Story by Bob Hamar/ Grand Island Independent
Photo by Elisha Page/ Argus Leader
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — It looked like the Nebraska Danger had things under control in the United Bowl against Sioux Falls Saturday night at the Denny Sanford Premier Center.
The Danger had a 10-point lead and things appeared to be going their way early in the second quarte. But the momentum switched in a hurry.
A 49-yard kickoff return by Brandon Johnson-Farrell got the Storm going, and Sioux Falls went on to score 31 straight points on the way to a 62-27 victory for their fifth straight IFL title.
That kickoff return seemed to be a turning point in the game.
"Things kind of worked out how we wanted early," Danger coach Mike Davis said. "Then guys got out of position on the kickoff team and it just kind of snowballed from there. We had some costly penalties in the redzone and you can't come away without any points against these guys.
"I thought we had a good game plan. We shot ourselves in the foot again. It's so frustrating. It's hard to say we're the better team because they outplayed us."
Receiver Troy Evans said the Danger players thought they were in good shape after they went up by 10 points.
"We thought, 'We got this,'" Evans said. "A couple of unexpected things happened to Sioux Falls. They missed a field goal and had a fumble. We just thought we had it. We just have to do a better job of finishing."
The Storm finished the season a perfect 16-0 overall. Quarterback Lorenzo Brown was 12-for-14 passing for 144 yards and four touchdowns. Johnson-Farrell led the rushing attack with 8 carries for 44 yards and a touchdown.
Veteran receiver James Terry had four catches for 50 yards and two touchdowns.
The Danger's only touchdown of the second half was a 50-yard kickoff return by Waymon James.
Danger quarterback Jameel Sewell completed 17-of-39 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns. The running game never really got going. Sewell had 32 yards on five carries and James 21 yards on nine carries.
Evans ran twice for eight yards and caught five passes for 56 yards even though he wasn't 100 percent. The Danger finished 11-5.
"Honestly I wasn't even expected to play," Evans said. "Nobody knew I was hurt. I came out and tried to do the best I could, contribute to our guys and try to help the team."
Sioux Falls took an early 7-0 lead. The Danger answered when Sewell hit Marcus Barnett with a 22-yard TD pass on a fourth-and-one play.
Then early in the second quarter, Cody Thornton nailed a 60-yard field goal to give the Danger the lead. Justin Edison then recovered a Storm fumble on the 18, and Sewell hit Troy Evans with a TD pass on the first play for a 17-7 Danger lead with 11:27 left in the half.
That was really the last highlight of the first half for the Danger.
The Storm answered immediately with a 49-yard kickoff return by Brandon Johnson-Farrell to pull Sioux Falls back to within 17-14 with 11:16 left in the first half.
The Danger had a chance to answer back. Nebraska drove down to the Sioux Falls 1, but an illegal motion call moved it back to the 6. After an incompletion, Thornton's field goal attempt from 23 yards out was blocked by the Storm.
Sioux Falls took advantage of the opportunity to drive the length of the field. Brown's 17-yard TD pass to Mike Tatum gave the Storm its first lead of the second quarter at 21-17 with 1:18 left in the half.
The Storm forced a long field goal attempt that sailed wide left and got the ball back with 33 seconds remaining. One short pass moved the ball up to the 11.
An incomplete pass then stopped the clock with 1 second remaining. That gave Douglass a chance at a 54-yard field goal which he hit for a 24-17 lead at the half.
"I said it in the press conference, I said it the last two weeks," Davis said. "I said once we get them down, we have to continue to go. If you let them get some momentum, being the veteran team they are, they're going to keep fighting.
"Our guys just didn't respond and that's a little disappointing and maybe it's my fault. Again, it's a tough one to swallow."
The run continued in the third quarter when Brown connected with Judd Harrold for a 21-yard TD pass on the second play for a 31-17 Storm lead.
On the next drive, the Danger went for it on fourth-and-one, but an out pattern to Evans was incomplete and the Storm took over on the Nebraska 19.
Two plays later, Brown hit Terry on a 14-yard strike and a 38-17 Sioux Falls lead.
The Danger finally ended the Storm's 31-point run on the kickoff return by James.
Davis said the Danger just didn't execute.
"In the second half, we dropped passes and just made a ton of mistakes," Davis said. "We knew exactly what they were going to do. When we had guys wide open, we either didn't catch it or came up short. Again it was execution. We've been talking about that all year long."