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Dodge City, KS-Dodge City has had their fair-share of close calls in 2017. Add Saturday night to that distinguished list.
Quarterback Rudy Johnson entered the game late in the second half and ran for a score while throwing for another, Daniel McKinney nearly reached the century mark in receiving yards, and the Law lassoed Texas 49-46 at United Wireless Arena to earn the franchise’s first-ever home playoff game.
“This is huge,” Head Coach Sean Ponder said. “To be able to host in front of these fans, there will be nothing like it.”
That celebration was definitely tempered early in the second half. With the Law looking to extend on an eight-point lead, Andrew Jackson, who was making his first career start at quarterback for Dodge City (9-2), threw a pick-6 on the very first play of the third quarter. It was a ball thrown into double coverage that Frankie Solomon plucked out of the sky and returned 30 yards to the end zone.
“It was not a very good play,” Ponder said. “But credit Andrew, he played a pretty good game.”
Jackson’s nightmare third quarter continued two series later when his rainbow pass into the end zone was once again easily intercepted by Solomon. It was part of a stretch where the Law failed to score on three straight possessions, which led a Chris Dixon to Clinton Solomon touchdown pass on fourth-and-4 that gave the Revolution a 40-36 advantage with 7:13 left in the third.
“We had to dig deep,” Ponder said. “Our defense came up with some pretty big plays down the stretch.”
With Texas (7-4) going for the kill early in the third quarter, the Law needed a stop. And on fourth-and-goal at the 7, they got it; although the play will go down as one of the best to never produce points.
Dixon connected with running back Michael Dyer on a screen up the left sideline. The former Auburn star who broke Bo Jackson’s freshman rushing record with the Tigers, reversed field, shaking off seven Dodge City defenders as he made his way towards the goal line. The last line of defense for Dodge City: Travis Taylor, who won the one-on-one matchup by tripping up the electrifying back at the 2-yard line, keeping it a four-point contest.
“That was a heck of an individual effort by Travis,” Ponder said.
Three players later, (Rudy) Johnson found a crease for 24 yards, setting up shop at the Revolution 11. On the next play, Johnson blasted up the middle for the go-ahead score, giving the Law a 42-40 advantage with 11:12 to play in the game.
“I don’t micro manage our defense,” Ponder said. “I let Coach (Hereon) O’Neil and Coach (Jason) Scheck take care of their business.”
That defense, more specifically Trey Dudley came up with the biggest play of the game the next time Texas had the ball.
The Revolution calmly moved from their own 24, to the Law 10, converting a third-and-3 on Dixon’s nine-yard scramble. But three plays later, Dixon made a costly mistake. The veteran signal caller tried to force a pass into the back of the end zone that Dudley snagged away. It was only the second red zone turnover of the season for Texas.
“Trey is one of the best players in this league,” Ponder said. “He has made one big play after another this season.”
That one play allowed Dodge City to take over and bleed the clock. An eight-play march consumed nearly six minutes and was capped with Johnson’s 16-yard scoring toss to Marquis Deadwiler that pushed the Law lead to 49-40 with 59 seconds to go.
Now, Dodge City needed one more bounce to go their way.
It only took Texas one play to score on their next possession. Dixon found Dyer on a screen pass up the sideline where he broke five tackles en route to the end zone. Trailing 49-46 with 41 seconds remaining (Texas missed the two-point conversion), Adam Peden laid out a perfect onside kick that bounced off of Law defensive back Tuff Johnson. The ball rolled right past two Texas players and found the waiting arms of McKinney. It was a fortuitous ending to a game where the outcome could have been so much different.
“We will take a win any way we can get it,” Ponder admitted. “That’s a good football team, so hats off to our guys.”
Dodge City appeared to be in control after taking a 36-28 lead on DJ Abnor’s three-yard rushing touchdown; then halting Texas’s late, first-half drive when Gary Henderson sacked Dixon. It capped of a wild first two quarters that saw two ties and three lead changes.
After Dodge City grabbed the lead back on Jackson’s four-yard touchdown pass to Kamalie Matthews that made it 29-28, Dyer giftwrapped the Law a possession when the normally sure-handed back was stripped by Henderson, and Jamar Seard recovered for Dodge City. That turnover eventually led to Abnor’s touchdown that stretched the lead to eight.
Dixon threw five touchdown passes, four of those coming in the first half. He totaled 166 yards through the air for Texas, who dropped to 3-4 after a 4-0 start.
Jackson was 7-of-20 for 122 yards, two touchdowns and two picks for Dodge City, before being pulled late in the third quarter. Johnson was 5-of-6 for 46 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 43 yards and a touchdown. McKinney caught five balls for 94 yards and a touchdown and Seard recorded two sacks.
Notes: A Dodge City win vs. Duke City in their regular-season finale would clinch the league’s No.1 overall seed
Next up: Dodge City at Duke City-Saturday, June 3-6:30 p.m. pregame; 7:05 p.m. kick on 98.1 FM; westernkansasnews.com/z98 and KSKZ mobile app