The Wichita Wild’s road success came to an end Friday night in the Indoor Football League’s Intense Conference final.
Wichita, which won three of its last four road games to reach the conference title game, fell behind to the Tri-Cities Fever in the first half and lost 51-30 on Friday night in Kennewick, Wash.
The Wild played the Intense Conference’s best team without much practice time. Wichita won its conference semifinal game at Allen (Texas) on Monday night and flew to Washington on Wednesday.
The Wild was 1-1 in the playoffs after an 8-6 regular season.
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Tri-Cities will play the winner of today’s United Conference championship game between Green Bay-Sioux Falls game in the United Bowl in two weeks.
Missed first-half opportunities put the Wild in comeback mode the entire second half.
The lower-scoring Wild stayed even with Tri-Cities through the first quarter, trading two touchdowns. The Fever went ahead 21-14 on Steven Whitehead’s 50-yard kick return touchdown on James Chandler’s missed field-goal attempt with 11:30 to go in the second quarter.
The next drive was a big miss for the Wild. It started at the Tri-Cities 22 and converted one fourth-down conversion, but with fourth-and-1 at the Tri-Cities’ 3, lineman-turned-fullback Callahan Bright was stopped short to turn the ball over.
Tri-Cities marched downfield in 10 plays, taking a 28-14 lead on Dennis Kennedy’s one-yard run.
The Wild got a Chandler field goal with 29 seconds before halftime. But Tri-Cities returned the lead to 14 at halftime on Brady Beeson’s 40-yard field goal.
The Wild was held to 41 first-half yards. Quarterback Marcus Jackson completed his first two passes for 16 yards but missed on his next six throws. He finished 5 of 17 for 38 yards.
Chandler missed a 34-yard attempt at the end of the Wild’s first drive of the second half, the second straight drive without a first down. Chandler missed three kicks.
Kendrick Harper, who made the game-saving interception Monday at Allen, returned a blocked field-goal attempt 20 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 34-24. But he also committed a late-hit penalty that helped Tri-Cities immediately counter with a touchdown.
Jackson’s eight-yard pass to Hubbard four minutes into the fourth quarter was the Wild’s first first down since midway through the second quarter.
Jackson led the Wild with 57 rushing yards on 10 carries, but Hubbard was held to eight yards on 11 tries.
T — Berry 8 pass from Lillard (Beeson kick)
W — Turner 13 pass from Jackson (Chandler kick)
T — Lillard 4 run (Beeson kick)
W — Jackson 2 run (Chandler kick)
T — Whitehead 50 kick return (Beeson kick)
T — Kennedy 1 run (Beeson kick)
W — Chandler 24 FG
T — Beeson 40 FG
T — Beeson 35 FG
W — Harper 20 blocked kick return (Chandler kick)
T — Whitehead 2 run (Beeson kick)
W — Jackson 19 run (kick failed)
T — Beeson 38 FG
T — Howard 10 pass from Lillard (Beeson kick)
Rushing — Wichita, Jackson 10-57, Hubbard 11-8, Bright 2-1. Tri-Cities, Whitehead 5-17, Lillard 9-14, Kennedy 8-11.
Passing — Wichita, Jackson 5-17-0-38. Tri-Cities, Lillard 18-27-0-141.
Receiving — Wichita, Turner 2-21, Simmons 2-9, Hubbard 1-8. Tri-Cities, Howard 4-45, Berry 5-43, Young 5-30, Whitehead 2-12, Kennedy 2-11.