’s speakers every moment besides during plays, the mascot named “Bones” and, of course, Sugar Skulls merchandise, which had a line of about 200 fans before kickoff. The announced attendance for the game was 5,198 fans.
Donning all-black uniforms, Tucson only trailed once during the entire game, which was a rouge point given to Bismarck after defensive back and kick returner Nigel Bethel was tackled in the Sugar Skulls’ end zone on the opening kickoff. Only in the IFL can a game begin 1-0.
Sugar Skulls quarterback Matt Behrendt started under center for the second straight game and powered Tucson to 216 yards of total offense.
Behrendt got Tucson on the board with a six-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brandon Sampson. On the following offensive drive, Behrendt found Donovan Rasberry for a 12-yard touchdown and Tucson jumped out to a 14-1 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Last week in San Diego, Tucson’s defense held the Strike Force to 38 net yards of offense in the second half. The defensive unit gave up 29 yards in the first quarter led by linebacker Zach Allen, who finished the first half with eight tackles, which almost tied his game total last week against San Diego with nine.
After Bismarck quarterback Homer Causey found Frederick Abraham for a touchdown to begin the second quarter, Tucson held the Bucks scoreless for the final 12 minutes of the second half despite giving up 80 yards. Tucson native and Sugar Skulls cornerback Cam Gaddis intercepted a pass in the back of the end zone on a crucial fourth-down play, which was his first of the season.
Behrendt provided the defense with breathing room and threw two unanswered touchdowns to end the first half. Behrendt completed 10 of 12 passes for 141 yards and five touchdowns to three different wide receivers in the first half: Sampson, Rasberry and Shaquan Curenton.
Last week against San Diego, the 2018 IFL passing leader in Jake Medlock was installed as the starting quarterback in the second half, but Behrendt remained in the game on Sunday.
Late in the third quarter, Behrendt extended the lead 42-14 with a 21-yard pass to Curenton, who finished the game with two catches for 52 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Curenton, a former Scottsdale Community College recevier, now has five touchdowns on the season.
Despite Causey scoring three second-half touchdowns for Bismarck, Tucson was able to hold off by Behrendt throwing for three touchdowns and running back Shad Thornton's two touchdowns. Thornton didn't play in last week's season opener for unspecified reasons, but started at running back for Tucson. Thornton finished the game with three catches for 31 yards and rushed for 73 yards.
Behrendt finished the game completing 19 of 25 passes for 234 yards and eight touchdowns. The Sugar Skulls had 388 yards of total offense, which topped last week's total of 304.
Tucson will play the Arizona Rattlers in Phoenix on Saturday, March 16 at 5 p.m.