No doubt about it; Law coast past Salina
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Dodge City, KS-In their first three games, Dodge City Coach Sean Ponder exhausted all of his blood-pressure medication with three, nail-biting finishes. But on Saturday, his heart returned to normal rhythm as his team played their most complete game of the season.
Rudy Johnson threw for 181 yards and five touchdowns while the defense forced four Salina turnovers in an 87-42 rout of the Liberty at United Wireless Arena. With the win, Dodge City improved to 4-0 for the first time in franchise history.
“Our offense finally came to play,” Ponder said. “When this team hits on all cylinders, they’re pretty scary.”
Interestingly enough, the only drama in the game came when the Law failed to pick up a fourth-and-1 at the Salina 20 on their opening drive. The Liberty cashed in on Dodge City’s missed opportunity, and Drew O’Brien drilled a 23-yard field goal for a 3-0 advantage.
It was the only bit of life Salina showed over the next 30 minutes.
On the first play of Dodge City’s ensuing drive, Johnson hit Daniel McKinney on a post for a 22-yard score. And though Jake Latimer blocked Jared Wood’s extra point, that touchdown began a streak of 35 unanswered points for the Law.
“Our offensive line was tremendous tonight,” Ponder said. “They gave our quarterbacks time to throw the ball. And in the second half, our ground game started to work.”
Things turned from bad to worse for Salina (0-4) the next time they had the ball. After quarterback Josh Floyd, who played two seasons in Dodge City, was knocked out of the game, backup Derek Racette promptly telegraphed a pass right to Law defensive back Caleb Young, who sprinted 35 yards to the end zone for a 12-6 advantage (the Law failed on the two-point conversion).
“Our defense was lights out again,” Ponder added.
That defense held the Liberty to just five first downs and 93 total yards in the first half.
“Everything starts with that side of the football,” Ponder said. “We knew our offense would come around. But when our defense is playing like that, it’s very tough to stop us.”
After O’Brien missed a 39-yard field goal, the Law responded one play later when Johnson found a crease off of left guard and scampered 45 yards for a touchdown. Wood’s PAT gave Dodge City a 19-3 cushion.
It was all downhill from there.
On the ensuing kickoff, Nakia Brown was tackled in the end zone for a safety, which was followed up by Johnson’s six-yard touchdown strike to DJ Abnor, capping off a six-play, 21-yard drive that put Dodge City up 28-3.
“All three phases of the game were in high gear tonight,” Ponder said. “We challenged these guys before this game, and they responded.”
Salina giftwrapped six more points to the Law when Floyd’s wobbly spiral was picked off by E.J. Johnson and returned 20 yards for a touchdown, giving Ponder’s bunch a 35-3 lead with 14:05 left in the first half.
“We told these guys that they could not let their foot off of the gas pedal,” Ponder said. “And they didn’t.”
The Liberty finally ended the scoring streak when Floyd connected with Jeffery Cameron for a 25-yard touchdown to make it 35-10. But the Law countered right back when Kamalie Matthews rumbled in from a yard out to push the lead to 42-10. They would add another tally in the final seconds of the period on Johnson’s line-drive touchdown pass to Brandon Venson for a 49-16 halftime advantage.
“It was only a matter of time before everything came together,” Ponder said. “Tonight was one of those nights.”
Seven days earlier, the Liberty climbed out of a 20-point hole and nearly pulled off a miracle comeback vs. Dodge City. But any thoughts of a rally this time around were quickly doused on the first play of the third quarter when a bad snap was recovered by Dodge City defensive lineman Gary Henderson. Three plays later, the Law was back in the end zone, this time on the heels of Abnor’s 12-yard dash to pay dirt that pushed the lead to 56-16.
“Last week, it almost felt like we lost the game,” Ponder admitted. “This time around, there was a much more positive vibe.”
Johnson threw two more touchdown passes to McKinney before handing over the keys to backup Andrew Jackson.
“Rudy (Johnson) was exception tonight,” Ponder said. “He looked very comfortable.”
His backup was not too shabby either.
Jackson threw two touchdowns in relief: one to Hi-C Scott; the other to Rashad Pargo that stretched the lead to 84-35. Wood added a 26-yard field goal to cap the scoring.
(Rudy) Johnson was sensational, completing 19-of-22 passes. At one point, he connected on 11 straight throws. The rookie also added 55 yards on the ground and a touchdown. Pargo and Scott caught five passes each while McKinney tallied three more touchdown receptions.
Floyd was 21-of-34 for 234 yards, four touchdowns and an interception for Salina, who lost their 11th straight game dating back to last season. Tracy Brooks caught six balls for 74 yards and a score.
Notes: The 87 points were the second most scored in Law franchise history behind last year’s 89-point outburst vs. Texas…Dodge City is 4-0 lifetime vs. Salina at United Wireless Arena and now leads the all-time series 7-2…Dodge City is one of four, remaining unbeaten teams in the Champions Indoor Football League
Next up: Dodge City vs. Dallas-Saturday, April 1-6 p.m. pregame; 6:35 p.m. kick on 98.1 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kskz and KSKZ mobile app