Host Bandits pop visiting Red Dogs by three in OT

05/12/02 Rapid City Journal
SIOUX CITY, Iowa - Of course the ending was dramatic. Of course it was controversial.

That's becoming the habit for the Sioux City Bandits, who rebounded from their first loss of the season by fending off the Rapid City Red Dogs in a 48-45 overtime thriller Saturday night before a noisy crowd of 2,700 at Sioux City Auditorium.

Jarrod DeGeorgia leaped up over center Erv Strohbeen on a quarterback sneak from one foot outside the goal line, and the third-down play was ruled a game-winning touchdown, sparking an adamant protest from Rapid City coach Dan Maciejczak and his staff.

The touchdown finished off a drive from midfield after Rapid City, also starting 25 yards away on the 50-yard National Indoor Football League field, settled for Aaron Turner's go-ahead field goal from 24 yards out.

Had the alternate possessions not resolved the tie to open overtime, a 15-minute sudden death period would have ensued.

It didn't, though, thanks in a large part to players like defensive lineman-fullback Jesse Wavrunek and kicker Adam Hicks, who played last season for Rapid City.

Undefeated in their first five games before a loss last weekend at Lincoln, the Bandits improved to 6-1 as Wavrunek forced a key fumble, piled up 17 tackles - 10 more than any teammate - and also scored on a four-yard run.

Hicks burned his former teammates with four field goals and four extra points. However, two more chances to settle the outcome during regulation play were unsuccessful as Hicks missed to the left on a 26-yard try with 4:12 to play, then missed wide right on a tie-breaking try from 32 yards as time expired.

Nose guard Art Maulupe was another ringleader in a strong second half for a Sioux City defense that helped the hosts erase a 28-22 halftime deficit and build a seemingly commanding 42-28 advantage with less than nine minutes remaining in regulation time.

"We talked a little about intensity," said Bandits coach Carl Reinhardt, summing up his team's halftime recess. "I told them I didn't care who it was that stepped up and let us come out of here with a victory. And, I would say, really, everybody stepped it up."

Such was the effort required to escape a Rapid City team that had won its last two games to even its record at 4-4. The Red Dogs had a league-best regular-season record of 13-2 last season.

"We went into the game wanting to see where we are, playing a damned good football team," said Maciejczak, a former two-way lineman for the Red Dogs who took over as the head coach just two days before the season got under way. "Now, I'd say we're a football team that should win a lot of football games as long as we don't make mistakes."

And, Maciejczak believed his team might have won this one in spite of those miscues - two highly costly second-half turnovers.

After Hicks cut the six-point halftime deficit in half less than a minute into the third quarter, Rapid City's initial second-half possession ended when Jason Murdock's pass over the middle caromed out of the hands of wide-out Casey Veenhof and was picked off by Bandits linebacker Matt Hughes.

Seven plays later, on a fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line, Hicks knocked his second 19-yarder of the period through the uprights for a 28-28 tie.

Maulupe, bumped from his starting role by Pete Jablonski, came alive after the ensuing kickoff, sacking Murdock on back-to-back plays before Wavrunek surged into the backfield on third down, stripping the ball from the quarterback's grasp and recovering at the Red Dogs' 3-yard line.

Two plays later, running back Dave Perrigo scored from two yards out to send the hosts in front, seemingly for good.

Another defensive stop was followed by a 45-yard touchdown drive featuring key receptions by Johnnie Ostermeyer and Pinklon Thomas, then Perrigo's 11-yard spurt to the Red Dogs' 6. Two plays later, Wavrunek barreled through the middle from four yards out and it was 42-28 with 8:31 left.

Ostermeyer finished with six receptions for 89 yards as DeGeorgia went 15-for-27, netting 181 yards through the air.

The Red Dogs stayed alive, though, when Antonio Conley returned the ensuing kickoff 45 yards for a touchdown. And, Murdock, a former University of Minnesota quarterback who finished his college career at Westmar, made it pay off, engineering a 45-yard drive that tied it up with 14 seconds left.

Murdock, who hit three first-half touchdown passes and was 16 of 25 for the game, averted three would-be tacklers in the backfield to find Brian Mills wide open in the end zone for the score that forced overtime.

That didn't happen, though, until Lamont Truitt's 33-yard kickoff return - Truitt also had a 40-yarder for a second-quarter touchdown - gave Hicks a chance to end it with another three-pointer. The Red Dogs iced the former teammate with two time-outs and the try was barely wide right.

After Rapid City's go-ahead field goal in the overtime, the Bandits' winning drive got a big lift on a second-down pass interference call on the Red Dogs' Ryan Cole, moving the hosts to the 10-yard line. Perrigo battled his way to a five-yard gain on first down, then was stopped just over 12 inches from the goal line on a second-down pitch play.

DeGeorgia's deciding lunge was next. "There's no way he was across the line," said Maciejczak. "One ref didn't call it a touchdown and the other guy did. Two teams go into overtime, you've got to have enough (guts) to make the correct call on that.

"But that's just one call. We lost it on our mistakes, our turnovers."

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