The Tucson Sugar Skulls earned a third seed in the Western Conference playoffs with a 50-41 road win over Bay Area in Saturday night’s regular season finale.
Tucson will face Northern Arizona in Prescott Valley in the first round of the playoffs.
The Sugar Skulls led 40-28 with 3:38 left in the third quarter when Tucson defensive back Mike Miner was expelled for contacting an official.
Bay Area quarterback Isaac Hurd would score on a 7-yard touchdown run later in the drive. The Panthers went empty on a two-point conversion attempt that followed.
Then it was about the David Haney show, for the most part, at least.
Haney, who just joined the team, ran the next kickoff 38 yards for a touchdown, putting Tucson up 47-34 late in the third quarter.
Bay Area was quick to respond when Duane Gary scored on an 11-yard touchdown run that cut the deficit to 47-41 with 13:05 left in the game.
tucson kicker Logan Justus gave the Sugar Skulls some breathing room with a 29-yard field goal, extending the lead to 50-41 on the next possession.
A few plays into the next drive, Haney caught a crucial interception.
After the interception, Tucson’s offense fizzled in Bay Area territory when Panthers defensive back Elijah Belle came away with an interception in the corner of the end zone with 3:28 left.
With 30 seconds remaining, as Bay Area attempted to score a touchdown from the Tucson 9-yard line to set up a final onside kicking effort, Haney again took the lead.
He knocked a pass off the hands of Panthers wide receiver Daniel Crowell into the end zone, into the hands of the Tucson defensive back Robert Rolle for the interception, and that was it.
Crisis averted. A seeded three in the West assured.
The Sugar Skulls last reached the playoffs in 2019 in the franchise’s inaugural season.
Tucson missed the playoffs as head coach Dixie Wootenfirst season with the team in 2021.
During Wooten’s three seasons as head coach of the Iowa Barnstormers, his teams reached the playoffs all three years, and the Barnstormers won the 2018 United Bowl Championship.
The Sugar Skulls (9-7) will face the Northern Arizona Wranglers (12-4) next Saturday at the Findlay Toyota Center in Prescott Valley in the first round of the IFL Western Conference Playoffs. Kick-off is at 6:05 p.m.
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Editorial Intern ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com Kevin Murphy was born and raised in Tucson, and has followed the athletics of the Arizona Wildcats since childhood. Murphy is a journalist product manager at the Green Valley News and the Sahuarita Sun. He is currently attending ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies.