Storm rebounds with a win

04/21/02 Sioux Falls Argus Leader
Buchholtz's third TD lifts S.F. past the Tri-City Diesel, 48-34

With Corey Walker and Josh Buchholtz cooly sauntering out to their receiver spots, the difference was obvious. They trolled the middle of the field with bravado. They gave quarterback Ryan Aulenbacher a pair of comfy security blankets. Heck, they knew where the line up.

Two of its opening-game starters returned to the lineup, and the Sioux Falls Storm offense purred better than it had in some time. The Storm improved to 5-1, zipping past the Tri-City Diesel 48-34 in a NIFL contest Saturday night at the Arena.

Hounded by injuries, Sioux Falls' supply of wideouts has dwindled in recent weeks, hitting its low point last week when two freshly signed players were forced to start. But in this game, the worldly trio of Walker, Buchholtz and Adam Syphers took the field.

And they didn't disappoint. Buchholtz, a South Dakota State product, hauled in nine passes for 88 yards and three touchdowns while Walker caught seven balls and slogged for 38 yards. Syphers added three catches, including a leap-for-the-sky TD grab in the third.

But it was Buchholtz's final TD that sealed the outcome, as he latched onto a 13-yard Aulenbacher laser in the back of the end zone, making it 48-27. (The Diesel punched in a meaningless touchdown just before time expired.)

The Storm's juice-up offense allowed for a slightly sluggish outing by the defense. Tri-City managed 177 total yards, doing most of its damage in the second half.

The most thrilling score of the evening came on special teams, as Bobby Perkins returned a kickoff 42 yard late in the third quarter. Taking the kickoff on the left hash mark, the Storm defensive back found a seam on the right, leapt over a pile of bodies and motored to paydirt.

Equally entertaining was the Storm's ensuing celebration. With his blockers lined up like bowling pins, Perkins rolled the football - a la Earl Anthony - for a strike, toppling all his teammates. (Much to the disgust of the approximately 4,000 fans, a delay-of-game penalty was called on Sioux Falls for the elaborate routine.)

From the start of the game, the Storm offense was buoyed by Buchholtz and Walker. Both caught five first-half passes apiece, accounting for 68 combined yards.

Also better - and considering its performance of a week ago, it could be termed dramatically better - was the running game. Tailback Jim Bean rambled through vast holes, usually on draw plays out of the shotgun formation, collecting 68 first-half yards. He finished with 83 for the game.

With the offense in high gear, the Storm scored on its first three possessions. Walker reeled in a 6-yard crossing pass for the first touchdown while Buchholtz, on a wideout screen, bullied 5 yards for a score.

Tri-City also had promising offensive moments in the first half, especially on the game's first drive. Quarterback Justin Coleman zipped three straight completions, hooking up with Jermaine Brooks for a 7-yard TD.

But the Storm defense did flex its muscles occasionally. Down by seven late in the second quarter, the Diesel advanced to the Sioux Falls' 11-yard line, where they faced a third-and-1. Rather than going for the needed yardage, Coleman tossed a dart into the crowded end zone - and Storm cornerback Shannon Poppinga came up with the interception.

The Augustana alum logged two more heady plays moments later. On third-and-4 with 30.4 seconds left in the half, Tri-City attempted a reverse running play. But Poppinga stayed on his side of the field, stopping the runner for a 1-yard gain.

The Diesel then lined up in field goal formation, but the holder flipped the ball to the up man. He, however, met Poppinga, who had waded into the backfield to blow up the play.

The Storm will take to the road next week, traveling to face the Omaha Beef. That game will be Saturday at 7:05 p.m.

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