Roughriders deal Red Dogs big blow

06/02/02 Rapid City Journal
 If momentum rolls like waves on the ocean, the Rapid City Red Dogs rode high for awhile but eventually got washed under 66-58 by the Bismarck Roughriders in a game vital to Rapid City's hopes of making the National Indoor Football League playoffs.

The Red Dogs scored 20 points in a span of 90 seconds in the third quarter to take a 51-42 lead. Bismarck countered in the fourth quarter with a safety off a blocked field goal and an A.J. Street touchdown on the ensuing kickoff.

The Roughriders never relinquished momentum again after the two scores.

"Momentum is a big part of this game," said Rapid City head coach Dan Maciejczak quietly as he said in the locker room following the game. "We had it and lost it and couldn't get it back.

"All in all, we played a great game except for about three series. The kickoff return for a touchdown, that killed us."

It also dealt a serious blow to the Red Dogs' hopes of making the playoffs.

Now 5-6 overall and 2-5 in Pacific North Division play, Rapid City needs help from Bismarck (8-2, 7-2 Pacific North), which plays the Billings Outlaws twice in the coming weeks. The Red Dogs must also beat Billings and Sioux Falls if they hold any hopes of getting into the postseason.

"We've got to pray that teams start losing," Maciejczak said. "We need help and it's still going to be tough to get in."

What made this loss hurt so badly for Rapid City was the way momentum was so firmly in the grasp of the Red Dogs one moment, only to see it trickle through their fingers in less than 30 seconds.

Rapid City, which trailed 42-31 at the half, took the opening kickoff and needed just three plays to score. Tom Skoog's 1-yard plunge made it a 42-37 game at the 13:12 mark of the third quarter.

The Red Dogs took their first lead of the game when nose guard Andrae Rowe poured in on Roughrider quarterback Danny Ragsdale and knocked the ball out of the signal caller's hands. The ball bounced around inside the Bismarck 10 before Rapid City safety Percy Scott scooped up the ball and ran five yards to paydirt, lifting the Red Dogs to a 44-42 lead.

The announced crowd of 1,982 came to its feet again just seconds later when Street was stripped of the ball at the Roughrider 12 as he returned the kickoff that followed. The ball popped right into Eric Rice's hands and he trotted in from the 5-yard line.

In a span of 90 seconds, Rapid City went from trailing 42-31 to leading 51-42. The Red Dogs upped their lead even further when Ryan Speed snared one of Jason Murdock's five TD passes, scoring from 14 yards out to make it a 58-42 lead.

Then the Roughriders began to answer back.

Running back Quentin Cradle scored on a draw play and hauled in a pass from Ragsdale to complete a two-point conversion to make it a 58-50 game with 1:52 left in the third quarter.

Roughrider defensive linemen Anthony Bonner and Nakia Parsons began to pressure Murdock, and a Bonner sack resulted in a 9-yard loss. Pinned at their own 2-yard line, Red Dog kicker Aaron Turner attempted a 61-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter. Parsons broke through the Rapid City front and blocked the kick out of bounds, resulting in a safety.

On the free kick that followed, Street took the ball two yards deep in his own end zone, cut right at midfield and outran any pursuing Red Dogs to the end zone. Tyson Niewoehner's point-after kick gave Bismarck a 59-58 lead just 23 seconds into the fourth quarter.

"When we got the safety, it gave us a lift," said Street, a University of Mary product who had a short stint with the Red Dogs last year. "Then I got the kickoff return. Rapid City got down on themselves after that."

The Red Dogs had a chance to take the lead back, but Turner's 39-yard field goal sailed wide left. Ragsdale came right back and hit Street, who hauled in a 22-yard scoring strike, to put Bismarck up 66-58 with 6:50 left.

Rapid City went four-and-out, giving the ball back to the Roughriders on downs at the Red Dog 17. Niewoehner had a chance to ice the game, but his chip shot field goal from 18 yards out was just outside the right upright.

Rapid City had one last chance. The Red Dogs moved the ball to midfield when Brian Mills caught a ball over the middle. Then Bonner registered a sack and Bismarck pressured Murdock into three incompletions and Rapid City gave the ball back on downs with 1.3 seconds left in the game.

"We were sitting pretty high," said Maciejczak, "but that's when their nose guard (Bonner) and defensive end (Parsons) stepped it up."

Ragsdale, who was 17 of 28 for 239 yards and six TDs through the air and rushed 12 times for 24 more yards, was pleased to see the defense step up when the Roughriders needed them.

"That's the first adversity we've faced since I've been back," said Ragsdale, who rejoined Bismarck five games ago. "It was great to see the guys react so well to it. The defense had to make some plays."

Street finished with six catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Cradle was held in check for much of the night, but he still rushed for 26 yards and two scores and had another 45 receiving yards and a TD.

Casey Veenhof had six catches for 53 yards. Speed had pulled in five passes for 52 yards and three scores. Murdock finished 18 of 33 for 194 yards.

Rapid City heads to Enid, Okla., for its next action. The Red Dogs take on the 1-8 Oklahoma Crude next Saturday.

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