Penalties doom Sugar Skulls in loss to Strike Force

Coming off a thrilling 47-43 win over Duke City Gladiators last week, the Tucson Sugar Skulls and their #2 ranked defense were looking to extend their winning streak as they faced the San Diego Strike Force Saturday night in the Boneyard.

In their last match up in April, the Sugar Skulls (6-5) came out on the losing end of a double overtime battle in San Diego (5-7) eventually losing 51-44.

It looked like the Sugar Skulls would get their revenge as wide receiver Dequan Dudley took the opening kickoff 50 yards for a Tucson touchdown.

Dudley, who was added to the roster two weeks ago, had 4 kickoff returns for 98 yards.

Sugar Skulls quarterback Ramone Atkins on the addition of Dudley, “after losing Demetrius Scott he came in, similar body style, similar play style. Glad to have him on board.”

The Strike Force punched back with a touchdown of their own on their first offensive possession when quarterback Nate Davis hit receiver Marques Rodgers for an 11-yard pass in the end zone.

The first of many untimely penalties for Tucson came with 5:26 left in the 1st quarter. Atkins threw a strike to Carrington Thompson for an apparent touchdown. San Diego coach Taylor Genuser challenged an uncalled false start on the play. Referees agreed and the Tucson touchdown was called back.

Atkins when asked about the challenge that took away the touchdown, “certain teams pick and choose when they want to throw their challenges. It’s more common now because a lot of refs are new. They call what they see.”

IFL rules allow coaches to challenge no call penalties.

On their next offensive possession, San Deigo running back Edward Vander ran it in from 8 yards out, putting the Strike force up 14-7 with 3:00 left in the 1st.

Beginning of the 2nd quarter, Ramone Atkins snuck into the end zone for a Tucson score. A mishandled snap on the extra point try was returned by San Diego for 2 points putting the Strike Force up 16-13 at the 11:32 mark.

On the Strike Forces next possession, they marched down the field scoring on a Vander 10-yard run giving San Diego a 23-13 advantage with 8:59 left in the half.

Tucson answered back with a beautiful floating pass from Atkins to Daylon Person getting Tucson within 3 with 5:53 left in the half.

With 10 seconds left before half time, Atkins found Person hanging out against the wall in the back of the end zone getting Tucson back to within 3 at 30-27.

The Sugar Skulls second untimely penalty came with seconds left in the first half. Tucson was called for illegal defense on a third down stop.

With one second to go before the end of the half, the ball placed at the 27-yard line, Strike Force kicker Kevin Goessling hit a field goal giving San Diego a 33-27 lead going into half time.

The second half was a classic get punched and punch back offensive display by both teams.

San Diego added a Goessling field goal, a passing touchdown to Carlos Thompson, a Rudy Johnson rushing score and another touchdown catch from Thompson.

San Diego’s quarterback Nate Davis went 17 of 24 with 207 yards passing and five touchdowns.

On Davis’s performance, Sugar Skulls head coach Hurtis Chinn said, “we played against a quarterback that has an arm that will beat your coverage no matter how good the coverage is.”

“No matter how good the scheme is sometimes, his arm will beat your coverage and we didn’t get enough pressure on him to make him uncomfortable.”

Not to be outdone, Tucson added four touchdowns. Two rushing touchdowns by Atkins and two rushing touchdowns by Mike Jones.

Sugar Skulls quarterback Ramone Atkins went 12 of 17 with 137 yards passing, two passing touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns.

The final “nail in the coffin” penalty on the Sugar Skulls came with one minute left in the game.

Tucson stopped San Diego on third down, but defensive lineman Zachary Blackistone was called for a controversial roughing the passer penalty. The flag was thrown as the players were getting up.

Chinn on what he was told regarding the call, “They told me that (Blackistone) shouldn’t have put his body weight on him (Davis).”

“I was speechless. I think refs should ref, players should play, and in that moment, it wasn’t an obvious call and not something that’s blatant that everyone in the arena saw, then let the players play.”

The Sugar Skulls are sitting in third place in the Western Conference.

“Everything we want in the season is still in front of us” Chinn said.

Tucson heads to Prescott to face the defending IFL champion Northern Arizona Wranglers on Saturday at 6:05 p.m.

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