Sugar Skulls edged out by Northern Arizona on the road

Sugar Skulls running back Mike Jones fends off a tackle in Saturday’s 48-44 road loss to the Wranglers (IFL photo)

The Tucson Sugar Skulls lost 48-44 on the road to the Northern Arizona Wranglers on Saturday, giving the first-year expansion team its first win in franchise history.

The Sugar Skulls held a 27-21 lead at halftime, but their inability to finish drives on offense and stop the ground attack from Wranglers quarterback Verlon Reed on defense were major factors in Tucson losing its fourth straight game of the season.

Northern Arizona’s Justin Wyatt intercepted Demry Croft and took the ball 19 yards the other way for a touchdown on the first possession of the second half.

Croft would go on to throw two more touchdowns in the second half, but it was Reed’s two fourth quarter touchdowns on the ground – one from 38 yards out, and from the goal line with 30 seconds remaining – that sealed the victory for the Wranglers.

The Sugar Skulls drove the ball down to the Wranglers’ 6 yard-line on the ensuing possession before Croft was hit from behind and threw an incomplete pass as time expired.

Three of the five Sugar Skulls loses on the season have been by six points or less.

In what was probably Croft’s second best performance of the season he completed 19 of 29 passing attempts for 211 yards with five touchdowns and an interception. He rushed for 45 yards on 8 carries.

Ryan Balentine was Croft’s top target, catching six passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns.

Malik Stanley caught 5 catches for 32 yards and two touchdowns before being ejected in the fourth quarter after being whistled for a second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty (both were for for throwing the ball into the stands).

Mike Jones rushed for 16 yards on 10 carries and had one touchdown.

Dele Harding led the Sugar Skulls with 6 tackles.

The Tucson Sugar Skulls (1-5) play next Saturday against the Arizona Rattlers (5-1) at the Tucson Convention Center. Kickoff is at 6:05 p.m. writing intern Kevin Murphy was born and raised in Tucson, and has followed Arizona Wildcats athletics since childhood.  He is currently attending Pima Community College where he writes for the Aztec Press. Next semester he will be attending the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU where he will work towards a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies.