Storm puts end to slide

06/16/02 Sioux Falls Argus Leader
Apparently, a month wasn't enough time for the Sioux Falls Storm to rid its system of bad football. It spent Saturday's first half freezing in clutch moments, thinking when circumstances called for action - in short, playing like it had in the three previous games.

But eventually, Sioux Falls seemed to realize who it was playing and what was at stake

And despite its recent failings and its faint playoff heartbeat, this fact remains clear: The Storm is a tough nut to crack within the confines of the Arena.

The Sioux City Bandits learned that about their I-29 rival. Before approximately 4,000 fans, the Storm killed its three-game losing streak with an inspired second half of play en route to a 35-22 victory.

Sioux Falls, now 7-5, still needs to win its final two games to have a shot at making the NIFL playoffs. The Storm will travel to face Wyoming on Friday, then conclude the regular season at home against Rapid City on June 29.

Down by six points at halftime, Sioux Falls suddenly turned the corner in the third. Its initial drive covered 45 yards, and was capped by a 1-yard touchdown plunge by quarterback Ryan Aulenbacher. That made it 14-13.

That drive seemed to grease the Storm offense. It punched in another score on the next possession, this a 1-yard bulldozing by running back David Ruter. And after Sioux Falls safety Bobby Perkins swiped his second interception of the game, Jim Bean took a pitch 6 yards for another score.

So after three second-half chances - all successful - the Storm had charged to a 28-16 edge.

The Bandits did score within the final minute, pulling to within 28-22. But on the ensuing on-sides kick, Sioux Falls wideout Jesse Haines gathered in the bounding ball and scrambled into the end zone to seal the victory.

The first half was littered with missed opportunities for the Storm. The offense advanced to the Sioux City 4-yard line on its first possession, the 16 on its second and the 5 on its third. But those chances ended like this: stopped on fourth down, missed field goal, fumble.

Meanwhile, the Bandits seemed intent on attacking Sioux Falls with home run passes. That tactic paid off with the game's first score, a 45-yard TD hookup between quarterback Jarrod Degeorgia and wideout Erv Whitehead early in the opening quarter. On the play, Whitehead cooked past two defensive backs, then - cruising down the middle of the field, between the hash marks - he reeled in Degeorgia's rainbow.

But the Storm was very much within reach at halftime, trailing just 13-7. That was probably thanks to the two turnovers the defense gobbled up.

The first set up Sioux Falls' only touchdown of the half, as a fumbled handoff exchange by the Bandits was pounced on by defensive back Joe Evenson at the Sioux City 2. On the next play, Storm running back David Ruter powered in for the touchdown.

The second turnover might have been more valuable. With the Bandits at the Sioux Falls 5 with seconds left in the half, Degeorgia side-armed a pass into a crowded end zone. Storm safety Bobby Perkins came up with the ball, dousing Sioux City's threat. (And if Degeorgia wouldn't have pinned him against the sideline boards, Perkins might have returned that theft for a Sioux Falls TD.

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