What began as an indoor football shootout in the first half turned into a defensive battle in the second, and the Force’s defense made the stronger stands in a 42-35 victory over Sioux City on Saturday night at Intrust Bank Arena.
“We’re just a team of two faces; we can’t seem to figure it out,” Force coach Paco Martinez said. “In the first half, the offense played real well and the defense didn’t, then in the second half, it was flip-flopped. The defense pulled it out, and the offense kind of sputtered a little bit.
“As soon as we figure it all out, we’re going to be a scary team.”
The Force (3-1) used defense to protect a precarious seven-point lead and hold on. Defensive back Evan Ray capped the effort by batting down a Charles Dowdell pass on fourth down with 24 seconds to play and the Bandits (2-2) at the Wichita 8.
The game’s turning point came in the second quarter, when Force linebacker Jason Catchings tackled Dowdell in the end zone for a safety that gave the Force a 29-28 lead.
“Our coach had called a zone play, but I thought I saw (Dowdell) drop back,” Catchings said. “He’s been timid all night, so I just took a chance and made a big play for our team.”
Martinez said the play was typical of Catchings.
“Jason has only one speed – and that’s aggressive,” Martinez said. “I don’t think there’s anybody faster than him at linebacker.”-
Kicker Ernesto Lacayo atoned for a missed extra point with field goals of 23 and 25 yards, the last of which closed the scoring.
“He’s a competitor,” Martinez said of Lacayo. “He works just as hard as anybody on this team. He’s out here kicking, working out and fine-tuning his craft.”
Newcomer Elbert Mack also paid dividends for the Force. After a Dowdell completion to Fredrick Bruno pushed the Bandits into Force territory, Bruno lost the ball, and Mack was there to recover at the Wichita 14, thwarting a Sioux City drive.
Mack, a North High and Butler Community College graduate, was in the right place at the right time.
“That’s what the game is about,” he said. “It was a slow start for us on defense, (but) we picked it up and got it turned around, and a goal-line stand to end it – no better way.”
Mack, who played seven seasons in the NFL, adds a special element, Martinez said.
“He brings a different mentality,” Martinez said. “He’s already a leader. Guys respond to that; they follow that.”
Mack is one of seven former Grizzlies on the Force roster, and Martinez said the success of that program helps the team’s mindset.
“We’ve got a championship team already, and to have a couple of new guys that help us … absolutely, everybody’s excited,” he said.
The Force will return to action Friday at home against the Omaha Beef.
W – Jeck 1 run (Lacayo kick)
SC – Oates 37 pass from Dowdell (Martin kick)
SC – Prohaska 1 run (Martin kick)
W – Jeck 3 run (Lacayo kick)
W – Soft 12 pass from Jeck (Lacayo kick)
SC – Bentley 3 run (Martin kick)
W – Hubbard 3 run (kick failed)
SC – Oates 35 pass from Dowdell (Martin kick)
W – Safety, Dowdell sacked in end zone
W – FG Lacayo 23
SC – Bruno 4 run (Martin kick)
W – Watkins 13 pass from Jeck (Lacayo kick)
W – FG Lacayo 25
RUSHING – Sioux City: Prohaska 8-23, Bentley 5-25, Dowdell 5-4, Bruno 1-4. Wichita: Hubbard 11-11, Kassanavoid 1-2, Jeck 10-(-6).
PASSING – Sioux City: Dowdell 11-18-1-161. Wichita: Jeck 15-28-3-139.
RECEIVING – Sioux City: Oates 6-130, Mothershead 2-14, Bruno 2-4, Bentley 1-13. Wichita: Soft 5-30, Kassanavoid 4-59, Hubbard 3-22, Murph 2-15, Watkins 1-13.