Tucson Sugar Skulls coach Dixie Wooten was in need of an offensive line coach and rather than scour the nation, he turned to Arizona great Brandon Sanders and others for suggestions for a potential local candidate.
The name Al Alexander consistently came up. The longtime assistant and associate head coach with Dennis Bene at Salpointe who joined Pat Nugent’s staff at Cienega last year warranted an interview.
Chuck Miller, who was hired to be the Sugar Skulls’ offensive line coach in December 2019, reportedly has to stay at home in the Chicago area because of health reasons and is unable to coach this year.
“Coach Wooten called me and we built a good relationship,” Alexander said. “I’m telling you, I’m enjoying it so much, if it can turn into a good thing, I’m all ears.”
The Sugar Skulls are in their second week of practice leading up to the May 21 opener at Green Bay. They will play for the first time since their inaugural season of 2019 because COVID-19 canceled their operations last year. The home opener at the Tucson Convention Center is June 5 against the Iowa Barnstormers, Wooten’s former team.
Sanders, who made Pueblo High School’s program into a perennial winner, was hired last year by Wooten to join his staff as the defensive backs coach. Sanders left the Sugar Skulls for his alma mater in January, joining the staff at Arizona under Jedd Fisch as the coordinator of football alumni and high school relations
Alexander will shift to Mica Mountain for the 2021 season, joining Nugent’s staff there. The Thunderbolts, who will be in their second year of existence, are in a transitionary phase this fall, slated to play only two varsity games.
“Brandon gave a good recommendation for me from our time playing against him,” Alexander said. “I appreciate that. It has worked out with my schedule at Mica Mountain. The Sugar Skulls do everything in the morning with practices and right now with spring practice at Mica Mountain, we’re doing that at night.
“This is a great opportunity with the Sugar Skulls. It’s professional football. You can’t turn that down.”
Alexander said he is getting as much out of the experience of coaching the Sugar Skulls’ linemen as they are getting from his two decades worth of knowledge as a coach. Alexander was also a standout lineman out of the Los Angeles area who briefly was at UNLV before graduating from Western New Mexico.
One of the Sugar Skulls’ lineman, Tucson High graduate Antonio Rosales, carries a meaningful relationship with Alexander.
“The crazy story about (Rosales) when he was at Tucson High, the head coach from San Diego State (Rocky Long) came to Salpointe and asked me and Bene if any other guys in town can play,” Alexander said. “Coach Bene and I told him about the dude at Tucson High. It ended up being his only offer and he had a great career there at San Diego State.
“We talk about it. He’s one of my guys. It’s crazy how everything works out.”
One other Tucson product — Santa Rita grad Cam Gaddis — is on the Sugar Skulls’ roster entering his second playing season with the organization.
Gaddis started seven games for the Sugar Skulls in 2019. He tied for the team lead with three interceptions and added 23 solo tackles.
Rosales also played with the Sugar Skulls in 2019. Here is a video interview with him recently at Jet Sports Training, where he serves as an instructor:
Here is the 2021 Sugar Skulls’ schedule:
WEEK 1: Bye
WEEK 2: May 21, 5:05 p.m. @ Green Bay Blizzard
WEEK 3: May 29, 5:05 p.m. @ Duke City Gladiators
WEEK 4: June 5, 6:05 p.m. vs. Iowa Barnstormers
WEEK 5: June 12, 6:05 p.m. @ Arizona Rattlers
WEEK 6: June 19, 6:05 p.m. vs. Massachusetts Pirates
WEEK 7: June 26, 6:05 p.m. @ Northern Arizona Wranglers
WEEK 8: July 3, 6:05 p.m. vs. Arizona Rattlers
WEEK 9: July 10, 6:05 p.m. vs. Duke City Gladiators
WEEK 10: July 17, 7:05 p.m. @ Spokane Shock
WEEK 11: July 24, 6:05 p.m. vs. Bismarck Bucks
WEEK 12: July 31, 6:05 p.m. vs. Northern Arizona Wranglers
WEEK 13: Aug. 7, 6:05 p.m. @ Arizona Rattlers
WEEK 14: Aug. 14, 6:05 p.m. vs. Duke City Gladiators
WEEK 15: Aug. 21, 6:05 p.m. @ Northern Arizona Wranglers
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District