By RJ Ciancio
Head of NAL Coverage
The Quad City Steamwheelers came into Sioux Falls with a two and one record to take on the three wins and no losses.
The Steamwheelers opening drive bounced off an upman going out of bounds at the storm 18. EJ Hilliard was subbed out for Dillon Turner as he ran for quarterback sneak and threw a touchdown pass to Quinton Pedroza. With the extra point Quad City took the seven to zero lead.
The Storm came out behind field general Lorenzo Brown. The Storm were able to find success running with the ball. Damian Ford caught a dime from Lorenzo Brown on first down, sacrificing his body on the play as he crashed into the dasher boards. Miles Bergner missed the extra point letting the Steamwheelers keep a one point lead with a seven, six score.
The Quad City special teams once again worked their magic as they returned a kick down to the Storm nine. EJ Hilliard returned to normal spot under center. Once again it was Pedroza finding the endzone for the Steamwheelers from two yards out. The extra point was missed leaving the score at 13 to six.
Now the pressure returned to Lorenzo Brown as he and the Storm offense took over at their own 18. A fake handoff was blown up in the backfield and Brown was dropped for a loss. This didn’t phase him as a few plays later lightning struck again with a long bomb touchdown pass.
Once again the extra point was missed making the score 13-12.
Quad City was given their worst field position of the game as they started at their own thirteen. EJ Hilliard scampered for nine yards on second down setting up a third and two. Hilliard was mixing the run and pass game like a Gordon Ramsey dish as he could almost do no wrong, even forcing the Storm to commit an illegal contact penalty. A bad snapped help kill the drive as on third and goal was forced to throw the ball away ending the quarter with the score 13-12 Quad City.
Things didn’t start out the Steamwheelers way as a high snap on a field goal as the holder was tackled for a loss. With the turnover on downs the Storm had new life. Lorenzo Brown found Darrian Miller on a swing pass to reset the downs. The same play worked on the opposite side of the field. Showed his running abilities multiple times on the drive en route to a rushing touchdown on fourth and one. With the extra point added to the touchdown the score read 19-13 Storm.
Now the pressure shifted to EJ Hilliard who was willing to take up the challenge of driving down the field and coming back from six points down. This was no challenge as he found Keyvan Rudd for the long touchdown reception. With the extra point the Steamwheelers lead 20-19.
The Storm were able to return the ball out to their own sixteen. Darrian Miller got himself back into the mix as he bolted for an easy first down. Once again Brown rushed for a touchdown. With the extra point added, the Storm lead 26-20.
Quad City’s next drive started at their own two, giving EJ Hilliard little room to extend a play. The drive continued after Rudd broke a deep route and wasn’t count until he hit the Storm eight. Rudd capped off the drive with a pass from Hilliard over the middle. With the point after, the Storm trailed 27-26.
Sioux Falls got the ball at their own six with 1:25 to go in the half. Brown decided to not rush things as he decided to use all the time he needed, opting to include the middle of the field passes on the drive. The Storm worked their way down the field and an over the wall catch by Ford had the crowd going crazy. However much of the enger given to the fans by the catch was taken away by a missed extra point making it 32-27.
Quad City missed a field goal attempt as time expired in the second quarter.
The second half began with Sioux Falls setting up shop at their own 12. Lorenzo Brown helped get the team moving with ease as they quickly invaded Quad City territory. Brown flashed his ability to improvise as he rolled out the pocket of a busted play and ran for an easy gain. That helped set up another rushing touchdown for Brown.With the extra point the Storm heald a 39-29 lead.
The Steamwheelers returned the Storm kick to the Sioux Falls 24. EJ Hilliard began relying on his legs as nobody was getting open early on in the drive. The dive culminated in a Quinton Pedroza touchdown reception from Hilliard. With the extra point bouncing off the left upright, the score read 39-33.
Sioux Falls was given little room to work with as a combination of a bad return and a holding call setup the drive at their own five. The Storm were bailed out by an illegal defense penalty giving them some more breathing room. Brown decided to give his legs even more of a workout as he dove for another first down. Another illegal defense penalty hurt the Steamwheelers as it nullified a massive sack. Lorenzo was thankful for the gift Quad City gave him and he paid it forward by donating to ball to the hands of a waiting receiver for an easy touchdown. With the extra point good the Storm lead 46-33.
Quad City needed something to happen fast. EJ Hilliard got a bit to egar and overshot a wide open receiver, missing a golden opportunity. This didn’t phase the Quad City quarterback as he slung the ball over the middle for a first down. The Steamwheelers seemed to have found a soft spot in the Storm defense. That area would be the middle of the field, as the third quarter ended. EJ Hilliard returned to his favorite target Quinton Pedroza for a short touchdown pass. With the extra point the score read 46-40.
It was time to see what the Quad City defense was made off. Lorenzo Brown was looking to make the Steamwheelers defense look invisible. As they Storm marched inside the Steamwheeler 15 it was crunch time for the defense. However, it was the ambition of the defense that hurt them as a pass interference call gave the Storm first and goal at the two. The Storm capitalized on this mistake with another Brown touchdown run. Ith the point after tacked on the Storm lead 53-40.
With just over 10 minutes left EJ Hilliard was able to draw a pass interference call on a cross-body pass. However, it would take more than that for the Steamwheelers to get back in the game. The Steamwheelers finally found the endzone as Pedroza caught a crucial touchdown pass. With the extra point missed the score read 53-46.
The Steamwheelers went for a surprise onside kick. This backfired and the Storm we set up with first and goal. It only took one play for the Storm to take advantage of the situation as Lorenzo Brown ran for yet another touchdown. With the extra point tacked on the storm lead 60-46.
With just over three minutes left the Steamwheelers needed to score, and fast. However, te Steamwheelers didn’t share the sentiment as they took their time calling plays. Multiple passes for Pedroza fell to the turf bringing up fourth and one. With the game hanging in the balance Hallard was able to find his man in the endzone. For some reason that is baffling to me, Quad City decided to go for two. The play failed and with 38 seconds left they trailed 52-60.
The inevitable onside kick was bounced out of bounds, putting the chances of a comeback in jeopardy. With the ball at the Quad City 16 Brown ran the ball three times bringing up a crucial fourth down and three with 19 seconds to go. That dramatic situation was wiped from the game due to to an illegal defense penalty, giving the Storm a first down. Then a facemask penalty give the Storm even more yardage. Lorenzo Brown ran into the endzone one more time for good measure. With the extra point missed the score read. 66-52 Storm.
With the kickoff sailing out of the endzone the Steamwheelers were given the ball at their own 20. After one uneventful play, the clock hit triple zeros with the Storm winning 66-52.