MOLINE, Illinois – The formula for the Tucson Sugar Skulls' third straight loss, 72-54 to the Quad City Steamwheelers, was simple.
The Steamwheelers scored on every offensive possession and put up the most points in a game against the Sugar Skulls so far this season.
Quarterback E.J. Hilliard was a highly efficient 14-of-18 passing for 247 yards and five touchdowns. The Steamwheelers rushed for another 87 yards giving them 334 total yards, the most allowed by the Sugar Skulls this season.
Through the first quarter and into the second, the two teams traded scores and were tied at 17 when a key sequence put the Sugar Skulls' backs against the wall where they would remain the rest of the game.
Tucson was driving for a go-ahead score with third and goal at the Steamwheelers' 1-yard line when quarterback Matt Behrendt tried to reach across the goal line with the ball. The ball was knocked loose and the Steamwheelers recovered. Head Coach Marcus Coleman asked for a replay review to determine if the ball crossed the goal line before it was knocked from Behrendt's hand. The ruling of a fumble was upheld giving the ball to the Steamwheelers at their 5-yard line.They scored on 45-yard pass on the next play.
The Sugar Skulls tied the game at 24, but went into halftime down, 31-24, after an unusual turn of events at the end of the half. Placekicker Josh Gable, who joined the team this week, kicked a 44-yard field that hit the wiring holding the uprights as time ran out. The field goal was called no good. But a replay review overturned the call and the Sugar Skulls went into the half thinking they were down, 31-27. When the teams returned to the field, the referee announced that the kick was reviewed again, and the three points were taken off the board.
The Steamwheelers had the first possession of the second half and a touchdown with 11:34 left in the third quarter put the Sugar Skulls down by 14. From that point, it was a game of catch-up and the Sugar Skulls could get no closer than seven points with the Steamwheelers scoring on each possession until time ran out.
Despite the losing skid, the Sugar Skulls remain firmly in the playoff hunt at the halfway point of the season. They are in sixth place, tied with Quad City, who they will meet again in Tucson in the last game of the regular season on June 15. Six teams qualify for the playoffs.
However, the Sugar Skulls face a difficult task in the coming week with the defending IFL Champion Iowa Barnstormersvisiting Tucson Arena on Saturday. The game is at 6 p.m. The Barnstormers are 6-1 after sufferingtheir first loss on Saturday, 36-32 to the Sioux Falls Storm.