By Tonya Swim
Salina, Kansas-The Northern Conference championship game did not disappoint in entertainment, but like all games, one must come away with the loss.
Sioux City's Greg Conry kickoff was taken by Salina's Dominique Carson and the Liberty will start their first possession on their own 13 yard line.
Derrick Bernard hands off to Carson for an eight yard gain then keeps the ball to get up to the Sioux City 24. A hand off to Rashad Pargo added four more, but an incomplete pass brought up third and two. A pitch to Carson lost one yard then pressure from the Bandits defense had Bernard scrambling unable to complete a pass and at 11:33 in the first, the Bandits get the ball on a turnover of downs on their own 18.
Liam Nadler hands off to Darrian Miller when he was stopped by Ricky Wyatt for a one yard gain. Salina got an offside flag giving the Bandits and extra five yards to the Bandits 24 then an illegal procedure brought up second and nine and put the ball back to the Bandits 19. Two incomplete passes and a field goal that was no good will give the Liberty the ball on their own five yard line.
Bernard faked a hand off then ran up to their own 12 but again, the defense put him under pressure and he threw the ball into the stands. A toss to Carson would get them the first and 10 on their own 16. Using Carson again will gain seven then Bernard will run after being flushed out for one more yard. A keeper then a pass to Julian Stafford will get the ball up to the Bandits nine and give the Liberty a new run of downs. An incomplete pass will bring up second and 10, then Benard faked a pump and with Carson blocking ran the ball for a gain of three. Bernard's next pass is tipped by Delvin Batiste and it incomplete and brought out Jimmy Allen to get three on the board with a field goal with 1:55 left in the first.
The next kickoff would start the Bandits out on their own 21. A hand off to Miller and two incomplete passes would bring up three and 10, but an illegal contact on Salina would move the ball up five. Another hand off would move the ball and end the first quarter.
Second quarter would start with two hand offs to Miller to get the ball up to the Salina 12. Nadler's next pass is intercepted, but a flag on Salina would negate the interception and give the Bandits the replay of the down and moved the ball up to the Liberty's seven. Two hand offs to Miller would put the ball on the three then Nadler Superman-ed into the end zone for a touchdown. A bad snap had Conry picking up and throwing the ball, which was an incomplete pass and the Bandit are on the board Salina 3 Sioux City 6.
Salina's next possession was short and sweet thanks to Carson's kickoff return. However another bad snap would keep the extra points unattainable. 11:37 left in the half, Salina 9 Sioux City 6.
Miller took the kickoff out to midfield. Nadler found Andre London to get it to the Salina 11 but a hand off to Miller would be stopped by Wyatt for no gain. Finding Brandon Shepherd will gain three then a hand off to Frederick Bruno would bring up fourth and two on the Salina four. Conry came out for the field goal attempt, but a high snap threw off the timing and it was no good. 8:44 left in the half, Salina 9 Sioux City 9.
The next kickoff was, again taken by Carson. He chased it around the end zone then grabbed it and headed out towards the opposite end zone avoiding and getting out of every potential tackle for a touchdown. Allen's PAT was good and Salina takes the lead 16, Sioux City 9.
Allen kicked off and Miller took it up to the Salina 17.
Nadler faked to Bruno and tossed it to Miller for no gain then pressure caused an incomplete pass. The next pass was to London for a touchdown. London's ninth touchdown of the season. The PAT was no good, Salina 16 Sioux City 15.
Tracy Brooks took the kickoff out to the Bandit's 17 then Bernard found Stafford for a six yard gain. Time out, Salina.
A near fumble on the hand off to Rashad Pargo added four yards then Bernard scrambles down to the Bandit's 13 bringing up fourth and six. Allen's 30 yard field goal attempt was good and with 3:56 left in the half, Salina 19 Sioux City 15.
A short kickoff by Allen was picked up by Devin Groenhagen out to the Salina 19. Nadler pitched to Bruno, no gain, then a pass to London who was stopped by Trey Dudley-Giles bringing up third and long. Another pass to London got the ball to the Salina one and first and goal. A hand off to Miller would see a flag for illegal defense, repeat of the down and put the ball on the half hash. Handing off to Miller would put six on the board and the extra point was good. 78 seconds left in the half, Salina 19 Sioux City 22.
Conry's kickoff touches the wall giving Salina the ball on their own 10 yard line. 55 seconds left in the half, Bernard threw an incomplete pass, but a pass interference would move the up up to the Salina 15. A keeper would add five, and incomplete pass then a pressured run would be fumbled and picked out of the air by Stafford for a 13 yard gain. Faking a pitch would give Pargo the ball and for the 13th time this season he found the end zone. The extra point was no good, with six seconds left in the half, Salina 25 Sioux City 22.
The next kickoff would be taken by Miller, but it would also end the half.
The second half would see Miller fumble the kickoff and Sioux City's Batiste recover it on their own 17.
Nadler's first pass would be incomplete in part due to the coverage of Isiah Barfield. A hand off to Bruno would gain seven then a hand off to Miller would bring up first and 10 on the Salina 23. The next incomplete pass would also see a flag for the replay of the down and put the ball on the Liberty 17. Nadler pitched to Bruno, incomplete pass then another pitch, this time to Miller would bring up third and goal on the Salina five. An offsid flag on Salina would help with the bad exchange putting the ball half the distance at the two and a half. Nadler found Miller for a touchdown and a flag for hands to the face against Jacob Lattimer. Conry's extra point was no good and 9:57 left in the third, Salina 25 Sioux City 28.
Carson took the kickoff out to their own four. A pitch to Carson would be for no gain, then a long pass to Stafford will give the six. Allen's extra point was good and Salina goes up 31, Sioux City 28.
Miller took the kickoff out to the Bandit's 20 then Nadler's pass to London put the ball on the Salina eight. A pitch to Daryl Virgies would have no gain and second and goal. Time out Sioux City. A slant pass to London would gain five but Nadler was sacked by Lattimer for a loss of three on the next play and brought up fourth and goal and the field goal team. The attempt was good, Salina 32 Sioux City 31.
A short kickoff would be taken by Brooks out to the Sioux City 15. The pass to Batiste was dropped, the next pass was incomplete then Bernard goes back to pass, drops the snap and it rolls out to the Salina 22 before Sioux City recovers it.
Nadler used one pass to find Bruno and put six on the board. The two point conversion was stopped by Wyatt and with 3:11 left in the third quarter, Salina 32 Sioux City 37.
Conry's kickoff skipped out of bounds and Salina starts on their own five.
Bernard hands off to Carson for the six yard gain then runs the ball out to their own 20. An incomplete pass then a hand off to Carson got the ball midfield but Bernard was flushed out of the pocket and ran down to the Sioux City five, but a flag will back them back to their own 15 bringing up third and 15 along with the end of the third quarter.
Bernard's pass was incomplete but a flag against the Bandits gave the five yards needed for the first and 10. Bernard uses a fake to run up inside the five, but an unsportsmanlike on Danna Harris Jr. backed Salina up to the Bandit's 17 yard line. Carson got the pitch and ran the ball up and an illegal defense on the Bandits gave them the ball on the Sioux City 12. Bernard used a shotgun to Carson for a gain of six then again for a gain of two. An incomplete pass stalled the possession then a hand off to Carson resulted in a touchdown, or did it? The challenge flag came out as the referee ruled Carson down at the one. The ruling on the field stands bringing up fourth and one. Bernard ran a pass option to Donovan Rasberry for the touchdown. PAT is good, Salina 39 Sioux City 37.
Miller takes the next kickoff but is stopped by Lattimer and Dudley-Giles on the Sioux City 14.
Nadler's pass was incomplete then a pass out to Miller gained six. A hand off to Shepard was a loss of one then the field goal attempt was no good. 9:06 left in the game, Salina 39 Sioux City 37.
Salina will start with the ball on their own five.
Bernard's keeper was stopped at the line of scrimmage, a hand off to Carson but and illegal proceedure would back them up to their own two and a half yard line. Bernard was flushed out and stopped hard by Groenhagen at his own five yard line than threw an incomplete pass to bring up fourth and 10. Allen punted out of bounds giving the Bandits possession midfield.
Nadler's hand off to Miller gained five then an option to Miller got the ball to the Salina six. A hand off to Bruno gained one then another hand off to Miller put the ball on the two. Nadler gave the ball to Miller for the touchdown, but a flag for holding voided the touchdown and backed the Bandits to the Salina 12. Nadler found Bruno in the end zone for a touchdown, but a high snap throws off Conry and the PAT goes left. A hands to the face on Lattimer gave the Bandits a replay and a hand off to Miller is a good two-point conversion. 3:10 left in the game, Salina 39 Sioux City 45.
The kickoff rolled along the top of the wall before falling into the crowd at the Salina 11.
Bernard passed to Carson for a gain of six. An incomplete pass then a pump fake and pass to Carson got the ball to the Bandits 24. A screen out to Carson gained two then the one minute warning sounded.
Bernard found Brooks to bring the first and 10 on the Bandits 11 then ran out for a one yard gain. A fake pitch yielded an incomplete pass then Bernard found Brooks and brought up the first and goal on the one yard with 22 seconds left. Time out, Salina.
Bernard kept the ball to get to the half hash then a timeout was called.
Bernard scrambles but stopped at the two. The ball kept rolling backwards as the referees chased it and the time kept going. Bernard spiked the ball with one second left and the timekeeper added two seconds. The next and final pass was incomplete and Sioux City wins the Northern Division Championship.
Not being able to capitalize when you're so close to scoring is a disappointment. “We had it and let it slip away at the end.” reflected Salina's Julian Stafford and sums up the Liberty's season.
The Bandits, however will meet the winner of Monday night's game between the Texas Revolution and Duke City Gladiators.
“We played Bandit football! Went into a hostile environment and played our game and came out successful. It's a tribute to our defense. The last series was huge! We prepare for things like that in practice and that's why we preach, practice like it's a game, because our defense gives us the best look and vice versa.” stated Andre London.
Photo By Wendy S. Ohl