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Tucson Sugar Skulls have ‘eyes on the prize’ after extending head coach’s contract

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TUCSON (KVOA) -- The Tucson Sugar Skulls were set to originally open the season on the road in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on March 19th.

However, COVID-19 spread full force. Now, Coach Dixie Wooten and the rest of the Sugar Skulls have their eyes set on 2021.

Fresh off of a two-year contract extension as the Sugar Skulls coach and general manager, Dixie Wooten is pumped up about the next few weeks as Tucson's pro indoor football team will begin signing players and making moves.

"We didn't ever want the pandemic to happen, but it kind of set us up in a situation where we have a whole entire year and a half to plan for the next year," said Wooten from his Tucson home. "It made us understand our sponsors and understand what we've got to do as a league to grow and everything. It kind of was a gift to us."

Wooten says, best-case scenario, the 2021 season will start in March. Whether or not COVID-19 is in full force at this time, the Sugar Skull's medical staff will be ready.

"We've seen the NFL do three tests before every game and if a guy doesn't pass, he has to sit out," said Wooten, who understands that the roster must also be stocked for "worst-case scenarios".

Coach Wooten says, whatever the case is in the offseason, his players continue prep for the 2021' season opener.

"We have great strength and conditioning in Glenn Howell," Wooten said. What Glenn does, is he puts it on paper and sends it to those guys every week. So they know what they have to do for conditioning and weight room and everything."

Wooten said a handful of Sugar Skulls players have made Tucson their home while others continued training in their hometown.

The Tucson Sugar Skulls sent out a press release on Wooten's contract extension.

It states: "We are happy and excited to have Dixie back as our Head Coach and General Manager for the 2021 and 2022 seasons."

Sugar Skulls Team Owner Cathy Guy said, "Dixie's commitment to our organization, his winning track record, and his ability to put a great product on the field is very fortuitous for our organization."

Prior to joining Tucson at the end of the 2019 season, Wooten had a 36-8 regular-season record in three seasons as head coach of the Iowa Barnstormers.

His teams reached the playoffs all three years, winning the 2018 United Bowl championship.

It was the first league championship in Barnstormers franchise history.

Wooten was named IFL Coach of the Year in the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

"I'm excited to return back to Tucson. This is the season the Sugar Skulls will be in the running to win it all. Tucson will be an organization that's a household name and we will work hard as can be to make that a reality," Wooten said. "We have strong ownership, a great front office, a great coaching staff, and we will have great players. Our motto is 'Championship or wasted season.'"

Under Wooten's leadership, the Barnstormers finished the 2019 regular season second place in the IFL with a 12-2 record, before being defeated by the eventual league champion, Sioux Falls Storm in the semifinals of the IFL playoffs.

Iowa defeated the Sugar Skulls, 61-58, on a last-minute touchdown in the teams' only meeting last season at the Tucson Arena.

The Barnstormers had the league's MVP, quarterback Daquan Neal, and put three players on the All-IFL first-team and three on the All-IFL second-team.

"Dixie has a history of building a culture of leadership," Guy said. "We are committed to our Tucson community and we look forward to seeing our rabid fan base at the Boneyard."

The Sugar Skulls finished the 2019 regular season with a 7-7 record and were the first expansion franchise in IFL history to qualify for the postseason.

Tucson clinched the playoff berth with a thrilling 55-50 victory over the Quad City Steamwheelers in the last game of the regular season at Tucson Arena.

Wooten aims to bring this same type of excitement to the Tucson community.

"We are all about our community," Wooten said. "Our success is nothing without Tucson, so we will be visiting our youth and elders in the Tucson community. We are Tucson Tuff."

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Paul Cicala

Paul Cicala is a 2-time winner of the prestigious”Edward R. Murrow Award” for his reporting/anchoring in news & sports. Paul Cicala has also been nominated for multiple EMMY’s. Cicala has won the “Best Sportscaster” category in Tucson the last 3 years (voted on by readers of “Tucson Weekly”). Cicala is a native Tucsonan who specialized in border stories during his earlier career as a news reporter in this market, and now concentrates mainly on sports stories (with an occasional special report and/or feature story on life in Tucson & the Sonoran Desert).

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