KANSAS CITY | The division is locked up, the overall No. 1 seed is yet to be determined.
The Sioux City Bandits clinched the North Division of the Champions Indoor Football league with a come-from-behind victory over Omaha last week, but their 9-2 record entering Friday’s regular season finale against Kansas City doesn’t guarantee anything. South Division-leading Dodge City is also 9-2 and has a slight advantage entering its game with Duke City.
“You go to strength of schedule and that will not be decided until the final game Saturday night,” said Bandits Coach Erv Strohbeen, when talking about tiebreakers because the two teams did not meet in the regular season. “They calculate all your opponents’ win-loss records and that is how it will shake out. Right now, Dodge City has a stronger strength of schedule than us by two games, so it is pretty close.
“You would like to play everybody … but a couple years ago we were the No. 1 seed because of strength of schedule because four teams were tied. It is not like it hasn’t happen before and we are used to it.”
Sioux City rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit against Omaha to earn the 61-55 victory as the Bandits rolled for 149 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Drew Prohaska and Dominique Carson ran for 69 and 59 yards, respectively, with both finding the end zone twice.
The defense held the Beef to a missed field goal, a touchdown and a turnover on downs in three fourth-quarter possessions.
“The defense just turned it on in the second half and started getting stops for us,” Strohbeen said. “They gave us extra chances at the end zone.”
The Bandits beat the Phantoms 62-35 earlier in the season, but Strohbeen said Friday's game will be a different test for a team that has won two in a row to improve to 3-8.
“They have got one of the best quarterbacks in the league now, he came over from the Nebraska Danger,” Strohbeen said. “They have gotten much better the last few weeks. He is a real mobile quarterback that can throw, run. He is almost like a Chuck Dowdell when we had him a couple years ago.
“The toughest thing we have seen this year is these mobile quarterbacks because they spread the defense out and we have struggled a little bit, but the defense has really buckled down when they needed to.”
Devon Bridges continues to lead the league in sacks with 11 for the Bandits while on offense Carson is second in rushing touchdowns with 18 and fourth in yards per game at 44.9.
The Bandits got to practice on their field at the Tyson Events Center this week, marking the first time in a long time that had happened because of the run to the Clark Cup Finals by the Sioux City Musketeers. They hope it leads to a third straight win.
“I want to see us do the fundamentals we have been doing well, run the ball effectively because the offensive line is playing just great right now,” Strohbeen said. “I would like to see us put more throws in the air, but we kind of do what it takes to win.”
Above all else, Strohbeen will be looking to get out of the game healthy as the rosters lock going into the playoffs. It is something the Bandits have been fortunate with this season as the coach counted just one major move because of injury.
It is that kind of consistency and cohesiveness that the Bandits hope will give Sioux City its chance to win a fourth title since 2011.