A six-word text message from Tampa, Fla., led to an unexpected, heartbreaking loss for the Wichita Wild.
After missing a field goal at the end of the first half, Sioux Falls kicker Rob Zarrilli vented his frustration through a text to his father in Tampa at halftime.
Dad quickly texted back: "Your leg will win this game."
His confidence bolstered by the father-knows-best response, Zarrilli calmly booted a 38-yard field goal, giving Sioux Falls a 28-27 lead with 10 seconds left at Hartman Arena.
Sioux Falls tacked on a touchdown for the game's final margin — 34-27 — when T.J. Simmons returned a fumble by Wild quarterback Dixie Wooten for a touchdown.
So Sioux Falls (6-1) won the season series with the Wild 2-1 in a meeting of two of the top teams in the Indoor Football League's United Conference. The Wild dropped to 5-2 with its first home loss this season
In indoor football, the stars are generally QBs and wide receivers, but Zarrilli, who played at Hofstra, was the difference maker on Saturday.
An impressive defensive effort kept Sioux Falls' offense in check much of the night, but the Storm consistently put points on the board, thanks to Zarrilli's five field goals.
On the game winner, which gave Sioux Falls its first lead of the night, he had a positive feeling the instant he kicked the ball.
"Obviously, you look up to confirm it, but I felt it right away," he said. "I knew it was good."
By contrast, Wild kicker Dylan Pohlman missed a 30-yard field goal and an extra point in the first quarter.
"We count on him to make 'em, as long as the snap and the hold and the protection are OK, which I think they were tonight," Wild coach Ken Matous said.
Still, the most-disappointed person on the Wild roster was likely Wooten.
The veteran quarterback rushed for a game-high 62 yards and two touchdowns. He also tossed two touchdown passes, including a bullet to Clinton Solomon in the back of the end zone that put the Wild up 27-19 with 6 minutes, 48 seconds to play.
But he completed just 14 of 26 passes for 115 yards and tossed an interception. Matous was most displeased when, with the Wild leading 27-25 late, Wooten missed a wide-open Solomon on third down on what would have been a first down pass.
That incompletion forced the Wild to punt, setting Sioux Falls up for the game-winning drive on Zarrilli's heroics.
After the game, a long line of fans waited patiently for Wooten's autograph — adulation that did little to improve his mood.
"I think everybody played well, except the quarterback," Wooten said. "Our O-line played great, our defensive line played great, our secondary was outstanding.
"But the quarterback didn't play up to standard."
Notes — The Wild defensive line of James McCartney, Colin Bryant and Greg Nicks played well. McCartney had a sack, and Bryant and Nicks shared a sack. "Our defense played great," Matous said.... Zarrilli also used high, long kicks to limit the effectiveness of Wild return man Randy Kelly.... The Wild is 9-4 at Hartman; three of the losses are to Sioux Falls.... Former Kansas standout Jake Sharp was in attendance.
Sioux Falls3 3 6 22 — 34 Home13 0 7 7 — 27
W—Wooten 5 run (Pohlman kick failed)
SF—Zarrilli 30 FG
W—Solomon 10 pass from Wooten (Pohlman kick)
SF—Zarrilli 26 FG
SF—Zarrilli 26 FG
W—Wooten 1 run (Pohlman kick)
SF—Zarrilli 31 FG
SF—Jones 1 run (Zarrilli kick)
W—Solomon 9 pass from Wooten (Pohlman kick)
SF—Terry 8 pass from Bryant (pass failed)
SF—Zarrilli 38 FG
SF—Simmons 2 fumble return
Rushing—Sioux Falls, Jones 14-28, Terry 2-11, Brown 1-9, Bryant 5-8. Wichita_Wooten 13-62, Fudge 8-10.
Passing—Sioux Falls, Bryant 16-28-0-121. Wichita—Wooten 14-26-1-115
Receiving—Sioux Falls, Terry 6-40, Jones 5-30, Hovorka 3-35, Brown 1-12. Wichita, Solomon 4-41, Fudge 4-24, Walker 1-23, Chinn 4-17.