As Wichita Force defensive back Kiaree Daniels sped down the sideline on Saturday night, racing 49 yards after an interception for the game-winning touchdown in a 46-40 overtime win over the Salina Bombers, chaos ruled.
Helmets flew across the turf at Intrust Bank Arena. Grown men danced, hugged, screamed and shouted. Force coach Paco Martinez, in his exuberance, tweaked his knee trying to join the celebration.
“Believe,” said Force running back Tywon Hubbard, who scored four touchdowns. “Believe, believe, believe ... when you stay together as a family and stay together as a family, one might fall, but you always pick your brother up.”
It was the Force’s second straight win as they improved to 7-3 and stayed in first place in the Champions Indoor Football standings. Wichita trailed 40-26 with 8:32 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“I just made a play on the ball,” Daniels said. “Once I had that ball in my hand, the determination was there for me to get into the end zone. That was all I was thinking about.”
“I knew they weren’t going to catch Kiaree,” Martinez said. “He’s that guy you want out there with the game on the line. That’s what this game is about, you never know on any given night.”
Wichita rallied to tie the score 40-40 on a touchdown and two-point conversion by Hubbard with less than a minute left. Salina intercepted Emmanuel Taylor on Wichita’s first possession of overtime before Daniels answered with the game-ending play, jumping a pass by Chris Coffin and outracing several Bombers to the end zone, launching himself into the air from the 5-yard line for the score.
“Kiaree was actually out of position,” Martinez said. “Probably should’ve been a touchdown for Salina, but he found a way.”
Wichita’s offense sputtered in the first half. The Force missed two field goals and an extra point with kicker Ernesto Lacayo leaving the team to join the Arena Football League’s Las Vegas Outlaws. Wide receiver Brett Soft was forced into kicking duties.
The Force tied the score at 7-7 on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Taylor to Clarence Anderson in the first quarter and went up 13-10 on a 1-yard touchdown run by Hubbard with 13:33 left in the second quarter.
Salina came storming back on the strength of its defense late in the first half for 10 points in the final 90 seconds.
After Justice Scales intercepted Taylor in the Salina end zone, Bombers quarterback Chris Coffin took the lead back on a 2-yard touchdown run with 1:08 left.
After Soft’s second field-goal miss, Salina’s Terry Stecker nailed a 35-yard field goal as time expired in the first half for a 20-13 lead.
“We did pretty basic stuff this week on offense, preparing, and we didn’t execute,” Martinez said. “That was the most disappointing part. We came out and looked terrible.”
The Bombers scored the first points of the second half on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Coffin to Anthony Parks for a 26-13 lead with 3:07 left in the third quarter.
After converting a fourth-and-10 with a 15-yard pass from Taylor to Anderson, the Force cut the Bombers’ lead to 26-19 on a 5-yard touchdown run by Hubbard with 39 seconds left in the third quarter. Hubbard scored on a 1-yard run with 8:46 left in the fourth quarter to cut Salina’s lead to 33-26.
Parks beat Force defensive backs once again, getting behind the defense for a 31-yard touchdown pass from Coffin and a 40-26 lead with 6:21 left.
Wichita climbed back in the game late on a 1-yard touchdown run by Taylor to make the score 40-32 and Stecker’s missed, 37-yard field goal attempt with 1:22 left gave the Force the ball back at their own 10-yard line.
Taylor connected with Anderson for a pair of first downs, then Hubbard scored his fourth touchdown on a 4-yard run to make the score 40-38, then he ran in the two-point conversion to tie the score 40-40 with 38 seconds left.
“Keep battling, that’s what we tell each other, keep fighting,” Hubbard said. “You saw us do that tonight, you saw us play as a family.”
Wichita returns to action next Saturday, hosting the Sioux City Bandits.
S—Phinizee 19 pass from Coffin (Stecker kick)
W—Anderson 3 pass from Taylor (Soft kick)
S—Stecker 27 FG
W—Hubbard 1 run (kick failed)
S—Coffin 2 run (Stecker kick)
S—Stecker 35 FG
S—Parks 10 pass from Coffin (Stecker kick)
W—Hubbard 5 run (kick failed)
W—Hubbard 1 run (Soft kick)
S—Parks 31 pass from Coffin (Stecker kick)
W—Taylor 1 run (kick failed)
W—Hubbard 3 run (Hubbard run)
W—Daniels 49 int. return (no kick)