June 21, 2024

Salina clamps down; holds off Law


Final Highlights: DC Law vs. Salina Bombers

Salina, Kan (westernkansasnews.com)-Revenge can be a powerful tool. Coming off their first loss of the season two weeks ago in Dodge City, Eric Clayton had plenty of reasons to smile in the rematch 14 days later. 

Keithen Valentine rushed for 55 yards and three touchdowns; Chris Rini, making his first start-threw for 146 yards and two scores as Salina held off the Law 57-45 Saturday night at the Bicentennial Center. 

“We have to go back to the drawing board,” Dodge City Head Coach Sean Ponder said. “We’ll make adjustments and get this thing rolling.”

His team had every chance in the world to win the game late. With 7:04 remaining in the 4th and trailing 50-38 following Rini’s second rushing touchdown of the night, the Law (3-3) answered right back when Josh Floyd hit Brandon Venson for a 35-yard score. Alex Fambrough’s extra point brought Dodge City within five. 

Ponder’s bunch had a chance to grab the lead after Andrew Hunt missed a 53-yard field goal. But on the next series-Floyd’s fourth-down pass to Garrett Tidwell was knocked away-giving the Bombers the ball back at the Dodge City 15-yard line with 3:36 to play.

However Salina failed to capitalize when Valentine was stopped three yards shy of a first down. Then on fourth down, Clayton summoned Hunt for a what appeared to be a chip-shot 23-yard field goal. But the kick sailed wide left, giving the ball back to Dodge City with 1:07 to go and no timeouts. 

“We had our chance with a minute to go,” Ponder said. “That’s all you can ask for.”

They did indeed, and after Floyd completed a pass to Kendrick Ings along the sideline, the sequel appeared to be playing out right in front of more than 3,000 stunned fans. But as he dropped back to pass on second down, Floyd was stripped by Meshak Williams; Zack McKinney picked up the loose ball and rumbled five yards to the end zone.

“We’ve got to protect our quarterback,” Ponder said. “When we have an opportunity to make plays we have to do it.”

It didn’t help that offensive lineman Mack Randall Jr. was missing after being kicked out of the game late in the second quarter for reportedly bumping an official. 

“Losing our best offensive lineman definitely hurt us early on,” Ponder said. “But no excuses.”

Dodge City scored first on their opening drive when Alex Fambrough connected on a 48-yard field goal. 

It appeared Dodge City was on their way to getting the ball back after forcing Salina into a third-and-15 from their own five. But Attriel Snipes got behind the secondary for a 36-yard catch, setting the Bombers up first-and-goal at the nine. Two plays later Valentine plunged in from a yard out to give Salina (4-1) a 7-3 lead with 7:48 to play in the first. 

The Law responded on the ensuing kickoff when Dominique Carson found a crease and raced 50-yards to the Salina five. Disaster nearly struck on the next play when Carson fumbled at the goal line, but lineman Anthony Jackson scooped it up for a touchdown giving Dodge City a 10-7 advantage. 

On Salina’s next series, the Bombers moved the ball to the Law four-yard line thanks to Rini’s 21-yard hookup with Corey Ham. On the next play, the new signal caller, who finished 9-of-17 for 146 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, nearly cost his team when he dropped back to pass and lost the football. But Madison Miller, who Ponder just acquired on Thursday, couldn’t grab the loose ball before it hit the wall. Rini took advantage of his second chance-hitting Snipes in stride for a 19-yard touchdown making it 14-10 Salina. 

Driving with a chance to retake the lead, Dodge City reached the Salina 14-yard line. But Floyd’s fourth-down heave was intercepted in the end zone by Isiah Barfield, who returned it 43 yards to the Law seven-yard line. Moments later it was Valentine punching his second ticket for six: An eight-yard sweep for a touchdown extending the Bombers lead to 21-10 late in the first quarter. 

Things didn’t look promising on the Law’s next series-especially after D.D. Hollyfield was dropped for only a two yard gain on third-and-nine. But Floyd found Tidwell for 17 yards on fourth down, and the veteran receiver, who hauled in six catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns, sliced his way to the Salina five. That setup Hollyfield’s five-yard rushing touchdown; he also added the two-point conversion pulling Dodge City to within three 21-18 with 13:32 to play in the half. 

The defense got the ball back just minutes later when Mark Sterling made a perfect read and intercepted Rini’s screen pass. It only took five plays for Floyd to give Dodge City the lead back with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Tidwell-capping off a 39-yard drive. Fambrough missed the PAT and the score was 24-21. 

The lead changed hands two more times before the break. Valentine’s shake-and-bake, nine-yard rushing touchdown put Salina in front 28-24 before Floyd hit Tidwell in the back right corner of the end zone-finishing off an eight play, 41-yard drive that ate up more than four minutes of the clock and gave the Law a 31-28 lead. 

The Law had a chance to add points before the half after Jamar Seard blocked Hunt’s 53-yard field goal. But Fambrough misfired on an 18-yarder as time expired. 

Salina tied the game on the first possession of the second half-thanks to a 39-yard boot by Hunt. 

Floyd’s second interception of the night set the Bombers up first-and-goal at the five. After two penalties backed Salina up to their own 24, Dodge City was called for defensive holding-giving the Bombers another first down inside the 10. Rani capitalized four plays later, churning a one-yard score. Hunt missed the extra point, and the Bombers led 37-31. 

“We had so many opportunities in this game, and we just didn’t grasp it,” Ponder said. 

Dodge City squandered a scoring chance when Fambrough missed a 63-yard field goal. But Paul Robinson’s juggling interception on Salina’s next series saved the day.

It took only two plays to convert the turnover into points when Floyd found Kendrick Ings-streaking down the left sideline. The man who had a case of the drops early in the season, hauled in a perfect pass before slamming into the back wall in the end zone. The spectacular grab gave the Law a 38-37 advantage. 

The Bombers grabbed the lead back for good early in the fourth after Rini hit Ricky Roberts on a slant from 11 yards out. Rini would cushion the lead with his second rushing touchdown midway through the final frame. 

“We’re obviously trying to put a bunch in a row,” Ponder said. “There’s no doubt that next week is a must-win game.”

Next up: Dodge City vs. Lincoln Haymakers-Saturday, April 19-6:30 p.m. countdown to kickoff; 7:05 p.m. kickoff on 98.1 FM; z98mobile.com; tuneinradio App: KSKZ and all-new Z-98 mobile app

Notes: WR Maurice Young missed the game with an abdominal strain-his status for Saturday’s game is still questionable…The win by Salina means the Prairie Wheel Trophy goes back to the bombers

Final Stats: final stats pack dc law vs. salina

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