SPOKANE, WA - The Spokane Empire (8-5, 7-3) defeated Colorado Crush (3-10, 2-9) in Week 15 of the 2017 IFL regular season at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena by a score of 48-43.
The Empire started strong, with quarterback Aaron Wilmer running in for the first touchdown of the night. Colorado's first play was one they wish they had back, as Sean Goldrich's first pass was picked off by linebacker Andrew Jackson. Bryan Pray put a bow on Spokane's next offensive drive, catching his lone touchdown of the night.
The Crush wouldn't stay blanked for long, as Goldrich delivered a bomb to Kyle Kaiser for their first end zone trip of the evening. The wild first quarter ended with an Empire fumble recovered by Azziz Higgins. Down on the ground with the ball, Higgins realized he was never downed by contact, and immediately ran 48 yards for the tying touchdown.
Andrew Pierce stepped up for the Empire, and scored off of the flip from Wilmer to retake the lead. Colorado couldn't keep up with Spokane's defensive pressure. J.D. Griggs found a home in the backfield, and Tyree Robinson broke up what would have been a big touchdown pass. Being denied the endzone all quarter, Crush kicker Miles Bergner would hit two successful field goals before the half was over.
Third quarter action started out with more field goals from Bergner and Spokane's Brendon Garcia, tacking on three a piece for their respective teams. The Crush got tired of settling for kicks, and switched it up on a fourth and short situation, pushing the pile around Liam Nadler in for a touchdown. Trevor Kennedy wouldn't let the quarter end with Colorado having momentum, and capped off an Empire drive hustling the ball over the goal line for his only score of the game.
The defense for Spokane came out swinging early in the fourth with Griggs adding one more sack to his total, now surpassing double digits for the season. Robinson stepped up again to put a stop to the drive on a Colorado fourth down, but the Crush held the Empire to just a field goal on the ensuing possession. Nadler now in for Goldrich, the Crush offense fought back and forth action with the Empire defense in a six minute drive, the longest on the night from either team. Eventually, Kaiser would hit paydirt once more in the back of the endzone.
Spokane couldn't put the game out of reach just yet, as Garcia's field goal attempt was wide. Colorado took aim, and Kaiser would score his third touchdown of the night, this time from Liam Nadler, but the Crush couldn't convert the two point play to pull within three. It all came down to the onside kick for Spokane to prevent any chance for another upset. Robinson found and fell on the ball for the Empire, letting his offense run out the clock and finally get back in the 'W' column, 48-43.
For Colorado, Nadler and Goldrich combined for 137 yards, going 14-29 on the night. Kaiser's hat trick racked up 68 yards on 7 hauls. Bergner was a big help keeping the game close, being responsible for 11 total points on three field goals and two PATs. The Crush's running game once again took a backseat to the aerial attack, with 47 total yards on nine carries between four players.
On to the Empire, Wilmer's first start of the year led to a 17-23 night. He accrued 119 yards and three touchdowns, two to Pierce and one to Pray, who led the team in receiving yards this week with 58. Wilmer was also the game's leading rusher as his scrambling net him another 62 yards and two more TDs for a total of five scores on his night. Kicker Garcia was near perfect, only missing his last attempt to finish two for three on field goals, and six for six on PATs.
Defensively, the Crush's highlight was the playmaking of Higgins, who added to his fumble return with a team leading eight tackles. Cardelro Jones would lead Colorado with the most solo tackles with seven. The Empire had John Hardy-Tuliau lead the team with six total tackles and four pass breakups. Robinson was close behind with four tackles and two pass tips.