WEEK 17 RECAP: Sugar Skulls nab playoff bid with win over QC Jun 15, 2019 20:34:40 GMT -8
Post by DiamondThief on Jun 15, 2019 20:34:40 GMT -8
FINAL - Sugar Skulls 55, Steamwheelers 50
Tucson Sugar Skulls QB Matt Behrendt.
Photo by Daniel Martinez for the Arizona Daily Star
TUCSON, AZ - The expansion Tucson Sugar Skulls are in the playoffs.
Tucson fended off a fourth quarter rally attempt from the Quad City Steamwheelers to come away with a 55-50 win tonight at the Tucson Convention Center. The win clinches the sixth seed in the post season. The Sugar Skulls, which finished the regular season at 7-7, will visit the 11-3 Sioux Falls Storm in the first round on June 23 at 1:05 p.m. (pacific standard time). The game will be held at the Storm's home arena, the Denny Sanford Premier Center. The teams have never met.
Quad City, based out of Moline, Illinois, saw its season come to a close with a 6-8 mark; they had defeated Tucson 72-54 on April 20 at home. Coming into the weekend, the Steamwheelers had perhaps the best chance at earning a playoff berth, but with this loss and the Nebraska Danger's win over the Iowa Barnstormers at Des Moines, found themselves eliminated.
The Sugar Skulls are the only first-year Indoor Football League team to reach the playoffs. The Steamwheelers and Bismarck Bucks transitioned from Champions Indoor Football over the off season, and the San Diego Strike Force ended their expansion season at 1-13.
The Steamwheelers led at the half, 28-27, but were outscored 21-0 in the third quarter.
Quad City scored on the first drive of the game on a four-yard run from quarterback E.J. Hilliard, but Tucson would come back with three straight touchdowns. Sugar Skulls quarterback Matt Behrendt's three-yard touchdown run tied the game at 7-7 with nine minutes left in the first quarter. Behrendt hit Rico Brown for a 32-yard touchdown with five seconds left in the quarter to put the Sugar Skulls up 14-7 heading into the second.
Mike Jones, who had a tremendous game for the Sugar Skulls, scored on a five-yard run two minutes into the second quarter. Zavier Steward of Quad City responded with a two-yard run to cut the Tucson lead to 20-14 with nine minutes left in the quarter. Jones' struck again on a run of 11 yards four-and-a-half minutes later and Tucson was up 27-14. Hilliard hit Zach Minch for a touchdown of a yard. The Steamwheelers attempted an onside kick which was recovered by Minch at the nine yard line of Tucson. Hilliard's eight-yard touchdown strike to Quinton Pedroza put the Steamwheelers on top by a point at intermission.
The third quarter was key for the Sugar Skulls. Behrendt hit Rico Brown for 10-yard touchdown, then ran in from three yards. Jones added an eight-yard run and the Sugar Skulls found themselves on the precipice of a playoff spot with a 48-28 lead heading into the final quarter.
Quad City had no intention of letting their season end. Hilliard's run of two yards pulled the Steamwheelers to within two scores early in the fourth, but Behrendt countered with a two-yard run of his own six minutes later. Hilliard's nine-yard run, and a two-point conversion rush by Keyvan Rudd, made the score 55-42 with 4:40 left. Hilliard hit Robert Jones on a two-yard touchdown, and Pedroza's two-point conversion run was successful, pulling the Steamwheelers to within five points at the 1:25 mark of the fourth quarter. However, Quad City was unable to complete the comeback.
Jones, playing on the "hands team" recovered a pair of onside kicks following the Steamwheelers' final two scores. His second recovery allowed the Sugar Skulls to run out the clock and preserve their playoff bid.
Play was stopped for several minutes late in the third quarter as Steamwheelers defensive lineman Kewan Alfred was injured. He was carried off the field on a stretcher and taken to a local hospital for care. According to reports, Alfred was aware. Members of both teams, and fans at the Tucson Convention Center, were silent in concern during the stoppage. Alfred received a round of supportive applause from Tucson fans as he was taken off the field.
The Sugar Skulls held an advantage in total offense, 265 yards to 242. They had a 106-yard edge in the rushing game, while the Steamwheelers had an 83-yard advantage in the passing game. Tucson overcame 12 penalties for 125 yards to win the game. Quad City was flagged four times for 25 yards.
Behrendt went eight of 11 passing for 96 yards and an interception. He also rushed 13 times for 53 yards and three scores. Jones was the workhorse for the Sugar Skulls, rushing 14 times for 116 yards, second-high in the IFL this season. He also rushed for three touchdowns. Brown caught three passes for 55 yards to go along with his two touchdown grabs. Micah Eugene, Jr. was all over the field for the Sugar Skulls defense, finishing with 12 tackles (all solo). Edward Burns and Dee Maggitt, Jr. each had an interception, and Rayshawn Henderson recorded a sack.
Hilliard finished 18 of 25 for 179 yards with three touchdowns and a pair of picks. Coming into the game, he had thrown only one interception on the season. Hilliard rushed for 46 yards off a dozen carries with three touchdowns. Keyvan Rudd was Hilliard's primary target all nihgt, finishing with seven catches for 120 yards. Malike Duncan's six tackles led the Quasd City defense, and Antonio Marshall had an interception.
All IFL playoff games will be streamed live on the IFL's Official YouTube Channel. As we have all season, SCtoC will present detailed previews all of the playoff games. Those previews will be posted on the board of the home team in each game. The preview for the United Bowl will be posted on the IFL board; the same board in which this recap is featured.
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