TUCSON, ARIZ. – The Arizona Rattlers (6-0) kicked off their three-game road trip with a 55-41 victory over the Tucson Sugar Skulls (3-3) at the Tucson Convention Center on Sunday in front of 4,138 fans.
The Sugar Skulls kept it close through much of the game, but a blocked field goal by DE Chris McAllister that was recovered in the end zone by DB Dillion Winfrey, and a 45-yard interception return by DB Phillip Henry early in the fourth helped the Rattlers pull away.
"The receiver ran a slant, I saw the quarterback. I was in good position," said Henry. "I saw the quarterback throw it so I just jumped it and took it to the house."
"We blocked the field goal for the touchdown and then were able to fake the extra point and get back up and make up the missed extra point that we had," said General Manager and Head Coach Kevin Guy. "Then we had the interception for the touchdown. That was the difference of the game. I knew they were going to come out ready to play."
Tucson had the lead or was tied through much of the first half, but Arizona took a lead midway through the third and would not let up.
"I knew we were fighting against our mindset. After winning 63-28 (against Tucson in week four) we had the worst warmup in Rattler history before the game… We played that way in the first half," Guy said. "We had several mental miscues in the first half and then at halftime we went in and delivered a message. They received it and they came out and tightened things up."
Arizona's QB Jeff Ziemba completed 10-of-18 passes for 126 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for 38 yards on six attempts.
For Tucson, Jake Medlock completed 11 of his 23 attempts for 168 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw two interceptions.
The Rattlers defense was led by Davontae Merriweather who had 8.5 total tackles and an interception.
For the Sugar Skulls, defensive backs Cam Gaddis and Micah Eugene both led the team with six tackles each.
The Sugar Skulls got on the board first off of a one-yard run by QB Jake Medlock.
The Rattlers responded with a 2-yard touchdown run by RB Jabre Lolley to tie the score at 7 apiece.
Tucson regained the lead when Medlock threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to WR Rico Brown. The extra point from K Diego Marquez was good to make the score 14-7.
After a turnover on downs, and then a missed field goal, the Rattlers would again find the endzone after a 22-yard touchdown pass from Ziemba to WR Jarrod Harrington.
Arizona held Tucson to a field goal attempt by Marquez, which was missed, and took advantage off a six-yard touchdown pass from Ziemba to WR Jamal Miles.
The Sugar Skulls would again knot the game up at 21 on the next play from scrimmage when Medlock connected with WR Shaq Curenton from 38 yards and the score.
The Rattlers began the second half by quickly scoring off a one-yard run by Lolley, taking a 28-21 lead.
Tucson tied the game at 28 off a seven-play drive that was capped off by a one-yard touchdown run from Medlock.
Rattlers again took the lead on the next offensive play when Ziemba threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Harrington. The PAT was missed to make the score 34-28
Arizona would extend their lead after DE Chris McAllister blocked a field goal attempt by Marquez and was recovered in the end zone by DB Dillion Winfrey. Harrington rushed in for the two-point conversion to make the score 42-28.
The Sugar Skulls would pull within eight off of a 13-yard touchdown pass from Medlock to WR Rico Brown.
The Rattlers started to pull away when, on next drive, Ziemba connected with Miles for another 25-yard touchdown pass. Then, on Tucson's next drive, Medlock would be hit as he threw and the ball was intercepted by DB Phillip Henry and returned 45 yards for the score and a 20-point lead.
Tucson finally got back on the board after an eight-play drive that resulted in a one-yard run by Medlock. The PAT failed.
The Rattlers will face the San Diego Strike Force (0-6) for the second time in three weeks when they head to the Pechanga Arena in San Diego next Monday, April 22nd. Game kicks off at 7:05 p.m. AZT, and can be seen live on YouTube.