Law get defensive; bury Salina
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Dodge City, KS (westernkansasnews.com)-There were several times where Dodge City Coach Sean Ponder considered burning the tape from his team’s loss April 9 at Salina.
“It was definitely on my mind,” he said.
And while his team was far from perfect on Saturday night, that first matchup served as a major reminder that anyone can beat anyone when you let your guard down.
Daniel McKinney caught two touchdown passes, Dodge City’s defense held Salina to just 127 total yards, and the Law enacted some revenge with a 43-20 victory at United Wireless Arena.
“It’s always good to get a win, especially at home,” Ponder said after the game. “We knew we let that first game get away. We had to take care of business here.”
Early on, the game appeared to play out just like it did three weeks earlier. After Dominique Carson’s five-yard rushing touchdown gave the Law a 7-0, Salina responded quickly, thanks in large part to Joe Kassanavoid’s 22-yard kickoff return. Two plays later, former Kansas State linebacker Tre Walker galloped in from five yards out to tie the game.
The early score was the only thing that resembled Salina’s seven-point win in early April. Everything else was in stark contrast.
Dodge City’s defense locked down, holding the Liberty to just one first down the rest of the first half. In fact, Salina (2-6) had 0 total yards in the second quarter.
“Our defense played lights out,” said linebacker Jacorey Quarterman, who began the season in Salina. “I wanted to prove to those guys that I could still play, and that they made a mistake.”
Quarterman definitely made his case, registering four tackles, including a sack for a safety where he gobbled up former Law backup quarterback Keahn Wallace in the end zone to give Dodge City a 23-7 lead. It was part of a stretch where the Law scored 23 unanswered points to break the game open.
The most impressive part about Quarterman’s performance: he was nowhere close to 100 percent.
“I was maybe 70-75 percent healthy,” Quarterman acknowledged. “But I am okay. I feel good.”
Quarterman underwent offseason surgery on his right knee, which was part of the reason his tenure in Salina lasted only two games.
“It feels good to be back,” Quarterman said. “I know these guys from playing here two years. I felt I could help this defense.”
The other seven guys were not too shabby either. Delaney Dobard victimized his former team with a fourth-quarter interception and E.J. Johnson thwarted another Liberty drive when he picked off Derek Racette in the end zone on the second play of the second quarter. They also stuffed Salina on three other red-zone trips.
“Hats off to my coaching staff,” Ponder said. “Each week, they’re breaking down film, and we get into the other team’s tendencies. The guys were mentally in tune on defense.”
The Law took the lead for good when Harold Love plunged in from a yard out, capping off a six-play, 25-yard scoring drive.
Ponder’s bunch had a chance to put a stranglehold on the game Following Mike Georgetti’s missed 55-yard field goal. But three plays later, Dominique Carson fumbled the exchange with Derrick Bernard, and Justiss Scales recovered for Salina. It was one of three first-half turnovers forced by the Liberty. Unfortunately, Eric Clayton’s team never turned any of them into points.
Salina moved the ball to the Dodge City (6-2) 5-yard line, but Racette forced a third-down pass into double coverage, and Johnson snagged the interception and returned it to the Law 12-yard line.
Another missed field goal, a safety and a turnover on downs inside the red zone following Ira Autrey’s interception of Bernard put the Liberty in a 16-point hole at halftime.
In between all of that, Bernard, who threw two second-quarter interceptions, hit DeAngelo McCray for a two-yard scoring strike that extended the Law lead to 21-7.
On Salina’s first possession of the second half, Racette engineered a seven-play drive that reached the Law 3. But three straight incomplete passes ended the threat.
Dodge City answered with a seven-play, 30-yard drive that concluded with Bernard’s fourth-down, 23-yard touchdown pass to McKinney, who to that point had not caught a ball all night. The scoring strike gave the Law a 30-7 advantage with 4:48 to go in the third.
McKinney would add an eight-yard rushing touchdown early in the fourth and a 38-yard td reception that put the game on ice with 3:54 remaining.
“This is a great win for this franchise; this organization,” Ponder said. “I get a chance to sit up here and look at all this, and it’s great.”
Salina did break through twice in the second half with Racette hitting Ed Smith for a 34-yard score and calling his own number from seven yards out.
Racette finished the night 8-of-25 for 99 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He ran it three times for 20 yards and a score. Walker had nine carries for 17 yards and a touchdown while Smith caught three balls for 48 and had one house call.
Meantime for Bernard, it was another game to forget. He was picked off three times, bringing his season total to seven in two games vs. Salina. He completed 17-of-29 for a season-high 218 yards and three touchdowns. Dominique Carson had 11 carries for 27 yards and a touchdown, while McKinney reeled in four catches for 68 and two scores.
Notes: Dodge City was a season-worst 3-for-10 on third-down conversions…The Law held Salina to six first downs-that was the fewest in any game, for any team this season in the Champions Indoor Football League…The Law went nearly the entire first half without a penalty until they were called for a false start in the final minute of the second quarter…Racette was just 4-of-16 passing in the second half for 62 yards and an interception
Next up: Dodge City at Texas-Saturday, May 7-6:30 p.m. pregame; 7:05 p.m. kick on 98.1 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kskz; mobile app: KSKZ and tuneinradio app: KSKZ