Picking one off

05/26/02 Kearney Cyber Hub
The Tri-City Diesel made the most of their opportunities in a 51-44 win over Sioux Falls on Friday night.

The Diesel (4-6) trailed 44-37 late in the fourth quarter, but answered with 10 points in the game's final minute to pull into the lead.

"We sat down in the locker room before the game,and I asked the players to take some time and look at themselves," Tri-City coach Leland Skeen said. "I asked them if they were going to compete, or if they were going to be quitters.

"Second effort, playing hard, making plays. … That's what made the difference tonight."

The Diesel tied the game at 44 with just more than a minute remaining as quarterback Justin Coleman drilled a 7-yard touchdown pass into Mitch Ables on third-and-goal.

However, there was more than enough time on the clock for the Storm to answer.

Sioux Falls (6-4) started its drive at midfield after Tri-City's kick off sailed out of bounds, and quarterback Ryan Aulenbacher went right to work.

Aulenbacher, the most accurate passer in the NIFL, hit a pair of short screens to put the Storm within striking distance.

But he got greedy on his third pass and Charles Verdone stepped in front of the receiver and danced 40 yards for a touchdown.

"I read the route, and I made a play on the ball," Verdone said. "I don't really remember much after that. … I didn't want to get blindsided, and I didn't want to get tackled from behind. So I just kept running as hard as I could."

In fact, Verdone ran so hard that he left the Sioux Falls' offense 49 seconds to operate.

Sioux Falls started the game's final drive inside its own 10-yard line, but quickly worked its way down to the Tri-City 3-yard line with 15 seconds remaining.

However, Sioux Falls' quest for the tieing score came up short as wide receiver Corey Walker was tackled just short of the end zone on the game's final play.

Walker, who finished the game with nine catches for 122 yards, argued with the officials that he had broken the plane of the end zone as the Diesel defense began celebrating.

"It wasn't just the secondary," Verdone said. "It was the whole defense. We stepped it up this game.

"We turned it around at the end of the season last year, and we are hoping to do it again this year. We are still positive. We still believe we are going to the playoffs."

Tri-City did suffer a pair of injuries as wide receiver Greg Albright broke his arm in the first half, and running back Andre Hatcher tweaked his shoulder.

Tri-City led 28-27 at halftime despite running only 15 offensive plays. The Storm held a commanding lead in total yardage (301-179) in the game, but were unable to convert on their opportunities.


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