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Sugar Skulls coach: Antonio Rosales wasn’t instigator in latest incident | Sugarskulls

Antonio Rosales has a — let’s just say chippy — mindset any time the Tucson native steps on the football field.

Rosales, a Tucson High product and left tackle for the Tucson Sugar Skulls, has a long-serving reputation as someone with a mean streak.

“When he steps on the field, he’s a totally different person,” said Sugar Skulls head coach and general manager Dixie Wooten, whose team hosts San Diego at 6:05 p.m. Saturday at the Tucson Arena.

The bellicose approach to the game “came back to haunt him” in the Sugar Skulls’ loss last week to the Frisco Fighters, according to Wooten.

For the second straight season, Rosales was ejected from a game after a physical confrontation during a play. Last year, Rosales was suspended for the remainder of the 2021 season for punching a game official who was trying to separate the offensive lineman from Iowa Barnstormer players. This past weekend, Rosales was dismissed in the first quarter for fighting Frisco defensive lineman Charles Williams.

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The angle of the TV broadcast on the IFL YouTube page showed Rosales and Williams in the end zone near the wall and grappling with each other, with Rosales eventually losing his temper and getting removed by a Sugar Skulls assistant coach.

“Last year, it was Rosales’ fault big time. He did something that you’re never supposed to do in football. He just lost it and hit the ref, and he paid the price for it,” Wooten said. “This year is a little different. When you go on the road and you’re watching their TV broadcast, you’re going to hear a whole different story than what the proof shows.”

Added Wooten: “After one play, he punched Rosales in the face. Rosales walked back to the huddle laughing. The next play, Rosales pancaked him, so when he came up, he grabbed Rosales’ facemask and pulled him to the wall. When they got to the wall, he kept Rosales’ facemask and just kept pulling him down.

“Rosales had on white gloves and never threw a punch, he was just trying to push off the guy to get up. When Rosales came down, (Williams) spit all in his face. That’s what made (Rosales) lose it. By the time he lost it, our coach had grabbed Rosales and put him off. If you look at the TV, it looked like Rosales went crazy, stepping on people, things like that.”

Controlling Rosales’ on-field temper was an essential task for Wooten and the Tucson native this season, which worked until Williams allegedly spit on Rosales’ face in the skirmish.

“Every time he came off the field, I asked if he was OK and he said that he was having a great time. He was laughing because (Williams) has been a dirty player for years, but (Rosales) was blocking and whooping him on the line of scrimmage,” Wooten said. It was just the spitting part we couldn’t control him after.”

The scuffle with Williams this past weekend and the release last year after punching an official weren’t the only incidents Rosales has been involved in on a football field. When he was a senior at San Diego State, Rosales was ejected for two personal foul penalties against Army in the Armed Forces Bowl — one for blindsiding a player when the play was whistled dead. Rosales’ history might’ve played into Williams antagonizing the Tucson native, according to Wooten.

“From the beginning, that guy was picking on Rosales from the get-go, so you know they picked that out,” Wooten said. “At the end of the day, it’s hard for someone to spit in your face and you stay calm. … Unfortunately, when your past is your past, you have no room for error.”

Wooten said Rosales is “probably going to get punished because of his behavior from last year,” and the Sugar Skulls are preparing for Saturday’s home opener against the San Diego Strike Force without him. Defensive lineman Denzel Chukwukelu was Rosales’ replacement against Frisco, but the Sugar Skulls are planning on having a replacement this week — and for the remainder of the season to go alongside center Kordell Brewster and former Minnesota Vikings tackle Isame Faciane.

“That should let kids know that your past does follow you. You gotta be careful about what you do in your past,” Wooten said. “But this time, he didn’t really punch anybody and I know for a fact that he’s going to get suspended. … I’m a straight-shooter. I’m not going to tell you, ‘Hey, there’s a possibility …’ I told him to get prepared to be suspended — and for the long run.

“At the end of the day, I’m still going to be around him, because I know who he is as a person, so I still want to make sure he’s OK and that he’s getting better and better. But I feel like his football season may be over.”

Contact sports producer Justin Spears at 573-4312 or

jspears@tucson.com.

On Twitter: @JustinESports


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