June 13, 2024

Heartbreaker: Law eliminated in final seconds

Final Highlights: DC Law vs. Wichita

Wichita, Kan (wessternkansasnews.com)-One of the biggest questions in sports: Is it better to get blown out or lose in the final seconds? While there is no clear-cut answer, one thing is for certain: Saturday night’s playoff loss will haunt Dodge City fans all summer long. 

Despite losing the lead late, it was Ernesto Lacayo drilling a 50-yard field goal as time expired to give Wichita a dramatic 33-31 come-from-behind victory over Dodge City in the opening round of the CPIFL playoffs at Hartman Arena. 

“You never want to lose a game like that,” Law Head Coach Sean Ponder said. “But this group did everything they could and more.”

In a wild fourth quarter that saw the lead change hands four times in the final 9:30, Dodge City gave themselves a golden opportunity to win the game. But it was a questionable clock-management decision by Wichita Coach Paco Martinez that gave the Law a second chance. 

Following a Josh Floyd touchdown that gave Dodge City a 25-24 lead with 1:16 to play in the game, Wichita got the ball back at their own 21 with a chance to run the clock out and potentially win the game. The reason: Dodge City had burned all three of their timeouts earlier in the fourth quarter. 

On first down, Wild quarterback Rocky Hinds scrambled up the left sideline for 28 yards down to the Law one-yard line. The surprising part of the play is that Dodge City didn’t allow him to score a touchdown and preserve precious seconds on the clock. It didn’t matter because Wichita bailed them out on the next play. Instead of kneeling on the ball and kicking a chip-shot field goal that would have amounted to an extra point, the Wild scored on a one-yard plunge by Tywon Hubbard. They missed the ensuing two-point conversion but led 30-25 with 1:05 remaining. Dodge City had life. 

Starting from their own 10 after a penalty on the kickoff backed them up, disaster almost struck when Floyd’s screen pass was nearly intercepted by Jason Catchings. The ball caromed off the chest of the Wild Linebacker giving Dodge City another chance. Floyd made them pay on the very next play when he hit Maurice Young in stride on a perfect 40-yard touchdown pass that gave Dodge City a 31-30 advantage with 49 seconds left.

“I thought they (Wichita) would run the clock out and not give us a chance,” Ponder said. “So I told our guys to let them score. And then Josh and Mo (Maurice Young) made a play.” 

young td
Law WR Maurice Young hauls in a 40-yard touchdown pass in Saturday’s playoff loss to Wichita

Dodge City though left the door open when Floyd was sacked by Matt Moss on the two-point conversion try-leaving it a one-point game with less than a minute to go. 

With all three of their timeouts left, the Wild went to work on their final drive. But Andy Endemann’s third-down sack of Hinds pushed Wichita back to their own 14. Martinez used his final timeout. 

All season long, Lacayo had proven himself to be one of the most accurate kickers in the league. In fact, he had drilled a season-long 51 yard field goal in the regular-season finale seven days earlier against Salina. So it was to no one’s surprise when the first-year kicker trotted onto the field for a 50-yard try with three seconds remaining. 

“He’s a heck of a kicker,” Ponder said.

That was an on-point description as Lacayo’s end-over-end kick split the uprights, barely making it over the crossbar with the clock reading triple zeros. 

“You have to tip your cap there,” Ponder said. “The guy made a heck of a kick in that type of a situation.”

The lead up to the final stanza was just as good. Dodge took a 3-0 lead on their opening drive when Jared Wood, who missed all of his kicks last week against Kansas, connected on his own 50-yard field goal. 

Wichita grabbed the lead when Hinds hit Joe Kassanavoid on an eight-yard strike-putting the finishing touches on a seven play, 36-yard drive that made it 7-3 Wild 12 minutes into the first quarter. 

Dodge City appeared prime to jump back in front as they moved the ball to the Wichita 16. But Floyd’s first-down pass intended for Dominique Carson was intercepted in the end zone by Kendrick Harper. 

Following Lacayo’s misfire on a 63-yard field goal, the Law (8-5) struck quickly-scoring on Josh Floyd’s one-yard rushing touchdown. Wood’s extra point made it 10-7 Dodge City midway through the second period. 

On their ensuing possession Wichita had a chance to tie the game. This time their drive stalled at the Dodge City 18. Instead of going for it on fourth-and three, Martinez sent out Lacayo again only to watch his kicker’s 33-yard attempt be blocked by Walner Leandre. 

The Law capitalized in the final minute of the second when Wood nailed a 23-yard field goal to give Dodge City a 13-7 halftime lead. 

On the second play of the third quarter, Wichita gift-wrapped a scoring opportunity for Dodge City when Hubbard fumbled and Leandre scooped up the ball at the Wild 23. Incredibly, it was only the 12th turnover of the year for Wichita. 

Dodge City however could not take advantage-failing to punch it into the endzone on three tries from inside the one-yard line. 

“It looked like he was in,” Ponder said referring to Dodge City’s fourth-down try. “Half his body was in the end zone. But it is what it is.”

The Law appeared to catch another break when Hubbard fumbled again on the first play of Wichita’s ensuing drive. But the officials huddled together and ruled he was down by contact. Two plays later, Hinds found Jarrell Kelly streaking wide open across the middle of the field for a 37-yard catch-and-run all the way to the house. Lacayo’s extra point put the Wild back on top 14-13 at the 8:14 mark of the third. 

After moving the ball to midfield on their next possession, the Law was faced with a fourth-and four. Instead of bringing out Wood for a long field goal, Ponder rolled the dice and kept his offense on the field. The decision proved costly as Floyd’s pass to Young fell incomplete. 

Five plays later, Wichita was back in the end zone when Hinds again found Kelly; this time from nine yards out to give the Wild a 21-13 lead. That setup a spectacular final 15 minutes. 

Two plays into the final period, Dominique Carson strolled into the end zone from 12 yards out. Floyd’s pass on the two-point conversion was incomplete and Dodge City trailed 21-19. 

Wichita players celebrate following Ernesto Lacayo's game-winning 50-yard field goal
Wichita players celebrate following Ernesto Lacayo’s game-winning 50-yard field goal

After Lacyo’s 25-yard field goal gave Wichita a 24-19 edge with under nine minutes to play, the Law responded with a big play of their own. On second-and-12 from their own 10, Floyd unleashed a missile down the left sideline that Carson ran under and caught at the the Wild three. Ponder called Carson’s number again on the very next play and watched his speedy running back lunge into the end zone to give Dodge City a 25-24 lead. But the two-point conversion failed again when Floyd’s pass bounced off the left shoulder pad of Young.

“We kept fighting and digging,” Ponder said. “We had our opportunities.”

Carson carried the ball 19 times for 75 yards. As a team, the Law rushed for 114 yards-becoming the first squad since the Green Bay Blizzard back on June 6, 2012 to hit the century mark on the ground against Wichita. 

Floyd finished 7-of-16 passing for 117 yards , a touchdown and an interception. His counterpart Hinds was 13-of-27 for 135 yards and three scores. 

The win was Wichita’s 19th straight at Hartman Arena.

Final Stats: final stats pack dc law vs. wichita