Dodge City, KS (westernkansasnews.com)-After last year’s semifinal loss to Wichita, Dodge City Head Coach Sean Ponder vowed to improve his defense by adding depth. But after one game in 2015, the second-year skipper is still searching for answers.
Nate Davis threw for 230 yards and six touchdowns, and Amarillo racked up 283 yards of total offense en route to a 68-63 victory over Dodge City Saturday night at United Wireless Arena.
“We weren’t physical at all,” Ponder said afterwards. “We got punched in the mouth. Giving up 68 points is unacceptable.”
And it seemed early on that it could have been a whole lot worse, especially considering that Dodge City (0-1) found themselves in a 28-7 hole midway through the second quarter. The last of those first four scores for Amarillo (1-0) came when Ray Berry intercepted Josh Floyd and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown.
“We fought back,” Ponder said. “But we missed way too many opportunities.”
Despite the slow start, which included a fourth-down strip sack and a missed fourth-down pass play inside the Venom 5-yard line, the Law finally showed life in the second quarter with a five-play, 40-yard drive, capped off with Floyd’s 23-yard touchdown pass to Kingjack Washington. On the play, the former Oklahoma Defenders running back made the catch while falling to the ground at the 5. But before Amarillo safety Josh Murray could touch him, Washington got to his feet and strolled across the goal line, cutting the deficit to 28-14.
After Amarillo kicker Jose Chavez missed a 39-yard field goal, the Law drove 42 yards in less than a minute, setting up shop at the Amarillo 3-yard line. On first-and-goal, Floyd handed the ball to Dominique Carson, who used a stutter step and a cutback move before high stepping his way into the end zone. Alex Fambrough’s extra point was good, and the Amarillo (1-0) lead was just seven 28-21 with 15 seconds left in the first half. But as the rest of the night would prove, mistakes on special teams were Dodge City’s undoing.
On the ensuing kickoff, Fambrough kicked the ball out of bounds, giving Amarillo possession at midfield. It only took Davis and the offense one play to score, as the former San Francisco 49ers’ signal caller zipped a pass to Percy Turner on a crossing pattern, who then outraced the Law secondary for a 25-yard touchdown. Chavez’s extra point gave the Venom a 35-21 edge at the half.
“You can’t give a team field position,” Ponder explained. “And we did that all night. Giving them the ball at the 25-yard line; we just can’t do that.”
Early in the third quarter, Dodge City’s defense finally got the stop they’d been looking for. Then Chavez missed his second field goal of the night, a 45-yarder that sailed into Dominique Carson’s hands, who promptly returned it out to the 13-yard line. Three plays later, Floyd rolled right and connected with Delo Davis in the corner of the end zone, once again pulling the Law to within seven 35-28 with 9:10 left in the period.
The next four possessions saw the two teams trade blows; the Law scored twice on Floyd’s 3-yard touchdown scramble and his 23-yard touchdown pass to Mo Young. The Venom countered with a 10-yard touchdown strike to tight end Michael Coles and a 24-yard rushing touchdown by Davis on a naked bootleg.
The play that changed the game came with 12 minutes to go in the fourth. Trailing 55-42, Dodge City had a 2-and-4 at the Amarillo 13. Floyd dropped back to pass but as he cocked his arm forward, he lost the ball and Willie Townsend recovered for the Venom.
“Turnovers and special teams killed us during the game,” Ponder said. “Floyd was inconsistent. He really came on in the second half, but he has to be more consistent.”
The turnover turned into points, as Amarillo extended the lead to 61-42 when Davis scampered five yards to paydirt on a zone-option read. The Venom’s quarterback accounted for eight of his team’s 10 touchdowns.
Floyd and the Law offense answered with a four-play 25-yard drive that resulted in Floyd’s one-yard plunge; a play where he lost the ball just as it crossed the goal line. The referee signaled touchdown, and the Law trailed 61-49.
Amarillo had a chance to put the game away on their next drive. Starting another drive in plus territory after Ray Johnson’s 33-yard kickoff return, the Venom marched down to the Law 8-yard line. But on 2nd-and-1, Davis fumbled the snap, and Dodge City recovered. On the very next play, Floyd went up top and hit Dominique Carson, who burned by Turner for a 43-yard score. Fambrough’s extra point brought the Law to within five 61-56 with 4:43 to go.
“With everything that went wrong, we still had a chance to win it,” Ponder said. “Just some of the breaks didn’t go our way.”
Two such golden opportunities fizzled out during Amarillo’s next possession, when Dodge City appeared to have recovered a second Davis fumble at the 10-yard line. But the quarterback was ruled down by contact. A couple of plays later, Cashmin Thomas intercepted Davis in the end zone, only to be called for pass interference, nullifying the takeaway. In the end, Davis eventually hooked up with Houston Tuminello, who hauled in the screen pass and darted 10 yards to the end zone, giving Amarllo a 68-56 edge with 1:21 to play.
Dodge City added a late score when Floyd hurdled in from three yards out. But Fambrough’s onside kick attempt failed when Tuminello tipped the ball out of bounds giving Amarillo possesson at the Dodge City 10-yard line with 36 seconds.
“We’ll get this thing right,” Ponder said. “It’s disappointing, but we’re here to bring a championship to this community. We’ll get it fixed.”
All things started off well when Dodge City scored first on Carson’s seven-yard touchdown run, capping off a seven-play, 33-yard drive. But Amarillo scored the next 28 points with Davis hitting Tuminello for a 7-yard scoring strike and Tedder Easton in the back of the end zone from 10.
After Floyd’s fourth-and-goal pass for Young fell incomplete at the goal line, Davis capitalized, driving his team 45 yards in five plays, punctuating it with Wyreaz Bradley’s one-yard score.
Davis added six rushes for 22 yards and two touchdowns for Amarillo. Easter ran the ball six times for 18 while Tuminello hauled in a team-best six catches for 56 yards and two scores.
Floyd finished 19-of-32 for 245 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. He nearly through a second pick in the second half when he tried to force a shovel pass to Carson up the sideline. The ball was deflected into the air along the boards and intercepted by Kendrick Causey. But the Law caught a break when the referee ruled the ball hit the padding before it was intercepted. Replay later showed that the turnover should have stood.
Floyd added 12 rushes for 32 yards and three scores. Carson had 12 carries for 56 yards and two touchdowns. Young reeled in a game-high seven receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown.
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