Storm Held At Arm's Length Against Desert Hawks

by Logan Hernandez

ODESSA, TX - Southwest Kansas fans have become accustomed to lower-scoring games, at least by the Arena Football League standards. Saturday, June 15th, was quite the opposite of that. The first quarter had the makings of a low-scoring chess match as the score was 7-7 after 1, and both teams had defensive stops. Vince DiLeo II continued to make his case as the best two-way player in the league as he started the scoring off for The Southwest Kansas Storm on a 46-yard run with 9:00 to go in the first. Dillon Burkhard would nail the extra point to give the Storm a 7-0 lead. The West Texas Desert Hawks would answer back rather quickly. It would take until the 6:15 mark in the Second Quarter for Southwest Kansas to strike back, as Matt Struck would find Todd Athey for a 44-yard Touchdown pass. Burkhard would make his second PAT of the night. The remainder of the second quarter would go on to be a stereotypical AFL-type event, in the final 6 minutes of play both teams would go on to put a combined 41 Points on the board. Struck would spread the ball around as he was able to find WR Da'Quan Bailey Brown and Chris Platt Jr., throughout the second quarter for Touchdowns. Bailey-Brown would also find the endzone by way of a kick return. Southwest Kansas would take a 32-28 lead with 16 seconds remaining in the first half. This score was set up by a Dillon Thomas interception. Dillon Burkhard was able to notch his first career DUECE on the ensuing kickoff, extending that lead to 34-28. However, West Texas would have a highlight reel-type catch over the boards with 2 seconds left to regain the lead. At the intermission, West Texas would lead 35-34. The Third Quarter would prove to be just as exciting as both teams continued to go back and forth. West Texas would take a 58-49 lead into the Fourth. However just a minute into the final quarter, Struck would run it into the End Zone from 3 Yards out. Southwest would attempt a 3-point play, however, the pass to OL Connor Davis would fall incomplete. West Texas would extend the lead 65-55 with 9:00 remaining in the game. Southwest Kansas would be methodical and would score with just under 3:00 remaining to bring the score to 61-65. The Storm would attempt a 4-Point play. The first attempt would have off-setting penalties, and then West Texas would be charged with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. This would allow Southwest Kansas to attempt the 4-point play from the 5-yard line. However, they were unable to connect. Southwest Kansas would attempt an onside kick, but West Texas would recover. The Storm Defense was able to stop West Texas and Southwest Kansas would get the ball back with under a minute left with a chance to win. Southwest Kansas would be able to get within 10 Yards but an interception by West Texas as time expired would end the game. Coach Thomas had this to say after the game, "Losses are always tough, but this one really hurts. We had the chance to win the game at the end, and feel like we should've won. Our guys showed extreme effort out there tonight, but we made too many mistakes in all three facets of the game. We still have a lot to play for, and we're going to make sure we hone in on our mistakes and use them to get better. We're still in this thing (play-off race), and we have a formidable opponent, in Washington, coming to town. Our focus has to be on them now. I hope to see all of our fans inside the United Wireless Arena for our last home game."

After the loss Southwest Kansas will fall to 4-4 (6th in AFL), while West Texas will move to 4-4 (5th in AFL). Southwest Kansas is still fully in the play-off race and there are still multiple scenarios for them to qualify. They can still qualify by the following scenarios (may not be fully inclusive): 1. Win both remaining games, 2. Win 1 of 2 remaining games, West Texas loses to Salina, Orlando loses both remaining games, Outscore Orlando. 3. Beat Nashville, Orlando to lose both games, and have more points scored than Orlando (Southwest Kansas currently has 263 PF, Orlando has 251). 

Southwest Kansas will return home for the Home Finale against the Washington Wolfpack (1-6, 9th in AFL) for our Agriculture Appreciation Night sponsored by Beck's Hybrids. Kickoff is at 5:00 P.M. and fans are encouraged to wear their cowboy hats in celebration.