Mike Jones and Shaquan Curenton scored three touchdowns apiece as the Tucson Sugar Skulls put a win on the board in the first game in franchise history.
The 65-44 victory came in a matchup of the Indoor Football League’s two expansion franchises. The game was played before a crowd of 3,248 at San Diego’s Pechanga Arena.
The victory also came in the head coaching debut of Sugar Skulls Coach Marcus Coleman. “I feel good for the guys, first and foremost. They’ve been working their tails off to get to this point,” Coleman said after the game. “It’s the first one, hopefully of many, for the Tucson Sugar Skulls.” After missing a field goal on their first possession of the game, the Sugar Skulls scored touchdowns the next five times they touched the ball, including a TD by defensive lineman Keith Jones Jr., who scooped up a fumble at the goal line. Mike Jones scored the first touchdown for the franchise earlier on a 4-yard run to put the Sugar Skulls up, 7-3, with 2:34 left in the first quarter.
The Sugar Skulls built up a 35-17 lead late in the half only to give up a touchdown on the last play before intermission to put the Strike Force within striking distance. San Diego got as close as it was going to get at 35-30 when defensive back Sean Potts-Harris picked up a fumble at the Strike Force two and ran it 48 yards the other way for a touchdown.
The Sugar Skulls scored on three straight possessions after that to build a 56-37 lead and were not threatened the rest of the way. Curenton scored on catches of 32, 18 and 14 yards, the second when he put on a nifty spin move to break into the open and score.
Notes and Numbers
With every game high also a club record, here are some of the key team and individual stats:
• Dee Maggit Jr., one of several former Iowa Barnstormers on the team, had two interceptions and 34 return yards.
• Matt Behrendt started at quarterback and played the entire first half. Jake Medlock stepped in to start the third quarter and finished the game. Behrendt was second on the team in rushing with 34 yards. He ran for a touchdown and passed for another. Medlock was 10 of 14 for 142 yards passing and four touchdowns.
• Curenton tied for a game-high 82 yards receiving to go along with his three TDs.
• Curenton, Donovan Rasberry and Brandon Sampson tied for the team lead with four receptions apiece.
• The Sugar Skulls outgained San Diego 299 yards to 184 in total offense. Both teams lost a fumble. Neither Tucson quarterback threw an interception.
• Kicker Diego Marquez was 9-for-9 on extra points but missed on field goals of 40 and 49 yards.