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Amarillo, TX (westernkansasnews.com)-There is something about the Amarillo Civic Center that Dodge City, for the life of them, just cannot figure out.
The place that has been a house of horrors for the Law over the past two seasons, once again, lived up to its billing.
Nate Davis accounted for five touchdowns, the Venom forced two second-half turnovers, and Amarillo clinched home field for the first round of the playoffs with a resounding 52-35 victory over the Law Saturday night in front a crowd of 3,233.
“We just have to pay attention better,” Dodge City Coach Sean Ponder said afterwards. “We had guys just falling asleep out there. We have to learn how to finish better.”
Finish was all that Dodge City (8-4) needed to do once Derrick Bernard scampered 18 yards for a touchdown that gave the Law a 35-21 advantage with 8:02 left in the third quarter.
Then the wheels fell off.
Davis cut the deficit to seven with a sensational six-yard touchdown pass to Raymond Johnson in the back of the end zone on fourth down. That was followed up by Jacob Felton’s line-drive kick that whacked off Ira Autrey’s helmet, and ricocheted into the hands of Venom special teamer Brian Isaac at the Amarillo 5.
“We knew what Felton was doing,” Ponder said. “We just didn’t get out of the way.”
Davis went right to work, hitting Julian Walker for 30 yards on a crossing pattern, before connecting with Johnson for a 14-yard gain down to the 1. Two plays later, Davis kept it himself off left guard for a touchdown, Amarillo’s second score in 118 seconds that tied the game at 35 with 2:16 to go in the period.
“I don’t know what the answers are right now,” Ponder said. “I have to go back and look at the video. I believe there was a lot of stuff that was missed.”
Dodge City’s fortunes went from bad to worse the next time they had the ball. On the final play of the third, facing a third-and-6 from the Venom 20, Bernard forced a pass to Dominique Carson that Jevin Colbert intercepted.
“It was just our guy trying to make a play,” Ponder explained.
Unfortunately for Bernard, he could only watch as Amarillo (8-4) turned his mistake into a five-play, 40-yard drive that Davis capped with a four-yard scoring toss to Walker that pushed the Venom lead to 42-35 with 12:33 to play.
“It is what it is,” Ponder said. “We should have won the football game. That’s it.”
But the Venom just kept coming, and when Felton recovered his own onside kick just moments later, the look of disbelief took over the Dodge City bench.
“He (Felton) set us up the whole night,” Ponder said. “It took us out of the game.”
The recovery only led to an Amarillo field goal, but the damage was done. The Venom chewed up nearly eight minutes of clock, and had a 45-35 edge with 4:50 remaining.
After Dodge City failed to convert a fourth-and-12 from their own 19, Amarillo put the finishing touches on one of the most dominant offensive stretches of the season with a seven-play scoring drive that Wyreaz Bradley promptly finished off with a two-yard touchdown with 25 seconds to go.
“When it rains it pours,” Ponder added. “Now we have to fight back. We have another shot at these guys.”
Davis, who started slowly for Amarillo, finished the night 13-of-25 for 143 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He ran it nine times for 17 yards and two scores. Bradley had 11 carries for 26 yards and two touchdowns, while Johnson caught five balls for 54 yards and a score.
Bernard was just 10-of-22 for 75 yards, a touchdown and a pick. He added 13 carries for 79 yards and two scores. Carson totaled 104 all-purpose yards, 76 of those came on the ground.
“I don’t think it’s very difficult to get over this mental hurdle here,” Ponder said. “These guys want to win. They will figure it out.”
The Law had things figured out early on, turning two Davis turnovers (an interception by Kory Stamps and a fumble recovery by DeWayne Autrey inside the red zone) into seven points when Carson scored from 4 yards out. Wood’s extra point was blocked, and Dodge City had a 6-0 lead with 3:49 to play in the first.
After Amarillo took the lead on Bradley’s four-yard plunge, Bernard found pay dirt from four yards out. He then connected with Carson on the two-point conversion to make it 14-7 Law.
Davis’s three-yard rushing touchdown tied the game at 14 before Bernard floated a perfect 12-yard pass to Venson in the back of the end zone and a 21-14 Dodge City advantage.
Once Davis hit Walker for a 15-yard score on third-and-4 to tie the game at 21, it was a controversial no-call at the end of the half that proved to be a backbreaker.
Facing a fourth-and-1 at the Amarillo 9 with no timeouts and 7 seconds to play in the half, Bernard hit Carson over the middle. The speedster turned up field and dove for the end zone. It appeared the ball crossed the goal line before his knee touched down. One official signaled touchdown, but after a two-minute conference, the score was waived off, and the game was tied at 21 going into the break.
Carson responded resoundingly in the third, sprinting 31-yards to the house to give Dodge City a 28-21 advantage.
Notes: Dodge City was flagged 14 times in the first half for 79 yards (they had only two penalties over the final 30 minutes)…Amarillo dominated time of possession-holding the ball for nearly 22 minutes in the second half…Dodge City fell to 0-4 lifetime vs. Amarillo and 0-3 at the Civic Center…Daniel McKinney was held without a catch for the first time this season…On Amarillo’s first scoring drive, the Law were flagged three times for pass interference inside the Law 10, giving the Venom three automatic first downs…It’s the second time this season that the Law had a double-digit lead in the second half and lost (They led 60-43 vs. Texas and lost)
Next up: Dodge City at Amarillo-1st Round of the playoffs—Saturday, May 11-6:30 p.m. pregame; 7:05 p.m. kick on 98.1 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kskz; mobile app: KSKZ and tuneinradio app: KSKZ