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Dodge City, KS (westernkansasnews.com)-Dodge City Law Head Coach Sean Ponder had seen this story before.
Trailing late to Amarillo in the season opener, the Law needed a defensive stop in the final minute. And just as quickly as it appeared they got it when Dodge City recovered a Nate Davis fumble, was how fast it was taken away when the officials ruled the veteran quarterback down by contact. The Venom scored on the very next play and won the game 68-63.
Fast forward three weeks and Ponder’s team was in the same predicament: down late and having to lean on a defense that was basically on life support. But unlike week one, Dodge City made two crucial stops in the final two minutes; scored with less than 10 seconds to play and overcame a two-touchdown deficit to beat the Texas Revolution 55-52 Saturday night at United Wireless Arena.
“Our guys played lights out tonight,” Ponder said afterwards. “When we had to make plays, we made them in the end.”
Dodge City (3-1) could not stop Texas (2-2) in the second half. The Revolution scored on their first four possessions after halftime and did it with relative ease.
With less than 10 minutes to play in the game, Robert Kent, who threw for a season-high 273 yards and six touchdowns, hit Brett Reece for a four-yard score, finishing off an eight-play, 38-yard drive that chewed up 5:35 and put the Revolution up 46-35.
“I put our defense in bad spots at times,” Ponder said. “That’s on me. I have to do a better job coaching this team. But our guys found a way.”
After Floyd’s 11-yard touchdown run cut the Texas lead to 46-41 with 7:26 to play, the Revolution got the ball back and began a time-consuming march that, for all intense purposes, should have iced the game.
“They just kept making plays,” Ponder said referring to the Revolution’s ability to keep drives alive. They finished the night a remarkable 9-of-13 on third-down conversions.
Starting from their 17 with 7:14 remaining in the game, Texas moved the ball to the Dodge City 24. Facing a fourth-and-1 from there, and without his kicker Garrett Palmer, who didn’t make the trip, first-year Head coach Wendell Davis rolled the dice and deferred the field goal, handing the ball off instead to reserve running back Jordan Brown. Rico Brooks and Marquis George knifed their way into the backfield and shut the play down. But Dodge City was called for illegal defense-giving the Revolution a new set of downs at the Law 19.
“We couldn’t get a break,” Ponder said. “That’s kind of how it goes sometimes, but you just have to keep battling.”
Two plays later, Kent connected with Reece for a nine-yard gain and a first down to the Law 5. That’s when, for the first time in more than an hour, a defense that appeared just about out of gas, played its most inspirational football of the night.
On first down, they stopped Brown for no gain. On second down, Kent’s pass caromed off the fingertips of Darius Fudge at the goal line into the first row of seats incomplete. On third down, Kent rolled left only to have his throw swatted down by Jacorey Quarterman, setting up fourth-and-goal with 1:30 to play. That’s when the ninth man made themselves heard.
“We have the best crowd in the league, and it’s not even close,” Ponder said. “They were tremendous.”
The boost in decibels induced a false start, pushing Texas back to the 10. On the very next play, Kent’s pass sailed out of the right corner of the end zone, and the Law defense had their first stop since late in the second quarter.
“You have to give credit to Wendell (Davis),” Ponder said. “He called a great game.”
With 1:20 to go and two timeouts left, Dodge City went to work. After back-to-back incompletions, Floyd hit Maurice Young for a 13-yard gain and a first down to the 23. One play later, Floyd called his own number, bursting 27 yards down the right sideline for the go-ahead score. The two-point conversion try failed, but the Law had a 47-46 lead with 42 seconds remaining.
“Floyd was incredible tonight,” Ponder said. “He lived up to his Superman billing; that’s for sure.”
The quarterback, who suited up as a wide receiver for one game last season with the Revolution, had a little extra riding on this one.
“I’m so excited for this game,” Floyd said on Tuesday. “This one is personal.”
His late-game antics proved that. And even when Kent hit Jonathan Haggerty for a 17-yard touchdown on a perfectly lofted pass in the back of the end zone with 20 seconds left to put Texas back in front 52-47, you had the sense that Floyd wasn’t about to let his former team off the hook.
“What he (Floyd) did tonight was his best work,” Ponder said. “He made plays all night long.”
After Dominique Carson returned the ensuing kickoff 16 yards to the Texas 12, Floyd capped off his MVP-type performance with his third touchdown pass of the night-hitting Jeffery Cameron in stride up the left sideline. Kingjack Washington ran in the two-point try, and Dodge City had a 55-52 edge with nine seconds to go.
Texas still had five seconds to run one final play. From his 17, Kent dropped back against Dodge City’s three-man rush and floated a pass up the ride sideline towards the end zone. Haggerty located the ball; stretched out his arms and came down with it. But as his back collided against the wall, the ball skipped off his chest and was knocked away by Cashmin Thomas ending the game.
“Our defense knows how to get stops late in games,” Ponder said. “They’ve done it two weeks in a row.”
Texas was the aggressor early, turning Dodge City’s failed fourth-down conversion on their opening drive into a four-play, 45-yard scoring drive-sparked by a 38-yard reception by Haggerty and a four-yard touchdown run by Reece. They misfired on the two-point conversion and led 6-0.
Dodge City took the lead moments later when Floyd found Dello Davis for a 25-yard score down the left sideline. Davis, who finished the night with just two catches for 32 yards, was ejected from the game early in the third quarter for throwing a punch.
It took Texas less than three minutes to jump back in front, gaining 23-yards on third-and-9 from their own 11; then scoring on the next play when Kent fired a 16-yard touchdown pass to Reece. The Revolution added the two-point conversion and had a 14-7 advantage.
Floyd’s six-yard scoring run that capped off a four-play, 33-yard drive tied the score towards the end of the first quarter before Texas answered with two touchdown passes by Kent: a 13-yard hookup with Ronald Gaudin in the second quarter and a 22-yard strike to Reece on their first possession of the third quarter to give the Revolution their largest lead 28-14.
In between that, the Law had a chance to score right before the half when they blocked Frankie Solomon’s 48-yard field goal attempt. But three plays couldn’t get them in the end zone, and Alex Fambrough missed a 20-yard chip shot that actually hit the chains holding the uprights.
The Law got back in the game early in the third when Dominique Carson, who was held to minus-1 yard on four carries in the first half, sprinted in from three yards out. He toted the ball seven times for 33 yards and two scores in the second half. Fambrough booted through the PAT and Dodge City trailed 28-21.
Brown, who Texas signed just three days prior to the game, took a first down handoff from his 21 and barreled right up the middle for a 29-yard touchdown. The Revolution failed on the two pointer and led 34-21 with 6:04 to play in the third.
That padding stuck for less than two minutes when Floyd found Young for a 27-yard touchdown. On the play, Soloman turned around and was actually in position to make the interception, but he mistimed his jump, as the ball hit Young right in the chest. The score pulled the Law to within six 34-28 with 1:42 to go.
The teams traded scores to end the third quarter with Kent hitting Gaudin for a three-yard touchdown before Carson cut the deficit to five with his three-yard dash to pay dirt.
“A lot of the Revolution’s plays we weren’t prepared for,” Ponder said. “But that again falls on me.”
Floyd accounted for six touchdowns: three through the air and three on the ground. He was 12-of-17 passing for 143 yards and carried the ball 12 times for 52. As a team the Law rushed for 93 yards after being held to minus-13 in the first half. Brandon Venson caught a team-high five balls for 28 yards.
Kent finished 25-of-41 and toted the ball six times for 31 yards for Texas. Fudge, who came in as the league’s leading scorer with nine touchdowns, was held to just 17 yards on five carries. Haggerty, who spent some time in training camp with the New England Patriots in 2013, had nine catches for 96 yards and a touchdown.
Game Notes: The Law came in banged up with two big question marks on the offensive line: center Kyle McManus hurt his ankle in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s win over San Angelo and guard Mack Randall was in the emergency room just 48 hours earlier with a stiff back. Both played and paved the way for a ground attack that averaged almost nine yards per carry in the second half against the league’s second-best rush defense…Dodge City had just three first downs in the first 30 minutes of the game before converting 10 in the second half…Texas ran for 100 yards on 18 carries becoming only the second team to hit the century mark on the ground against the Law (Wichita did it last year)…The league’s second best defense forced nine negative plays including three on Dodge City’s opening drive; they sacked Floyd three times (Texas came into the game second in the league in sacks with six)…The Revolution were flagged 12 times for 89 yards including three false starts…The Revolution who came into the game tops in the league in time of possession, held the ball for a remarkable 35:38
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