Empire escape with 25-23 victory
Article posted on: 2016-06-10 22:13:00
The Spokane Empire came to the Heartland Events Center as the leaders of the Intense Conference and emerged victorious against the Nebraska Danger in a tight game 25-23.
The first quarter resembled a chess match more than a football game as the Nebraska Danger allowed only nine points through the first quarter. Spokane started out the night with the football but turned over the ball on downs after a fourth down pass was broken up by Jamerson Love for the Danger. Hunter Wanket came out as the starting quarterback for Nebraska and threw an interception. The Danger defense managed to hold the Empire to a field goal with five minutes left in the quarter. Nebraska missed their first scoring opportunity when they pushed a field goal attempt wide right. After the turnover on downs, Empire quarterback Charles Dowdell threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to receiver Carl Sims, but a missed PAT made the score 9-0 Empire.
The second quarter began with Wanket finding Lyle McCombs for a touchdown, cutting the Empire lead to two points. McCombs returned this week after being out with a hand injury. The Danger defense stepped up again and held the Empire to another field goal. On the ensuing possession, Wanket used a quarterback keeper to rush the ball into the end zone for a touchdown. Even with the Danger missing the point after attempt, they still took their first lead of the game 13-12. The Empire managed to drive the length of the field in the last four minutes, but missed the field goal, giving Nebraska a chance to put more points on the board before the half. Nebraska drove into the red zone before kicking a field goal and extending their lead to four points 16 -12 to end the first half.
"We played a great game in the first half. I think we found the right combination of players which are giving us back the consistency that we were missing this season," Head Coach Mike Davis said.
The Danger received the ball to start the second half, hoping to build on their lead and their momentum. After a quick three plays resulting in about five yards, the Danger faced a fourth down. Nebraska called on kicker Josh Gabel to attempt the field goal; which he missed wide left with 12:59 left in the third quarter. The next drive on second down, the Empire fumbled the ball and Nebraska recovered. The momentum was evened up when Nebraska threw an interception on the second play after the fumble recovery. Spokane then put together a long drive in which Nebraska intercepted a ball and returned it for a touchdown, but a roughing the passer penalty called back the touchdown. The Empire then finished off the drive with a touchdown of their own, taking the lead back 19-16 with 29 seconds left in the third quarter. The quarter ended as Nebraska was assessed a personal foul setting them up with a 3rd down and three to start the fourth quarter.
Two quick passes to O.J. Simpson for the Danger resulted in two first downs for Nebraska, but then another interception turned the ball back over to Spokane. Four plays later, a fumbled handoff gave Nebraska another chance to swing the momentum. They got a quick first down from O.J. Simpson again before McCombs took a swing pass in for a touchdown, extending the Danger lead to four points 23-19. A personal foul on the kickoff gave the Empire great field position trailing by four. The Danger defense forced a fourth down attempt where the Empire punched in a touchdown but missed the field goal, securing only a two point lead 25-23. Nebraska moved the ball down the field but the turnover bug bit again as McCombs fumbled the ball on second down, which was recovered by the Empire with 2:02 left in the game. The Empire used a quick passing game to get down to the 12-yard line at the one minute warning. They then smartly advanced the ball just a yard at a time to keep the clock rolling, ending the game with a final score of 25-23.
"We had a lot of chances to put this one away and chalk up the win, but mistakes haunted us again. It seemed like every time we did something right we turned around and had a turnover or something that let Spokane hang around. To their credit, they took advantage of that and won the game," Davis said.
The Danger's playoff hopes still hang in the balance as the team now heads to Colorado on Saturday, June 18th to play the Crush.