Amarillo, TX (westernkansasnews.com)-Call it a collapse; call it a missed opportunity; call it whatever you’d like. But Saturday’s second-half meltdown by the Dodge City Law could only be described one way: stunning.
Martee Tenner ran all over the Law defense to the tune of 107 yards on 20 carries, which included a nine-yard rushing touchdown, and Jacob Felton kicked the go-ahead field goal with three seconds to play as Amarillo overcame a 16-point halftime deficit to beat Dodge City 44-43 at the Civic Center.
“You can’t turn the ball over four times and expect to win a game,” Law Head Coach Sean Ponder said afterwards. “Just not very good execution at all, and special teams really stunk it up tonight.”
In a span of five minutes, Dodge City (0-2) fumbled the ball twice on kickoffs; the first of those was a missile that bounced off of Jeffery Cameron’s chest and right into Ronne Gofton’s hands. Seven plays later, Felton drilled a 31-yard field goal to give Amarillo a 38-37 lead with 10:31 to play in the fourth.
“We let them back in the game,” Ponder said. “It was all about want to. They wanted it more than us.”
The nightmare continued on the ensuing kickoff when Cashmin Thomas muffed the ball, and Leroy Trahan recovered for Amarillo (4-3) inside the Law 10. That led to another Felton field goal, giving the Venom their largest lead of the game 41-37 with 8:39 to go.
When Dodge City finally got the ball back at their own 5-yard line, the Venom defense seized control, shutting down Kingjack Washington for a three-yard loss back to the 2.
“Their (Amarillo’s) defense played great in the second half,” Ponder said. “We allowed them to do whatever they wanted.”
That’s when Josh Floyd took over. The 31-year old, journeyman quarterback put his team on his back, completing back-to-back passes for 27 yards; one to Jamie January for 14; the other to Dello Davis for 10. Three plays later, facing a third-and-8 at the Venom 19, it was Floyd calling his own number for a first down to the Amarillo 10.
“Our offense could score when they were on the field,” Ponder said. “But we weren’t on the field in the second half.”
After Kendrick Causey sacked Floyd on second-and-goal from the 5, the Law needed to catch a break, and they did on the very next play.
Floyd completed a pass to Maurice Young for seven yards to the 11. After the play, Amarillo’s bench was called for their second sideline warning, moving the ball to the Venom 6. From there, it was Floyd calling his own number again, this time going airborne for a six-yard rushing touchdown, putting the Law back in front. But two variables after the score changed the complexity of the game.
Mack Randall was called for a personal foul following the touchdown, and Alex Fambrough missed his second extra point of the night. When the dust settled, Dodge City had a 43-41 advantage with 1:55 remaining in the final quarter.
“Missed kicks were definitely a big difference in the game,” Ponder said vehemently. “But it wasn’t the only reason why we lost.”
Special teams was one reason, but the run defense, which has been a staple of Ponder’s teams the first two years; let them down in a bigtime way.
Coming in, Dodge City’s defense was allowing just 3.2 yards per carry. Amarillo gashed them for nearly five yards per clip, totaling 82 yards on the ground in the final 30 minutes of action.
Once Dodge took the lead, the Venom, which entering Saturday night’s contest was ranked second to last in the league in rushing, bullied the Law’s front five, enabling them to milk the clock.
On the drive, Tenner carried it six times for 18 yards, including a critical first down on third-and-2 from the Dodge City 22. Two plays later, Nate Davis moved the chains, carrying tacklers down to the three, forcing the Law (6-2) to burn their final timeout.
After Tenner was stonewalled for no gain on second down, Amarillo Head Coach Julian Reese sent out Felton, who made easy work of an 18-yard field goal to give the Venom a 44-43 advantage.
There was still time left, and when Felton’s kickoff was snagged quickly by Young at the Amarillo 21, it appeared Dodge City would escape their worst two quarters of football this season.
Fambrough, who had missed all eight of his prior field goal attempts on the year, including a 58-yarder earlier in the game, had a chance for redemption. But his 36-yard attempt sailed wide right, and the Venom survived the final two minutes that saw more turbulence than a cross-country redeye.
“I know one thing, we will be getting after it at practice this week,” Ponder said. “And if a guy fumbles a ball, it won’t be pretty.”
Floyd was the guilty party on two of those, one in the first half that didn’t lead to any points; the other early in the third, when he put it in Washington’s belly on an option read but pulled it out at the last second only to lose the ball. Silvio Diaz recovered for the Venom.
On the very next play, Tenner ran it in from nine yards out, cutting the Law lead to nine 37-28 with 11:40 left in the third.
“Just not good defense by any stretch,” Ponder said. “We didn’t do a good job on fourth down, and we didn’t do a good job guarding the sticks.”
That was a direct contrast to the first half, which saw Dodge City hold Amarillo, one of the league’s most potent passing attacks, to just 22 yards through the air. In turn, the Law offense put up nearly 200 total yards in the first 30 minutes, building a 16-point lead behind two rushing touchdowns by Washington, including a 36-yarder on the second play from scrimmage.
They added a Floyd 10-yard touchdown pass to Young; a two-yard scoring run by Floyd and Davis’s one-yard plunge on a jet sweep.
All the while, the defense forced two turnovers, intercepting (Nate) Davis on back-to-back possessions late in the second quarter. The first happened when Jacorey Quarterman undercut Julian Walker and picked off a wobbly spiral. The second came after Jamar Seard deflected Davis’s pass up in the air before Louvan Green came down with it.
But only Quarterman’s pick led to points: Davis’s touchdown run that gave Dodge their largest lead of the game 37-21.
Amarillo tied the game at 7 after Davis hit Walker on a three-yard touchdown pass, capping off a seven-play, 17-yard drive that ate up more than five minutes.
After Floyd’s touchdown pass to Young, the Venom grabbed the lead when Davis scampered off right end for an 11-yard score.
But turnovers and a bad snap that went over Davis head allowed Dodge City to build a double digit advantage.
Davis finished the night just 7-of-18 for 59 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He added eight yards rushing on five carries and a score.
Percy Turner reeled in three balls for 19 yards, including a four-yard touchdown reception late in the second quarter that pulled Amarillo to within two 23-21. Walker added two caches for 22 and a touchdown.
Floyd was 10-of-14 for 107 yards, a touchdown and two fumbles. He ran it for 46 yards and two scores. Washington totaled 40 yards on six carries and two touchdowns, while Dominique Carson, the reigning special teams’ player of the week was held just to 25 yards on four carries. He did catch a team-best four balls for 32 yards.
Notes: After running 27 plays in the first half, Dodge ran only 15 in the final 30 minutes…Dodge City totaled 193 yards of total offense in the first half; they had just 29 in the second half…Dodge City had 10 first downs in the first half compared to just three in the final two quarters (all of them came on their last scoring drive)…The 122 rushing yards allowed by Dodge City was the most given up in franchise history (It’s only the third time Ponder’s team has allowed 100 yards or more on the ground; Texas and Wichita are the other two times)
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