Dodge City, KS (westernkansasnews.com)-It seemed like the dream matchup: two longtime friends were set to square off in Champions Bowl II with Dodge City heading to Sioux City. And after Mo Young hauled in Josh Floyd’s 45-yard touchdown pass in the semifinals to give the Law the lead with less than a minute to play, that premonition appeared to morph into reality.
“We fully expected to see them in our place,” Bandits Head Coach Erv Strohbeen said.
Wichita Wild kicker Ernesto Lacayo took care of those hopes, drilling a 50-yard field goal in the closing seconds to knock Dodge City out.
“I think it would have been great,” Law Head Coach Sean Ponder said. “It just never materialized.”
But what was nine-more months right?
Floyd threw for 113 yards and three touchdowns; two of those to wide receiver Dello Davis, who hauled in five balls for 95 yards as the Law beat Sioux City 51-39 Sunday afternoon at United Wireless Arena.
“It all starts with those guys up front,” Davis said. “We have to give praise to them every week. It was a tough battle for them; Sioux City’s defensive line was really good. I think our boys held up well.”
They did indeed, and with Mo Young missing the game because of injury, the line provided Floyd with plenty of time to find his new favorite target. It also paved the way for the ground attack, which produced a season-best 129 yards on 30 carries.
“They (Sioux City) did some unconventional things on defense, and our guys responded to it,” Ponder said. “We were still able to run the football.”
The three-headed monster of Floyd, Dominique Carson and Kingjack Washington, continued to attack, averaging nearly 4.5 yards per carry.
“In the red zone, (Dominique) Carson is such an unbelievable weapon,” Ponder said. “He makes so many guys miss, and makes me look like an offensive genius.”
Five trips inside the Bandits 15-yard line produced four touchdowns; the first of those came on the Law’s opening drive, where Floyd capped off a seven-play, 25-yard march with a four-yard, shovel-pass touchdown to Carson. Alex Fambrough’s extra point gave Dodge City a 7-0 lead with 9:45 to play in the first.
Sioux City (1-1) punched right back on their ensuing possession, moving the ball 28 yards to the Dodge City (1-1) 9-yard line. But on second-and-goal, Charles Dowdell, the reigning CPIFL offensive player of the year, forced a pass to Frederick Bruno in the end zone that was intercepted by Mark Sterling.
The Bandits finally got on the board early in the second when Ponder gambled on a fourth-and-4 at his own 21. As Floyd was flushed to his right, Marcus Miles knocked him to the ground, giving Sioux the ball in Dodge City territory. Three plays lost five yards, and Martin salvaged the drive by connecting on a 35-yard field goal, cutting the Law lead to 7-3.
Dodge City extended the cushion when they got the ball back. First it was Floyd connecting with Davis for 22 yards that set the Law up inside the Bandits’ 10. On the very next play, Carson dashed eight yards to pay dirt, giving Dodge City a 14-3 advantage with 11:21 to go in the first half.
“Our offense was much more consistent this week,” Ponder said. “We took advantage of our chances in the red zone.”
The Bandits closed the gap to 14-9 on their next drive when Dowdell hit Bruno on a rainbow pass in the back of the end zone from 14 yards out. But Rico Brooks blocked the extra point attempt, which was knocked all the way to the other end of the field before Jacorey Quarterman scooped it up and ran it in for two points.
“Special teams beat us last week; that wasn’t going to happen two weeks in a row,” Ponder said.
Following the special-teams score, Dodge City was in the end zone again, this time on the heels of Floyd’s superman act in the backfield. On third-and-12 from his own 23, the veteran quarterback took the snap, rolled right then back to the left before firing a dart across the field to Davis, who contorted his body and made a sensational grab in the end zone for six.
“I had a little extra motivation on that play because I missed one last week,” Davis said. “That wasn’t going to happen to me again.”
It didn’t, in fact, after Sioux City closed the gap to 11 at 23-12 following Martin’s 28-yard field, Davis topped his previous Lynn-Swann-type catch. On first-and-10 from their own 15, Floyd dropped back and hit Davis on a skinny post. This time the receiver actually had to turn around as the ball floated towards his opposite shoulder. In one swift motion, Davis came back to the right and made a diving reception in the end zone for a touchdown, stretching the lead to 30-12 with 2:45 to go in the second quarter.
“He’s (Davis) a great receiver,” Ponder said. “Obviously he made unbelievable plays. That was a long game with a lot of situations; trying to make it all work.”
The Bandits let an opportunity to score points right before the half slip through the cracks when Martin misfired on a 43-yard field goal. But Sioux City redeemed themselves on their first possession of the third quarter when Dowdell hooked up with a wide-open Jeremiah Oates for a 33-yard touchdown. Martin missed the extra point, and the Bandits trailed 30-18.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So was the case in the second half, as the Law countered every strike with a score themselves. Carson’s second rushing touchdown came six minutes into the third; this one from four-yards out as he made another spectacular cutback move; wiggled free before shaking off Jon Smith on his path to the end zone.
After Sioux City answered with John Bentley’s one-yard score to cut the lead to 37-25, it was Washington carving his way in from four-yards out. Fambrough’s PAT made it 44-25 with 2:13 left in the third.
When the Bandits turned it over on downs on their next possession, the Law blew an opportunity to put the game on ice when Fambrough missed a 45-yard field goal. But Sioux City couldn’t capitalize, and when they got the ball back, Dowdell, who finished 16-of-28, for 239 yards, four touchdowns and one pick, fumbled the football inside his own 5-yardline. Marquis George fell on top of it in the end zone, and Dodge City had a 51-25 lead with 9:49 to go.
“Our defense was much better today,” Ponder said. “We got after the quarterback. We were able to do some different things.”
Sioux City added a couple of scores late; Dowdell connected with Bruno twice for touchdowns in the final eight minutes; one from seven yards out; the other from 20. But a failed onside kick attempt ended any hopes of a miracle comeback.
Dodge City’s rejuvenated defense, which gave up 260 total yards, last week to Amarillo, held the Bandits to just 74 yards in the first half. Sioux City responded by producing 104 in the third quarter alone. They finished with 275.
Floyd carried the ball 16 times for 73 yards. Carson added 33 yards on seven rushes and two touchdowns; Washington toted the ball seven times for 23 yards and a score. Brandon Venson, Carson and Washington all had one catch apiece.
Sioux City, who led the league in rushing last season, produced only 36 yards on 20 carries. They’ve now rushed for less than 100 yards combined in their first two games. Bentley totaled 23 yards on 10 rushes. Damon Mothershead recorded six catches for 86 yards. Oates had three receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown.
Next up: Dodge City at San Angelo-Saturday, March 21-6:30 p.m. pregame; 7 p.m. kick on 98.1 FM; westernkansasnews.com; mobile app: KSKZ and tuneinradio app: KSKZ