The Tucson Sugar Skulls lost their fifth straight game of the season in a 54-38 home loss against in-state rival and perennial powerhouse, the Arizona Rattlers, on Saturday.
The Rattlers are coached by Tucson’s co-owner Kevin Guy, and are now 6-0 in the series against Tucson since the Sugar Skulls’ inaugural season in 2019.
Tucson head coach Dixie Wooten finds himself in an unfamiliar place with his team sitting at 1-6 with seven games remaining on the schedule.
“I can’t even lie to you man, it’s a challenge,” Wooten said. “So, when I see challenges I stay up all night with challenges. I love the game of football and I can say ‘Hey, we started one and six and we found a way to pull it out and win seven games straight.'”
The Sugar Skulls took what would be their only lead of the game when Demry Croft found Ryan Balentine for an 8-yard touchdown reception to give Tucson a 17-13 lead over the Rattlers with under two minutes to go in the first half.
The Rattlers responded with a touchdown on the next drive off a 24-yard bomb from Drew Powell to Jarrod Harrigton. Arizona recovered an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff and Nick LaSane scored on a 2-yard rushing touchdown a couple plays later to put the Rattlers up 27-17 going into halftime.
Although the Sugar Skulls kept the game competitive for most of the second half, the Rattlers never looked back.
When Wooten answered a question about going back to the basics, he was adamant that time to get back to the basics has passed.
“The basics is over with,” said Wooten. “It’s time to watch film and take constructive criticism the hard way. We gotta face reality on some things, back to the basics is cool but it’s time to face reality.
“It’s time to say, ‘Ok, as a player I’m not doing my job, I need to do my job’. So the basics is not going to fix it, it’s time for some accountability.”
Croft completed 14 of 23 passing attempts for 180 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. He rushed for 43 yards on 14 carries and had two touchdowns.
Balentine was Croft’s top target, catching seven passes for 95 yards and three touchdowns.
Matt Elam, a former first-team All-American at Florida and a first-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens, led the team with 8.5 tackles.
The Sugar Skulls (1-6) play next Saturday against the Duke City Gladiators (3-4) at the Tucson Convention Center. Kickoff is at 6:05 p.m.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writing intern Kevin Murphy was born and raised in Tucson, and has followed Arizona Wildcats athletics since childhood. He is currently attending Pima Community College where he writes for the Aztec Press. Next semester he will be attending the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU where he will work towards a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies.