SIOUX FALLS, S.D. —With a shot to advance to the Indoor Football League championship game on the line, the Sioux Falls Storm dominated the Wild in every phrase of the game and won 52-34 at the Sioux Falls Arena in the United Conference championship game.
On March 13 of this season, the Wichita Wild knocked off the Sioux Falls 43-34 on the road.
On Saturday, it was a different story.
"My hat goes off to Sioux Falls," Wild coach Ken Matous said. "They turned it up a notch in the playoffs. They're a great team on offense and defense; they played their hearts out and we came up short."
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The Wild only scored 14 points in the second half — an 11-yard touchdown pass from Dixie Wooten to Edgar Gives and a Wooten pass to Clinton Solomon with two seconds left in the game. The scores didn't matter as the Wild couldn't do much to stop the Storm in the second half.
"That's football — the Storm just made more plays than us. It hurts to come up short, none of the guys gave up, we fought until the end," said Solomon, who was emotional after the loss. "We had opportunities to win, we just didn't convert."
The Storm, backed by about 3,200 fans who were armed with Vuvuzelas-like noisemakers — had 236 yards on offense. Every score for Sioux Falls came on the ground.
"We won the game in the trenches," Storm coach Kurtiss Riggs said.
With the loss, the Wild ended their memorable season at 11-6, one game short of their goal.
"We wanted to get there, but it wasn't meant to be," Solomon said.
The Storm (14-3) will play the Billings Outlaws at Billings, Mont., next week for the Indoor Football League title.
The Wild, which fumbled its first possession in both halves, was only down 28-21 at halftime. The game got out of hand after running back Darius Fudge put the ball on the turf on Wichita's second play from scrimmage in the second half and the Storm recovered. From that point on nothing went right for the Wild, which had 22 rushing yards on 19 attempts in the game.
Any chance of a Wild comeback was silenced with a T.J. Simmons interception in the third quarter and a failed fourth down attempt by Wooten with seven minutes to go in the game.
In the first half, Sioux Falls and Wichita were trading scores as Fudge, who was on the ground for about five minutes earlier in the drive, scored the first touchdown for the Wild. Fudge caught the Wild's next score and Solomon wrapped up the Wild's scoring late in the first half.
The second half didn't provide any hope.
"It wasn't our night," Matous said.
Wichita Wild (11-6) 7 14 0 13 — 34 Sioux Falls Storm (14-3) 7 21 14 10 — 52
S—Bryant 2 run (Zarrilli kick)
W—Fudge 1 run (Pohlman kick)
S—Brown 2 run (Zarrilli kick)
W—Fuge 10 pass from Wooten (Pohlman kick)
S—Jones 1 yard run (Zarrilli kick)
W—Solomon 10 yard pass from Wooten (Pohlman kick)
S—Jones 5 yard run (Zarrilli kick)
S—Jones 3 yard run (Zarrilli kick)
S—Terry 2 yard run (Zarrilli kick)
S—Zarrilli 21 FG
W—Givens 39 pass from Wooten (Pohlman kick)
S—Jones 7 yard run (Zarrilli kick)
W—Solomon 7 pass from Wooten (Pohlman kick failed)
Rushing—Wild, Wooten 10-12, Fudge 9-10. Storm, Jones 22-67, Brown 8-30.
Passing—Wild, Wooten 17-32-4 TD's -233. Storm Bryant 13-18-0-90.
Receiving—Wild, Solomon 5-104, Givens, 5-92. Storm Terry 7-62, Brown 4-13.