The Tucson Sugar Skulls lost to the Frisco Fighters 56-34 in Texas on Friday evening after a devastating first quarter for Tucson proved to be too much to recover from.
When Frisco running back Justin Rankin scored a rushing touchdown on the first possession, with 13:40 remaining in the first quarter, and the Fighters followed it up by recovering a Benjamin Jones fumble on the ensuing kickoff, it was a sign of a rough night ahead for the Sugar Skulls.
Frisco would score on its next three drives.
Quarterback Blake Sims connected with wide receiver Jerminic Smith for a 1-yard passing touchdown, followed by an impressive showing for Frisco on defense, sacking Tucson quarterback Daquan Neal for a safety. Sims then found wide receiver Laquvionte Gonzalez on a touchdown reception to put Frisco up 22-0 with 5:03 left in the opening quarter.
Just when it looked like it couldn’t get any worse for the Sugar Skulls, it did. Antonio Rosales, who Tucson released after punching an official last season, was ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Tucson was able to close the gap to 35-12 at halftime, thanks, in part, to a 6-yard touchdown pass from Neal to wide receiver Quinton Pedroza in the closing seconds.
The beginning of the third quarter belonged to the Sugar Skulls. Neal connected with wide receiver Arthur Jackson for a 19-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive of the second half. On the following possession, Frisco quarterback TJ Edwards fumbled it in the Fighters’ end zone, and Tucson linebacker Connor Taylor recovered to close the gap to 35-28.
Edwards would redeem himself later in the third quarter, finding former Sugar Skulls wide receiver Sheldon Augustine for a 22-yard touchdown reception to put Frisco up 42-28. Then, on a designed running play, Frisco’s lead was extended when Edwards scored a 21-yard rushing touchdown to put the Fighters up 49-28 to end the third quarter.
Tucson (1-1) plays next in its home opener at the Tucson Convention Center on April 9 against the San Diego Strike Force. 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. Murphy is a journalist product manager with the Green Valley News & the Sahuarita Sun. He is currently attending the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU where he is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies.