Omaha, Neb (westernkansasnews.com)-Needless to say, Dodge City needed a win any way they could get one; aesthetics weren’t a requirement.
Despite some second half fireworks from the Beef, the Law showcased enough offensive firepower of their own in the first half to carry them to a 64-39 victory Friday night at Ralston Arena, ending a franchise-worst three-game losing streak.
“We played well,” Head Coach Sean Ponder said. “It wasn’t perfect, but we needed a win. And even in the second half, I thought we played pretty good.”
The first 30 minutes has been Dodge City’s calling card all season. This game was no exception.
On their opening drive, the Law (7-4) provided plenty of anxious moments, converting a fourth down on their own side of the field and two third downs. The second of those went for six after Josh Floyd connected with Brandon Venson on a slant for a 10-yard touchdown giving the Law a 7-0 lead.
The advantage didn’t stick.
A.J. Downs took the ensuing kickoff 55 yards, knifing his way through Dodge City’s special teams unit for a touchdown. Todd Adolf booted through the extra point, and the game was tied at 7.
Dodge City left no doubt after that.
The Law would score the next six times they had the ball, starting off with KingJack Washington’s two-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1 that gave Dodge City a 14-7 lead with 5:02 left in the first.
After Marquis George block Adolf’s 47-yard field goal, the Law was once again inside the Omaha 10. Facing a second-and-goal from the Beef 4, Floyd made a costly mistake when his pass to Dello Davis was intercepted by Stephan McCord and returned 45 yards for a touchdown. But an illegal defense wiped away the potential game-tying pick six, and the Law scored on the very next play when Dominique Carson ran it in from four yards out, giving Dodge City a 21-7 cushion.
“We were fortunate in that instance,” Ponder said. “But credit our guys; they made plays.”
Omaha’s next series ended on a special teams gaff deep in their own end early in the second quarter. On fourth-and-25, Beef Head Coach Corey Ross sent Adolf out for a 58-yard field goal try. But the snap bounced back to holder Chuck Wright, who then flipped it left to Adolf, who barely made it out of the end zone before being tackled at the 3-yard line.
Two plays later, Washington extended the lead to 28-7 with his second rushing touchdown of the night: a one-yard plunge.
Omaha (1-10) countered on their next series, scoring when Brion Carnes, the former Nebraska Cornhusker backup quarterback who was signed on Tuesday, hit Kayne Farquharson on an out route for a 10-yard touchdown. But disaster struck on the extra point. Adolf not only missed the kick, but was lost for the rest of the game after injuring his right leg.
Meanwhile Dodge City’s offense continued to sizzle, taking only two plays on their next drive to punch it in. After Floyd was sacked by Davon Bridges for a nine-yard loss, the veteran signal caller gathered himself and fired his best pass of the night.
On second-and-19 from the Beef 22, Floyd dropped back before throwing a line-drive dart to Venson on a post route in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. Alex Fambrough missed the extra point, and the Law had a 34-13 advantage with 5:30 to go in the first half.
“The only ones that can stop our offense are our guys,” Ponder explained afterwards. “In the first half, nobody could stop us.”
After the Beef pulled closer following Carnes 38-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Kinnie, Carson put the Law in prime position again with a 40-yard kickoff return. That setup Floyd’s nine-yard scamper to pay dirt that pushed the Law lead to 41-19 with 4:14 remaining in the second.
Dodge City added one more score before the half, taking advantage of Omaha’s fourth-down miscue from their own 14. Three plays later, Carson took a Floyd handoff and rumbled in from a yard out capping off a first half that saw the Law hang 48-points on one of the worst defensive units in the league.
As good as Dodge City has been in the first half of games, the second half has been a total mystery.
On Omaha’s first play of the third quarter, Carnes connected with Allen Daniels over the middle. As he made his cutback move, Daniels fell to the turf. But nobody touched him, allowing the receiver to get back up and race untouched 40 yards to the end zone. After a failed two-point conversion, the Beef trailed 48-25.
Dodge City’s first possession of the second half ended when Fambrough pushed a 21-yard field goal to the left.
It took the Beef just six plays to make the Law pay, sprinkling in a ground game that produced 40 of the team’s 54-yards for the game on one series, including Downs’ one-yard touchdown run. Another missed two pointer, and the Dodge City lead was 48-31 with 6:51 to play in the third quarter.
“I thought the way we handled adversity in this game was great,” Ponder said.
Following Carson’s two-yard scoring run that gave the Law a 54-31 lead early in the fourth, Omaha proceeded to make one final push.
After Downs was tackled in the end zone for a one-point rouge, Carnes answered with a six-yard touchdown scramble that capped off a five play, 46-yard drive. But it was his two-point conversion, where he was initially stopped at the 1 before the entire Beef offensive line pushed their quarterback across the goal line, pulling Omaha to within two possessions 55-39 with 9:28 to go.
Carnes and company had a chance to pull within a single score after Antonio Bell intercepted Floyd at the Omaha 12. That’s when defensive end Monte Lewis took over the game.
The one-time Washington Redskin wreaked havoc on Carnes, sacking him on back-to-back plays, including one for a safety in the back of the end zone.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Lewis said afterwards. “I’ve been looking forward to that. Coach saw a situation that we took advantage of, and it worked out.”
Following the free kick, Floyd put the game away with a 30-yard touchdown run right up the middle.
“It was very important to get this win,” Lewis said. “This was a very big for us. We have a lot of motivation now. We feel a lot better going into the bye week.”
Floyd finished the night 8-of-20 for 90 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Carson carried the ball nine times for 27 yards and three scores. Washington added 11 yards on seven carries and two touchdowns.
Brandon Venson had big game, catching four balls for 43 yards and two scores.
In his first game with the Beef, Carnes completed 12 of 28 passes for 187 yards and three touchdowns. He was sacked three times.
Daniels rushed for 38 yards on four carries, while the Law defense held Carnes number-one option Farquharson to just three catches for 21 yards.
Notes: Guard Odie Rush was lost for the game in the first quarter with a knee injury; Jamar Seard took his spot and helped the ground game produce 96 yards on 23 carries…Law DB Zach Friess left the game with his right arm in a sling…Omaha didn’t turn the ball over for the first time this season…Carnes became Omaha’s fourth different quarterback this season, replacing the ineffective Wright…Dodge City is now 4-0 lifetime vs. the Beef…Omaha will miss the playoffs for just the third time in franchise history…With the Revolution’s 64-61 victory over Amarillo, the Law are now tied with Texas and Wichita for second place; Amarillo is fifth at 6-4; they travel to Sioux City next week (a Bandits win and the Law clinch a playoff spot)
Next up: vs. Sioux City-Saturday, June 6-6:30 p.m. pregame; 7:05 p.m. kickoff on 98.1 FM; westernkansasnews.com; mobile app: KSKZ and tuneinradio app: KSKZ