Photo: 26 Brandon Fischer came through with the winning kick, along with holder Kaleb Barke
Brandon Fischer’s 24 yard field goal in the final seconds gave the Northern Arizona Wranglers a 34-32 come from behind victory over the Sugar Skulls in Tucson. The game was a lot different than the first meeting in Tucson, when the Wranglers lost a shootout, 72-62. Northern Arizona remains tied at the top of the Western Division with the Arizona Rattlers with an (8-2) record.
The Wranglers were without their top receiver Quentin Randolph, but managed the clock well, especially in the second half, minimizing the possessions by both clubs.
Tucson took the lead on a nine yard run by Mike Jones. The Wranglers answered with a two yard run by Israel Tucker. Jones scored again on a three yard run for a 13-7 lead, as the extra point was botched. The Wranglers defense scored two on a safety as Sugar Skull quarterback Daquan Neal was brought down in the end zone to finish off the first quarter.
The Sugar Skulls extended their lead to 20-9 on Mike Jones third rushing touchdown of the first half, this time on a 15 yard run. Kaleb Barker completed the first of his two touchdown passes to Ulice Gillard for a three yard score, pulling the Wranglers to within 20-15. NAZ botched their own extra point attempt to trail by five.
Daquan Neal connected with Carrington Thompson on a 15 yard touchdown to close out the first half, leading the Wranglers 26-15.
The second half adjustments that coach Les Moss and his staff made paid off, holding the Sugar Skulls to just six points, and a slower tempo on offense gave the Wranglers opportunities they needed to overcome an 11 point deficit.
The third quarter scoring started when Kaleb Barker scored on a three yard run, but the Sugar Skulls came back to score their only time in the entire second half, when Carrington Thompson caught a TD pass from Neal with 3:57 left in the third quarter. The Wranglers defense would shut out Tucson the final 14 minutes.
Down 32-21, the Wranglers took their time going down the field, capping off the drive with a 13 yard Barker pass to Glen Gibbons. Fischer added to PAT to close within 32-28 with 6:02 to play.
Another big stop by the defense allowed the Wranglers to close the within one, 32-31. The Wranglers’ drive though was basically stopped because of back to back penalties, making it a long field, so Northern Arizona picked up three on a 21 yard field goal by Fischer. The defense came up big again, as the Sugar Skulls elected to go for it on fourth down, rather than kicking a field goal to go up by four. The stop came inside the five yard line, when defensive back Tevin Homer made a great play, knocking away a pass intended for Sugar Skull receiver Quinton Pedroza.
Barker and company took it from there, moving the ball down the field, using the clock, and setting up for the Fischer game winning kick with just three seconds left.
Barker’s numbers were 14-24, 173 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions. The quarterback also led the rushing with 47 yards and a TD. Daquan Neal went 8-15 with 124 yards, one TD, and Mike Jones rushed for 37 yards and three touchdowns for Tucson. Glen Gibbons, and Ulice Gillard each had four receptions and a TD. The defense was led by Bill Atkins, Kenton Bartlett, Tevin Homer, Trae Meadows, and the big man up front, Ulric Jones
The Wranglers, winners of five straight, will pay a visit to San Diego to face the Strike Force next Saturday at 7:05pm. The game can be seen on YouTube.
NORTHERN ARIZONA WRANGLERS 34, TUCSON SUGAR SKULLS 32
Score by Quarters- 1 2 3 4 – T
Northern Arizona 9 6 6 13 – 34
Tucson 13 13 6 0 – 32
T-Jones 9 yard run (Justus kick)
NAZ-Tucker 2 yard run (Fischer kick)
T-Jones 3 yard run (Justus kick)
T-Jones 15 yard run (Justus kick)
NAZ-Gillard 3 yard pass from Barker (Fischer kick)
T-Neal 3 yard run (Kick blocked)
NAZ-Barker 3 yard run (Kick failed)
T-Thompson 15 yard pass from Neal (Kick failed)
NAZ-Gibbons 13 yard pass from Barker (Fischer kick)
NAZ-Fischer 21 yard FG
NAZ-Fischer 24 yard FG
Western Conference W L
NORTHERN ARIZONA WRANGLERS 8 2
Arizona Rattlers 8 2
Tucson Sugar Skulls 5 5
Duke City Gladiators 5 5
Vegas Knight Hawks 4 7
San Diego Strike Force 2 8
Bay Area Panthers 1 9
Eastern Conference W L
Frisco Fighters 8 2
Massachusetts Pirates 7 3
Iowa Barnstormers 6 4
Quad City Steamwheelers 4 5
Sioux Falls Storm 5 5
Green Bay Blizzard 4 7
Bismarck Bucks 3 8
WRANGLERS 34, Tucson 32
Arizona 35, Bay Area 23
Frisco 42, Vegas 21
Duke City 54, San Diego 49
Massachusetts 28, Bismarck 25
Sioux Falls 62, Quad City 55, OT
Iowa 34, Green Bay 24