Wild finishes with big victoryBY KOLLEN LONG
The Wichita Eagle
Wichita Wild quarterback Phil Staback was wearing the wrong baseball cap _ a fashion mistake that general manager John Blazek quickly rectified.
As Staback was signing during a postgame autograph party, Blazek removed the QB's hunting hat and replaced it with a black and orange Wichita Wild model.
"Here," Blazek said. "Wear the hat of a winner."
Blazek may not have been technically correct, but he certainly had the right idea following the Wild's 62-22 victory over Bloomington on Saturday night in Hartman Arena. While the Wild finished with a losing record (6-8), the team certainly had the look of a winner by season's end.
And surprisingly so.
During the uneven year, the Wild opened 0-5, fired its coach, started four different quarterbacks, got jilted by a fifth and missed the playoffs. Despite that lengthy list of negatives, the organization recovered and has reason to be optimistic about next year.
Interim coach Morris Lolar guided the team to a 6-3 finish — the last victory coming in surprisingly dominating fashion over playoff-bound Bloomington in front of 2,980 fans on Saturday.
"That," Staback said, "was Wild football right there."
Early on, it appeared the teams were evenly matched. Bloomington kicked a 51-yard field goal at the beginning of the second quarter to tie the game at 10.
From that point on, the Wild scored 34 unanswered points — a flurry that included three touchdown passes from Staback, and a rushing and receiving touchdown from former Kansas Jayhawk Brian Murph.
The victory was another resume builder for Lolar, who is expected to be named the permanent coach. And Staback, with perhaps his best game of the season, showed that the organization may have finally found a suitable quarterback.
Lolar has said that he thinks Staback, a standout at the NAIA level, is capable of being a "star" in the IFL. At the very least, Staback has proven the ability to manage a game.
Against Bloomington, he completed 18 of 27 passes for 223 yards and five touchdowns. He was also the Wild's leading rusher with 23 yards and a TD.
Staback continues to hold on to the ball too long, but he made only one glaring mistake — a forced pass to Donald Fusilier that resulted in his only interception.
"He was good," Lolar said. "He made some great decisions. Anytime you score 60-some points, it's a great job by everybody."
The defense was dominating at times, forcing Bloomington quarterback Rocky Hinds into a poor game (17 of 39 with two TD passes and two interceptions).
Defensive back C.J. Lovett, who played at Fort Hays State, said that "coming out aggressive" was the key. Lovett put the finishing touches on the game when he picked off a pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown with only 12 seconds to play.
After the game, conversation quickly turned to next season.
Staback said he plans to return, and he expects all his receivers to do the same. At the end of the on-field autograph session, Blazek thanked the crowd and said that, while the team struggled, the Wild will be winners next season.
Lolar, not surprisingly, agreed.
"We got a lot better the last six weeks," he said. "We really started to compete. Looking at next year, there's a lot of reasons to smile."
Notes — In an oddly timed presentation, the Wild honored Randy Kelly before the game _ for an award he won last year. Kelly was the IFL's special teams player of the year in 2010. ... The team announced that assistant general manager James Bain is leaving the organization to go to law school. ... Augusta High School won the season-long drum line competition.
Bloomington7 3 0 12 — 22 Wichita7 17 20 18 — 62
B —Raymond 1 run (Christoflakos kick)
W — Murph 21 yard fumble return (Pohlman kick)
W —Pohlman 18 FG
B — Christoflakos 51 FG tied 10-10
W— Staback 1 run (Pohlman kick)
W — Murph 9 run (Pohlman kick)
W— Murph 20 pass from Staback (Pohlman kick)
W— Solomon 27 pass from Staback (Pohlman kick failed)
W— Fudge 19 pass from Staback (Pohlman kick)
B —Raymond 5 pass from Hinds (pass failed)
W — Pohlman 43 FG
B — Johnson 24 pass from Hinds (run failed)
W — Solomon 2 pass from Fudge (Fusilier pass from Staback)
W — Lovett 35 interception return (Pohlman kick)
Rushing — Bloomington, Raymond 11-26, Hinds 5-14. Wichita, Staback 7-23, Fudge 4-6, Wilson 3-5.
Passing — Bloomington, Hinds 17-39-2-187. Wichita, Staback 18-27-1-223; Jackson 1-0-0-0.
Receiving — Bloomington, Johnson 5-78, Gray 5-24, Raymond 4-21, Cooper 3-34. Wichita, Fudge 7-61, Murph 5-95, Solomon 3-39, Jackson 2-18.
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