The Sioux City Bandits defense allowed seven touchdown passes, but came up with the game-changing play in a tense 62-56 Champions Indoor Football win over the Bloomington Edge Saturday night at the Tyson Events Center.
The Bandits not only remained unbeaten with a 6-0 mark, but put themselves in the driver's seat in the CIF North Division. No other team in the division has less than two losses, but the Bandits had to overcome a nine-point halftime deficit to pad their lead.
“They were doing some things to try and take away (Jeremiah) Oates so we made some adjustments at halftime and the rest of the guys came to play,” Bandits Coach Erv Strohbeen said. “We ran the ball really well in the second half. Our goal was to try and establish a ground game and we did that with the big boys up front.
“We had (Frederick) Bruno laying some good blocks on the linebacker and the rest of the guys did the job with the ball in their hands.”
Dominique Carson – the smallest player on the field at 5-foot-6 and 160 pounds – rushed for 93 yards and three touchdowns, while Jeffrey Mack added 57 yards and two scores. The Bandits finished with 189 yards on the ground.
And, even though it was torched for seven touchdown passes by Bloomington's Caleb Holbrook, the defense saved the day late in the game.
The Bandits were clinging to a 55-49 lead when Bloomington's Mitch Moore intercepted a Taylor Genuser pass at the 13-yard line with 2:55 remaining in the game.
Bloomington ran a couple of plays to get near midfield, but Sioux City's Devin Groenhagen stripped the ball from Holbrook on a keeper and Cliff Stokes Jr. scooped it up and rambled 25 yards for the game-clinching touchdown.
Thanks to a couple of personal foul penalties, the Edge added a late score, but the Bandits were able to run out the remaining seconds on the clock.
“Devin Groenhagen stripped the ball just like he did the last time we played here,” Strohbeen said. “It was the turning point of the game. It was just like last week, the defense bent but didn't break. I know there are some things they can work on and offensively there are things we can work on but overall it was great team win again.”
The first half amounted to a shootout with the Bandits scoring three touchdowns on their first four plays and Holbrook passing for four scores and running for another. The Edge broke for intermission with a 36-27 cushion, but scoring runs by Carson and Mack put the Bandits back in front midway through the third quarter.
“We didn't make enough plays in the first half and had too many errors,” said Carson, who had eight carries. “We fixed that at halftime and got it back.”
Although he broke loose for scoring runs of 7, 32 and 8 yards, Carson was his own worst critic.
“I played very poorly, I tripped and fell a lot so I need to work on running in space right now,” Carson said. “Our team came together at the end and it all worked out for the best.”
Genuser had touchdown passes to Oates, Bruno and Maurice Young while staying unbeaten as a first-year starter.
“The team has not reached our full potential yet,” Strohbeen said. “We turned the ball over and had some dumb penalties that almost cost us and those are things we have to clean up. I've been preaching about it for three weeks and I don't know how I'm going to get it through to them but we're going to somehow.
“But this was a huge win, it puts us in the driver's seat in the division and that's what we talked about before the game and at halftime. It's a one-game series against these guys (the Bandits don't play Bloomington again) and we own a tiebreaker over them so that's huge.”