SIOUX CITY -- In just two weeks the Sioux City Bandits have seen their lead atop the North Conference go from seemingly comfortable to nonexistent.
Back-to-back losses now have the Bandits in a four-way tie in the loss column with Bismarck, Quad Cities and Salina in the North Conference. Two weeks ago the Bandits lost to Wichita on the road before coming up short last Saturday again on the road to Quad Cities.
“Like we always say in indoor football ‘no lead is too big,’” Bandits Coach Erv Strohbeen said. “That includes in the standings. We are still in first place, we are still in a good spot, again nothing has changed with our goals and they are all sitting in front of us.”
Sioux City (4-2) will look to maintain its hold on a piece of the top spot when it hosts Salina (4-2), which has won three of its last four games, Saturday at the Tyson Events Center. The Bandits have played four of their first six games this season away from home, which always makes winning tough. However, Strohbeen said the issues his team is dealing with go deeper than road games.
“What I am not happy with is we are not getting better every week,” he said. “It is a concern to myself and the rest of the coaching staff. We have been harping on eliminating some key mistakes and these guys are finding out maybe the coaches are right.
“We are still not meshing together well as an offense. Quarterbacks and receivers need to be on the same page as far running the right route and where to be in space. On the surface, I know, the quarterback takes a lot of heat for losses, but everybody on that offense needs to play better.”
Bandits QB Liam Nadler ranks fifth in yards per game (134.2) and touchdowns (16). Injuries and inconsistency at receiver has been an issue for the Bandits while running back Darian Miller is averaging 34.3 yards a contest. Miller has made a big impact in the return game averaging 23.2 yards and has returned a pair for touchdowns.
Strohbeen is not totally surprised the offense has its fits and starts given the large number of new faces on both sides of the ball for the team calling it a “work in progress.” What he saw last Saturday was a Quad Cities team that improved since the first meeting won by Sioux City March 18 while not seeing that same improvement on his sideline.
“Quad Cities progressed and got better and we stayed the same,” Strohbeen said. “We can’t be expecting the same result as the first time around with a win if we haven’t gotten better and they have. These teams are all getting better at this juncture in the season and we have been as good as we were in the first week.”
Salina, which won three straight before falling to Bismarck 47-36 last week, is averaging 44 points a game while the Bandits are at 45.2.
Salina running back Dominique Carson, who played with the Bandits last season, leads the league in rushing with 329 yards.
“(Carson) is a great running back and has been his whole career and he was for us last year,” Strohbeen said. “He is going to be a formidable foe for our defense.”
Liberty linebacker Travis Taylor is tied for the league lead in sacks with seven while Trey Dudley-Giles is second in the league in interceptions with four, tied with the Bandits' Soloman St. Pierre.
Strohbeen is not calling Saturday night a must-win, but with the Bandits’ yearly goal of hosting the CIF championship game, it is coming close.
“Our playoffs start now and if you want to be the No. 1 seed overall and host the championship in Sioux City in front of your fans and loved ones the playoffs start now,” he said. “We can’t losing any more games and still secure that No. 1 seed.
“It is not over by a long shot, but we have to build each and every week and start getting wins.”