Written by Ducon Williams
The mark of any championship team, in a professional sport, is how well they finish games. Coming into Friday night's contest at the Bismarck Event Center, the Frisco Fighters had won 6 of 7 games--and ALL were decided by one score! Alternatively, the Bismarck Bucks came into the game at 5-5, but only two of their games were determined by one score. The Fighters seemed poised for another close win as they've proven they can finish games.
The fireworks started early on when Darreon Jackson jarred the ball loose from the big paws of Manny Arceneaux, and Jackson's own brother, Malik Duncan recovered it for Bismarck. A play later, J.T. Stokes found himself in the endzone; 7-0 Bucks. That play was quickly answered when Fighter QB Jonathan Bane bombed a TD into the clutches of Mark Munson on a 29-yard airstrike. That didn't satisfy Frisco's head coach Clint Dolezel, and the result was a faked PAT attempt, when QB Jerrod Heard, the holder, ran right up the gut for 2 point. Fighters lead 8-7. Bismarck QB Caleb Lewis took a sandwich hit that sidelined him for a few plays, but the result was a 31-yard dart for a touchdown to J.T. Stokes--giving former Clemson QB, Kelly Bryant, his first IFL touchdown pass. Bucks up 13-8. Then the Fighters turned to their epic run game. A 13-yard trot for 6 from Demarcus Felton was followed soon after from the QB sneak from Bane, and Frisco suddenly seemed in control with 5:18 to go in the first half.
QB Caleb Lewis said, "hold my beer" and returned to the game for Bismarck and found newcomer WR Andre Williams for a 21-yard sideline score. After the extra point, it was Frisco's lead 22-20. New Bucks kicker Kimo Naehu must have heard of the new IFL rule that you could get two points by kicking the ball through the uprights under a minute in the half. He took full advantage by kicking it right down the center with just enough distance giving the Bismarck Bucks their first deuce in franchise history! How important was that kick? Well, going into the half tied at 22 against the Frisky Frisco Fighters is a feat of it's own.
The second half would get crazier. as both teams run games found their respective grooves. RB Demarcus Felton walked in for his second TD, but Bucks running back, Justin Rankin responded with a 1-yard TD run of his own. The missed PAT left Frisco up by a penny; 29-28. A tipped ball caused an errant throw from Jonathan Bane causing the ball to do a dying quail impersonation as it floated into the grasp of Darreon Jackson for his second turnover of the game. The result? Another beautiful TD run from Justin Rankin as he started left and did an impressive cut-back move to the right and outran James Romain's stout Frisco defense, hitting pay-dirt 18 yards later. Bucks up 35-29 with 2:17 to go in the 3rd. But, Frisky Frisco wasted no time as Bane found Mark Munson for his second TD of the game putting Frisco up 36-35 at the end of the third.
QB Lewis showed more value after his 8-yard dump pass to Justin Rankin gave the elusive running back his second half hat-trick, and the PAT put the Bucks up 42-36 with 5:24 to go. Have you ever asked yourself how much does 1 point matter in the high-scoring indoor game? It does! On the ensuing kickoff, Naehu kicks a squib kick that somehow bounces and goes right through the sure fingers of WR Marques Rodgers. He retreats desperately to the endzone to pick up the loose ball. As he does, he darts full speed to get out of the endzone, when Bismarck's DB Deion Carter met him like a freight train giving the Bucks a rouge! Add one more point, and Bismarck goes up 43-36!
The Frisco Fighters have proven time and time again, that they win ball games this close. After turning the ball over on downs, the defense held strong. Bismarck had the opportunity to extend their lead with a field goal that sailed just wide right. The aggressive Fighters offense effortlessly marched down the field, when QB1 Bane hit QB2 Jerrod Heard for an 11-yard, potentially game-tying touchdown. Down 43-42, Dolezel elected to go for the win with a 2-point conversion attempt. The Bucks D-line put pressure on Bane who threw incomplete to no one. Game over, right!? Not so fast. Malik Duncan was flagged for illegal defense, giving Frisco another try from the one-yard line with runners like Felton, Heard, and Rodgers in their arsenal. Then, Dolezel/Radabaugh did their best Pete Carroll impersonation from his infamous play-call in Superbowl XLIX. Instead of handing the rock to Beast Mode, Marshawn Lynch, they ran a pick play which resulted in the Patriots picking the ball off and winning the super bowl. Rather than hand the ball off for the one-yard winner, the Fighters elected for the same pick play. Trips right, with Felton, Heard, and Rodgers. Heard picks Deion Carter, as Bane passes to Felton for the easy score....except....Bucks DB Zuril Hendrick read the play perfectly and with a full sprint and sure hands wrapped up Felton who fell down a few inches from the goal line. The attempt failed! The Bismarck Bucks have upset the Frisco Fighters 43-42 in one of the best indoor games you will ever see! This, ladies and gentlemen, is indoor football. It's a lightning fast, up-and-down, side-to-side, whiplash inducing roller coaster and you're bound to enjoy the ride!
The Fighters offense outgained the Bucks 267-186, but the Bucks forced 4 turnovers, and committed none. It's amazing the Fighters kept it this close. Of course, 5 missed field goals from the Bucks leaves alot of points off the board. Justin Rankin won player of the game for Bismarck for his second-half hat trick. JT Stokes led Bismarck receivers with 6 receptions for 69 yards and a score, but added one on the ground. Demarcus Felton finished with 11 carries for 50 yards on the ground and a pair of scores for the Fighters. WR Mark Munson led Frisco's receivers with 5 receptions for 115 yards and two scores of his own.
The Fighters fall to 6-2 on the season and will host the expansion Northern Arizona Wranglers on July 24, at 7:05 PM Central.
The Bismarck Bucks improve to 6-5 and will travel to Tucson to take on the Sugar Skulls on Saturday, July 24, at 8:05 Central time. "
Both games can be viewed live on Youtube pending Stadium's decision on their Game of the Week next week.