"Shoeless" Randy Kelly?
The nickname isn't fancy enough for the Wichita Wild's explosive playmaker, but it certainly fit on Saturday night.
With his team in desperate need of a big play, Kelly delivered with a long kick return, setting up the game-winning touchdown in the Wild's dramatic 42-35 victory over San Angelo in Hartman Arena.
The speedy, animated Kelly has enlivened the crowd with exciting returns several times before, but here's what made his most-recent one more noteworthy: The last 20 yards or so came with one shoe off.
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Kelly said he "most definitely" would have scored with both kicks on. Instead, he was knocked over the wall at San Angelo's 4-yard line.
"I couldn't cut like I wanted to, so I had to take it outside," he said. "It's all good, though."
Good because Darius Fudge, who had been contained most of the night, reached the end zone on a sweep to the right three plays later, giving the Wild its first lead at 40-35 with 1 1/2 minutes left.
Dixie Wooten connected with Clinton Solomon on a two-point conversion for the final margin.
San Angelo had an opportunity to tie the game, but its drive stalled at the Wild's 15. On the game's last play, quarterback Dustin Almond, who had five touchdown passes, overthrew his receiver in the end zone. Interestingly, receiver Jonathan Ferguson, who had made two spectacular touchdown catches, didn't run an end zone route.
Led by an aggressive defense, the Wild (8-3) dominated the game late, outscoring an apparently worn-down San Angelo team 21-0 in the fourth quarter.
"The one thing our kids do so well is we keep hitting people," coach Ken Matous said. "By the fourth quarter, the other team is just 'I don't want to get hit anymore.' And they start making mistakes."
Playing at home for the first time in a month, the Wild reintroduced itself to more than 3,400 fans with a concerning, lethargic start. Wooten threw two interceptions and fumbled once — all in the first quarter — and San Angelo (7-4) grabbed a 14-0 lead.
"We didn't have any intensity when we came out," Kelly said. "We had to make some adjustments and get back to playing Wichita Wild football."
Notes — Wooten, hobbled much of the second half with an apparent ankle injury he suffered on a scramble, was 8 of 19 for 81 yards. He had two interceptions and two touchdown passes. "He struggled early, but it wasn't all his fault," Matous said. "Our receivers floated a little bit on some routes."... In addition to the big return, Kelly returned an interception 52 yards for a touchdown, pulling the Wild to within 28-21 in the third quarter.... Fudge and San Angelo's Derek Ross are the best running backs in the Indoor Football League, but neither player was a major factor. Fudge was held to 26 yards on 15 carries. Ross had 19 yards on seven rushes.... The game drew 3,483 fans, giving the Wild a six-game total of 21,261. That beats last season's seven-game total of 19,503.... The Wild improved to 4-0 against Texas teams.... A member of the Wild Things dance team accepted an on-field marriage proposal after the first quarter.
San Angelo 14 7 14 0 — 35 Wichita 0 14 7 21 — 42
SA—McKinney 23 pass from Manning (Staples kick) 7-0
SA—Ferguson 18 pass from Manning (Staples kick) 14-0
W—Solomon 24 pass from Wooten (Stokes kick) 14-7 (across middle)
SA—McKinney 11 pass from Almond (Staples kick)
W—Wooten 6 run (Stokes kick)
SA—Ferguson 19 pass from Almond (Staples kick) 28-14
W—Kelly 52 interception return (Stokes kick) 28-21
SA—Ferguson pass from Almond (Staples kick) one-handed 35-21
W—Fudge 9 run (Stokes kick failed) 35-27
W—Solomon 4 pass from Wooten (Stokes kick) outjumped 35-34
W—Fudge 2 run (Solomon pass from Wooten)
Rushing—San Angelo, Almond 4-28, Ross 7-19, McKinney 1-3, Malone 1-0; Wichita, Wooten 8-34, Fudge 15-26.
Passing—San Angelo, Almond 15-39-2-153. Wichita, Wooten 8-19-2-81.
Receiving—San Angelo, Ferguson 6-77, Carrillo 5-38, McKinney 3-36, Ross 1-2. Wichita, Solomon 3-39, Walker 2-23, Randle 1-10, Fudge 1-5.