May 24, 2024

Fantastic finish: Law holds on in final seconds to beat Duke City


Game Stats

Scoring Summary

DC Law Offense

DC Law Defense

Duke City Offense

Duke City Defense

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Dodge City, KS-There have definitely been some unbelievable moments for the Dodge City Law in their four years playing at United Wireless Arena. But Saturday night, may have topped all of them.

Rudy Johnson threw for 201 yards and five touchdowns, Tuff Johnson held Andre London out of the end zone in the final seconds, and the Law survived to beat Duke City 59-52 in their regular-season opener.

“It was a great game,” Head Coach Sean Ponder said. “We didn’t expect anything less from those guys. That’s a good football team, and it took everything to hold them off.”

Dodge City (1-0) seemed to have the game in the bag once McKinney hauled in his second touchdown reception of the night with 10:25 to go in the fourth that gave Law a 44-36 lead. This despite Jay Latchison blocking Jared Wood’s extra point. Then, on Duke City’s first play on the ensuing drive, E.J. Johnson picked off Donovan Porterie, giving the Law the ball back at their own 5.

“It was definitely a big momentum changer,” Ponder said.

But whatever thoughts that the game was over were quickly doused when Dodge City was called for a hold in the end zone, resulting in a safety. Duke City responded following the free kick, scoring when Lucien Walker took Porterie’s screen pass 40 yards to the house to tie the game. Brian Weems extra point gave the Gladiators a 45-44 edge with 8:54 remaining.

“That holding call changed the game,” Ponder said.

It did not take long for Dodge to reclaim the lead, scoring on the first play of their next drive when McKinney reeled in a 25-yard touchdown from Johnson, which was followed up with Brandon Venson’s one-handed catch on the two-point conversion to put the Law in front 52-45.

“We’ve got a lot of weapons on offense,” Ponder said. “And I thought Rudy really responded after that first pass.”

That first toss of Johnson’s indoor career was a pick-6. But the rookie answered the bell by completing 15-of-22 passes for 201 yards.

“He’s a rookie,” Ponder said. “It was his first pass. We took him over and showed him his mistake and he corrected it.”

The Law had a chance to put the game away the next time Duke City (0-1) had the ball. The Gladiators were staring at a fourth-and-6 from the Dodge City 21, but Porterie connected with former Dodge City wide out Ricardo Johnson for 12 yards and a first down to the 9. Two plays later, Walker trotted in from two yards out before Weems added the PAT to tie it at 52 with 4:00 left.

“We knew what we had to do,” safety Trey Dudley said. “We had to finish.”

And finish they did, although there was no lack of drama.

Johnson capped off a six-play, 37-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run on third-and-1 at the 2. The march ate up more than three minutes of the fourth-quarter clock.

“We didn’t want to take any chances there,” Ponder said. “We needed to score and get a stop.”

With only one timeout remaining, the Gladiators drove from their own 7 to the Dodge City 13. But on second down, Gary Henderson sacked Porterie for a two-yard loss.

“Everything that we do is predicated on our front three,” Dudley explained. “Those guys were tremendous tonight.”

Duke City still had a chance to tie the game. The Gladiators raced back to the line of scrimmage and got the snap off with one second remaining. Porterie then hit Andre London on a slant down the middle, but the receiver was ripped down a yard short of the end zone by (Tuff) Johnson, giving the Law a dramatic seven-point win.

“That was a heck of a play by Tuff,” Dudley said. “I thought he was in at first, but then I looked at the replay and it showed that he was down. It was definitely close.”

It capped off a wild night in which Dodge City overcame a nine-point second-quarter deficit.

The game started inauspiciously for Porterie, whose first pass of the night was intercepted by Dudley and returned 30 yards for a touchdown that gave Dodge City a 7-0 lead.

“I just watched the quarterback’s eyes,” Dudley said. “But those guys up front made it all possible.”

The Gladiators eventually tied the game on a five-play, 25-yard march that was capped with Porterie’s six-yard scoring toss to Walker.

Then Duke City returned the favor.

Johnson’s first pass in a Law uniform was picked off by Ray Little, who sprinted in from 10 yards out to give the Gladiators a 14-7 advantage.

“It wasn’t the best start to a game,” Ponder said. “But he (Johnson) rebounded.”

He did indeed, and the next time the Law had the ball, the first-year signal caller hit Venson in the end zone for an 18-yard score that knotted the game at 14.

“It was a heck of a throw,” Ponder said. “But Rudy can do so many different things. He can beat you with his legs and his arm.”

After the teams exchanged fumbles, the Law jumped back on top early in the second when Johnson found McKinney in the back-right corner of the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown. On the play, the second-year wide receiver beat Little, hauled in the spiral before tumbling over the back wall.

“We’ve come to expect that from Daniel,” Ponder said. “He’s a great receiver.”

Not deterred, the Gladiators responded with 16 straight points. Weems drilled a 21-yard field goal before a fumbled snap by Johnson was recovered by Kyle Patterson in the end zone, giving Duke City a 23-21 edge.

“We weathered the storm at times during the game,” Ponder said. “That stuff is going to happen.”

After Dodge City failed to convert a fourt-and-4 at the Gladiators 9, Duke City scored again when Antonio Bray raced in from three yards out to puke the Gladiators up 30-21. Bray’s 39-yard reception where he beat (E.J.) Johnson setup the touchdown.

Johnson’s 13-yard scoring toss to Venson with 18 seconds left in the half, coupled with Wood’s 18-yard field goal in the third put the Law back in front 31-30. They made it 38-30, taking advantage of Porterie’s second interception when Ricky Lewis added a three-yard rushing touchdown.

“Ricky has a chance to be really good,” Ponder said.

Duke City closed the gap the next time they had the ball, scoring when Walker blasted in from nine yards. But they failed on the two-point conversion.

Porterie finished the game 24-of-36 for 249 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. He was sacked once. Bray had seven carries for eight yards and Walker tallied three catches for 47.

Johnson carried the ball 17 times for 66 yards for Dodge City, who won their seventh straight game at United Wireless Arena. McKinney caught six passes for 109 yards and three touchdowns. Venson had four receptions for 45 and two scores.

Next up: Dodge City at Wichita-Saturday, Mar. 11-6:30 p.m. pregame; 7:05 p.m. kickoff on 98.1 FM; and KSKZ mobile app