Sioux City holds off Diesel, 51-48

04/29/02 Kearney Cyberhub
KEARNEY — The Sioux City Bandits earned a 51-48 win over the Tri-City Diesel the old fashioned way Sunday night — They stole it.

The Bandits (5-0) ripped the ball out of Jimmy Moore's hands on a Tri-City kick return with 30 seconds remaining in the game. The Diesel could then only watch as Sioux City squatted on the ball, and a three-point lead, as the clock ticked away.

The Diesel — who led 31-20 at halftime — lost three fumbles, all in the second half.

"It would have been nice to have a chance to win the game at the end," Tri-City coach Leland Skeen said. "But you can't take anything away from the way we played. We played our hearts out."

The Diesel (2-4) tied the game at 48-48 with 1:55 remaining as Justin Coleman found Tyrone Thomas in the back of the end zone on a 4-yard touchdown pass.

Coleman waited until the last second to throw the ball and took a solid hit from a Sioux City linebacker. But Coleman didn't appear to be shaken on the next play as he fired a strike to Greg Albright for the game-tying two-point conversion.

However, the Bandits had plenty of time to respond.

Sioux City quarterback Jarrod DeGeorgia orchestrated an eight-play drive to put the Bandits in field goal range as the clock disintegrated. Erv Whitehead, who finished with seven catches for 56 yards, helped keep the Bandits' drive afloat by making a pair of critical grabs.

"The ball can bounce both ways, and it bounced our way tonight," DeGeorgia said. "Maybe our bubble will burst at some point, but hopefully we can ride it out until the end."

DeGeorgia added that win was made even better by atmosphere of the Tri-City Arena.

"Honestly, this is the classiest organization we have been to," he said. "The players, the coaches, the staff… It was fun playing here.

The Bandits' final drive finally stalled at the Diesel's 11-yard line, and Adam Hicks split the uprights on a 26-yard field goal attempt.

The Diesel may have had time to attempt a field goal of their own, but Moore's fumble ended Tri-City's hopes near midfield.

"It just came down to a break right at the end of the game," Skeen said. "And so many times in these types of games it comes down to a break. Unfortunately the break went against us. … Knock on wood, it will come our way one of these times."

Defensive end Brad Kjar and Coleman were named the Diesel's MVP's following the narrow loss. Coleman completed 23-of-31 attempts for 225 yards and six touchdowns.

"We played well, but obviously we didn't play well enough," Kjar said. "Playing pretty well doesn't win ball games."

The Diesel defense had its moments, including a four-play goal-line stand in the first half, but was too often victimized by long plays. The Bandits scored on a trio of plays that stretched 30 yards or more.

"We talk a lot about limiting big plays and we'll have to look at the film and make some adjustments," Kjar said. It's something we have struggled with all year. I don't know if it's breakdowns or people are just making better plays than we are.

"We thought we were going to be one of the best defenses in the league, but it seems like every time we look at the scoreboard somebody has put up 50 points on us."

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