Tucson Sugar Skulls drop fourth consecutive game with loss to Frisco Fighters

Davonte Sapp-Lynch squeezes through a small window to gain extra yards (Gilber Alcaraz/Special to AllSportsTucson.com)

Despite a spectacular showing out of the backfield from Davonte Sapp-Lynch, brother of former NFL running back Marshawne Lynch, paired with solid play on the defensive side of the ball, the Tucson Sugar Skulls lost their fourth consecutive game on Saturday night at the Tucson Convention Center.

Costly errors on special teams and offense proved too much for the Sugar Skulls, who lost to the Frisco Fighters 35-18.

The Sugar Skulls are now 2-9.

“I thought our defense played amazing, Our defense came to play,” first-year head coach Billy Back said. “We prepared for them. They basically run the same offense we run, all the same play calls, all the same verbiage, the same stuff that I left there. They just executed better than we did. But defense did a great job tonight.”

Back was well familiar with the Sugar Skulls’ opponent, as he was the head coach of the Fighters (9-3) in 2022 to 2023. He coached Frisco to two Eastern Conference championships and two IFL playoff semifinal appearances.

Saturday’s game should have been much closer than what it really was, but three missed field goals kept Tucson from being able to get any closer to a tie or lead.

Kicking has been a lingering issue for the Sugar Skulls all season.

“We have been terrible with kicking,” Back said. “We tried to keep a local kicker around all year and we brought another kid in here. We’re gonna make another move this week at kicker, too. We’ll have a new kicker next week.”

Consistent quarterback play has also been a problem that has plagued the locker room since the beginning of the season. The team is now gearing up to play without its star player Mylik Mitchell for the remainder of the season. He hasn’t played since a 21-20 loss to the Duke City Gladiators on June 1. He no longer is listed on Tucson’s roster.

Giovanni Sanders played at quarterback Saturday night.

“We haven’t had good quarterback play in probably six weeks,” Back said. “We’ve been late on our reads from start to finish, that’s probably on me as a coach-not getting these guys to understand that this is the indoor game, not the outdoor game.”

In short, Tucson has run very short of star players and is now in dire straits heading towards the last five games of the season.

“Were gonna make a move at kicker this week,” Back said. “We’re gonna have a new kicker next week and a new quarterback. We’re gonna shuffle around the offensive line. We’ll be better up front, better quarterback, o-line and kicker next week, I guarantee it.”

A couple of bright spots in a game where there were few, was the dynamic running of Sapp-Lynch and the two-way capability of Mike Carrigan.

Sapp-Lynch scored in the first quarter and gained the tough yards on the ground when it was needed the most, utilizing a hard-nosed, down hill play-style.

“Davonte’s that guy,” Back said. “He’s dynamic, he makes guys miss, he’s patient. He’s consistent in whatever he does, he’s powerful for the size that he is. He’s just a stud.”

Carrigan, along with fellow wide receiver Tyron Laughinghouse played both ways for the entirety of the second half due to injuries plaguing the defensive backfield.

Carrigan showed that he could line up at either side of the ball and have an impact, picking off Frisco quarterback TJ Edwards in the endzone and running multiple kick returns back to the other end of the field.

“He’s the ultimate team player,” Back said. “The ultimate guy. He’s a leader, he hasn’t missed a single day. You ask him to do something, he does it. We almost put him at quarterback. He’s just a dynamic player. he had some drops early on in the season, but he never stopped turning, never stopped practicing and getting better.”

The Tucson Sugar Skulls elected to receive the ball first to start the game off and drove to the Frisco 12-yardline before three consecutive penalties stalled its drive out.

Josh Winnit came in to attempt the field goal, but it was missed wide left, putting the Fighters at its own 5.

Frisco trudged its way to the Tucson 20, but the defense wouldn’t budge after that. Larry Harrington tried to pick up the first down with his feet, but the Tucson defense stopped him about one yard short of the marker.

Tucson started its next drive where Frisco left off and made it to the Frisco 13, where the Fighters would hold from there. Winnit was brought in on fourth down to make the kick, putting the Sugar Skulls up 3-0 with 1:23 remaining in the first quarter.

Frisco drove cross the field to the Tucson 4, where Edwards capped the drive off with a passing touchdown to Phazione McClurge in the middle of the endzone. The score put Frisco up 7-3 with 13:40 remaining in the first half.

Tucson answered back with a Carrigan return to the Frisco 10 and ending it with another field goal by Winnit, putting the Sugar skulls within one point of tying up the game at 7-6 with 11:11 left to play in the half.

Frisco began its next drive at the 5 and managed to get to the midway point of the field until Robert Sheffield made a huge deflection on fourth down to get the ball back to the offense with great field position.

Sanders got the Sugar Skulls to the Frisco 4 on an improvised run. Sapp-Lynch finished the drive with a rushing touchdown, regaining the lead with a 12-7 score with 1:43 remaining in the half.

Frisco started its next drive at the 25 after the kick sailed out of bounds. The Fighters made the most of it, getting as close as the Tucson 10 and capping the drive off with a touchdown by Cole Blackman, putting the Fighters up 14-12 with 25 seconds left in the half.

Tucson got to the half way point of the field and opted to kick a field goal before the end of the second quarter. The kick was missed and Tucson headed back to its locker room with a two point deficit.

Frisco received the ball to start the second half and returned the kick to its own 16. Edwards kept the ball for himself following the return and took it 22 yards to the Tucson 13.

After both teams exchanged unsuccessful drives that resulted in missed field goals, Frisco was the first to find the endzone in the third quarter. Edwards ran the ball in from within 10 yards to put the Fighters further in the lead at 21-12 with 4:50 left in the third quarter.

Tucson answered back with a wide open touchdown that was caught by Brian Smith, cutting the lead to 21-18. The 2-point conversion failed with 1:25 left in the third quarter.

Both Tucson and Frisco exchanged drives in which they would end with the other team intercepting the ball following Tucson’s last touchdown.

Frisco would put two more touchdowns on the board to cruise away with a 35-18 victory.

Sapp-Lynch ended the night with a rushing touchdown, Smith finished with a receiving touchdown and Sanders threw for one.

Tucson will look to snap its losing streak and get back on track for the remaining five games, starting with a game against the San Diego Strikeforce on Saturday at the TCC. Kick off is scheduled for 6:05 p.m.

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