The Tucson Sugar Skulls had a chance to take the lead late in the game, but turned the ball over on downs with 16 seconds left at the Green Bay 23-yard line in a 42-36 loss in their season opener on Friday night.
The Sugar Skulls’ early-season mistakes ultimately cost them against the host Blizzard, who had already played four games because of fluctuating schedules due to COVID-19 protocols.
Tucson, playing its first game in two seasons because COVID-19 canceled operations last year, committed 12 penalties, giving up 91 yards to an already game-tested Green Bay team that only committed six.
The Sugar Skulls, who held a 28-20 halftime lead, went scoreless in the third quarter.
Green Bay wide receiver Eric Thomas Jr. scored receiving touchdowns on both the first and last drives of the quarter, allowing the Blizzard to take a 33-28 lead.
With 5:45 minutes left in regulation, Demry Croft scored a rushing touchdown from 2 yards before Mike Jones ran into the end zone for a 2-point conversion to even the score at 36-36.
After the conversion, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was called against the Sugar Skulls and it was enforced after a long kickoff return by the Blizzard.
Green Bay started its possession on Tucson’s 8-yard line. Kerrion Moore ran the ball into the end zone on the next play, but the Blizzard missed the extra-point, leaving the Sugar Skulls down 42-36 with just under four minutes to go.
The Sugar Skulls would drive all the way to Green Bay’s 15-yard line, but were stalled when Jones lost three yards on a rush and the team was penalized with a false start. The Sugar Skulls then turned the ball over on downs on the next play on Croft’s incomplete pass in the end zone.
Croft completed 15 of 26 passing attempts for 160 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He rushed for 55 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns.
Kent Shelby II was Croft’s top target, catching five passes for 67 yards and one touchdown.
Sheldon Augustine had three receptions for 31 yards and a touchdown and Jones, who played with the Sugar Skulls in 2019, rushed for 38 yards on 11 carries and had one touchdown. Jones also had three catches for 26 yards.
Santa Rita and Pima College graduate Cam Gaddis and TT Barber both had five tackles.
The Sugar Skulls (0-1) play next Friday at 5:05 p.m. against the Duke City Gladiators in Albuquerque. It will be the season opener for the Gladiators.
Tucson’s home opener at the Tucson Convention Center is June 5 against the Iowa Barnstormers, the former team of Sugar Skulls coach Dixie Wooten.
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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.