PARK CITY — The Wild experienced something a little different Saturday: A close game.
April 20 was the last time a Wild opponent kept the final margin within 66 points. The Wild won its last two games by a combined 139 points. So when the Salina Bombers took an early lead Saturday at Hartman Arena, it was definitely an unusual feeling, but Wichita answered the challenge and came back for a 45-40 win.
“We just had to calm down and execute,” Wichita quarterback Rocky Hinds said. “We haven’t really faced too much adversity this season, because we’ve been blowing everybody out. But it was good that we faced it now, and we stepped up to come out with the win.”
Salina’s defense posed a bigger threat than Wichita’s last two opponents. After Wichita’s Kendrick Harper intercepted Salina quarterback Dane Simoneau, Salina’s Pompey Festijo stopped Wichita on second and goal with an interception and a quick touchdown.
“We dropped so many passes, so many first downs, those are drive killers. Receivers weren’t getting open, they weren’t running their routes,” Wichita coach Morris Lolar said. “They had a great game plan, but we’ve just got to get better in a lot of places.”
Wichita tied the game with 2:34 remaining in the first quarter, and didn’t fall behind Salina for the remainder of the game.
But the Wild never pulled away, either.
Wichita led Salina by seven at halftime, and Salina trailed 31-28 after three. Wichita scored first in the fourth quarter when Hinds passed to Joe Kassanavoid, and Salina answered with a touchdown but missed the PAT to trail Wichita by four points. Hinds passed to Tim Simmons 1:40 later for a Wichita touchdown, and Salina answered again, missing the two-point conversion attempt.
Wichita’s Alex Fambrough missed a 37-yard field goal attempt with 58 seconds remaining, giving Salina another chance. Salina started its drive on its own 5-yard line, which was exactly where Wichita wanted to be.
“We want our defense out there,” Lolar said. “We want our defense out in the last couple of plays or the last drive, that’s what we want. We missed a field goal that I thought we had a real good chance of making, but with a minute left, that’s where we want to be at.”
The Wild’s defense stopped Salina’s first four plays, but caught a roughing the passer penalty to give the Bombers another first down. Simoneau threw a long pass from Salina’z 17-yard line, but Harper broke it up to lock up the win.
The win Saturday was Wichita’s second over Salina this season, and its fifth win in a row. The Wild has a week off before playing Sioux City on May 25.
“(Playing against Salina) gives us one of the upper echelon teams to battle against. Now we know that we can pull those wins out and we can battle with those guys,” Lolar said. “We’ve been on the grind for 11 or 12 weeks, so this is a great time to have a bye week. We’ll let the guys get rested and come back strong.”
S—Roberts 22 pass from Simoneau (Hoover kick)
W—Murph 5 pass from Hinds (Fambrough kick)
W—Hubbard 57 run (Fambrough kick)
W—Hinds 1 run (Fambrough kick)
S—Simoneau 1 run (Hoover kick)
W—Fambrough 41 field goal
S—Smalls 11 pass from Simoneau (Hoover kick)
W—Kassanavoid 15 pass from Hinds (Fambrough kick)
S—Simoneau 5 run (Hoover kick)
W—Kassanavoid 8 pass from Hinds (Fambrough kick)
S—Ham 4 pass from Simoneau (kick failed)
W—Simmons 6 pass from Hinds (Fambrough kick)
S—Myers 8 pass from Simoneau (two-point conversion failed)
Rushing—Salina, Simoneau 8-39, Benning 4-12, Miles 3-11. Wichita, Hubbard 14-55, Hinds 5-9.
Passing—Salina, Simoneau 19-34-3-128. Wichita, Hinds 12-22-1-101.
Receiving—Salina, Smalls 7-51, Ham 5-31, Myers 4-10, Roberts 3-36. Wichita, Kassanavoid 4-42, Simmons 4-33, Hubbard 2-16, Murph 1-5, Kelley 1-5.