Wichita Force

Kelly is wild card for Wichita Wild

The Wichita Wild's pre-game introductions, a hyped-up roll call bolstered by blaring music, spotlights and enthusiastic dance teamers, were in full swing, and it was Randy Kelly's turn to take the field.

The public addresser called his name, the crowd cheered and... no Kelly.

After a delay of only a second or so — just long enough that fans might have wondered about his whereabouts — he emerged from billowy white smoke and shot both arms in the air.

Yes, Kelly does have a love for the dramatic.

Even so, for much of the season the former Arkansas player had been solid rather than spectacular — a change from last season when he was a game-breaking kick returner in the Indoor Football League.

Kelly regained his form last week when he brought back a kickoff 49 yards for a touchdown in the Wild's fourth straight victory — a 56-50 win over the Omaha Beef.

Last season, he returned four kicks for scores. This year, he didn't accomplish the feat until Week 5.

"Yeah, a couple of my teammates were giving me a hard time, talking about, 'When are you gonna get to the end zone,' " Kelly said.

The play — punctuated when Kelly broke a tackle and dove into the end zone — was a reminder of how the speedster can change a game's momentum.

"He's just so explosive," coach Ken Matous said.

The Wild may need Kelly to make a big play, or more, in order to continue the team's hot streak.

In a game between the top teams in the United Conference, the Wild (5-1) plays host to tradition power Sioux Falls (5-1) tonight in Hartman Arena. Kickoff is 7:05 p.m.

It's a much-anticipated rematch of an April 3 game when the Wild upset Sioux Falls on the road.

Ranked No. 1 in the IFL in yards allowed (149 per game), Sioux Falls may have the defense to slow the Wild's big three of quarterback Dixie Wooten, wide receiver Clinton Solomon and running back Darius Fudge.

Kelly could be the X-factor — if he gets the ball.

"What you see is teams just not kicking it to Randy," Matous said. "They're just kicking it out of bounds and giving us field position."

Kelly, who didn't return kicks at Arkansas because of the presence of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, said he only needs a brief opening.

"You always have to worry about the extra person hiding somewhere on coverage, but, usually, if I see a hole I figure I'm gone," said Kelly, one of the team's leading tacklers from his defensive back positions.

The return game was key in the last meeting between the teams, which the Wild won 44-26. In that game, Kelly averaged 18 yards a return while Sioux Falls averaged less than five.

Further, Sioux Falls started four drives inside its own 5.

"We're doing a great job on coverage," Matous said. "We've got a bunch of hungry guys getting their tails down there."

Still, there is cause for concern as the Wild attempts to move a step toward locking up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Last week, the Wild missed three extra point attempts. So on Monday, Matous spent about 15 minutes at the start of practice working with the snap team.

"It's gonna cost us a big game if we don't get it down," Matous said.

Notes — In the first meeting between the teams, Sioux Falls won 43-34.... Sioux Falls QB Terrance Bryant is leading IFL in completions (110) and yards (1,011). The Wild sacked him three times in the first game.... Wild WR Clinton Solomon is the league's top receiver in yardage (437) and TD catches (12), but he was held without a catch in the previous meeting.

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