Failing to hold on to fourth-quarter leads has been the theme of the Tucson Sugar Skulls' losing skid.
The late-game miscues were on display Saturday night in Prescott Valley, when the Tucson Sugar Skulls fell to the Northern Arizona Wranglers 48-44.
It's the fourth straight loss for the Sugar Skulls, while Northern Arizona — the newest addition to the IFL — picked up its first-ever franchise victory after starting the season 0-5. Tucson is now 0-3 this season when it's featured in the IFL Game of the Week.
The Wranglers were led by former IFL Rookie of the Year, quarterback Verlon Reed Jr., who signed with Northern Arizona this week. Reed finished the game with five all-purpose touchdowns, including three in the second half — and the go-ahead score on the goal line with 42 seconds left in the game.
Sugar Skulls quarterback Demry Croft also finished with five touchdowns, but threw a costly interception that was returned for a touchdown to begin the second half, which pulled the Wranglers ahead 28-27 at the start of the third quarter. Two of Croft's touchdowns were to wide receiver Malik Stanley, who made his first start Saturday night, but was ejected from the game for two unsportsmanlike penalties after he — twice — tossed the ball to fans.
In the midst of the back-and-forth offensive shootout, new Sugar Skulls kicker Jimmy Camacho, in place of Daniel Bowen who was released from the team this week, sunk a league-best 54-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. But the Sugar Skulls' defense couldn't keep Reed out of the end zone in the second half.
With four seconds left, Tucson had one play in the red zone to score the game-winning touchdown, but Croft was tripped up in the pocket and threw the ball into the turf at the goal line to end the game, securing a win for the Wranglers.
The loss dropped Tucson (1-5) to last place in the IFL standings, with Northern Arizona (1-5) owning the tie-breaker.
Up next: Tucson will host in-state rival Arizona Rattlers (5-1) on Saturday at 6:05 p.m.