SIOUX CITY | You know it was a good call when the opposing team’s owner calls to congratulate you on having the guts to make it.
When it was all on the line for the Sioux City Bandits, Coach Erv Strohbeen leaned on the advice he had given his own team after it fell to 2-3 on the season.
“When we were sitting at 2-3 I talked with the guys about when things are within your grasp you need to take it and don’t leave it to chance,” Strohbeen said. “I wanted to leave no doubt that we are the No. 1 seed and instill some confidence.”
The Bandits were trailing Dodge City 52-45 on Saturday with that top seed in the upcoming playoffs hanging in the balance and the home-field advantage that comes with it. Sioux City responded with a 3 minute, 2 second drive that closed the gap to 52-51 with 1:06 left to play.
Go for two and the win or the extra point and possibly overtime? For Strohbeen there was no doubt.
"I started talking to the staff with 7:30 left because we had plays for (the fake field goal) that we hadn't practiced all season until this week," Strohbeen said. "We repped them in practice and we were prepared for this.
“I knew if it comes to this I am running this play. This was a place where we lost already once and there were 28 penalties called in this game, so I didn’t want to take any more of a chance in overtime.”
Strohbeen made the call and sent out the kicking unit, but when the ball was snapped by Marlon Lobban there was no kick by Max Martin. It was a direct snap to quarterback Charles Dowdell, who got a block from Richard Daniel and raced into the end zone for a 53-52 victory.
“That was the most thought out call I have ever made,” Strohbeen said. “Obviously, I was nervous but once (Dodge City) lined up and I saw it I was 100 percent confident it would work. All the college and pro football I watch I always said that on the road if I was in that situation I would go for the win.”
Strohbeen said the fact that the Bandits lost to Wichita in last year's championship game on the road certainly played into his decision wanting his team to have the chance to win the elusive title at Tyson Events Center.
Defensive coordinator John Zevenbergen recalls the situation on the sideline before the deciding play.
“Erv came up to me and said, ‘If you are going to talk me out of this do it now,’” he said. “I radioed up to Spetlar Tonga and asked if we should talk him out of it. We said we should go for it.”
Lobban said the team has practiced the fake for the four years he has been with the team but never used it in a game. In fact, Strohbeen said he can’t remember the Bandits or an opponent ever going to the fake kick in any game since he has been with the team as a player or coach.
“As a field goal unit we always practiced it but it was always hurry up and get over with because we never used it,” Lobban said. “But we did execute it in practice, you just never know how it is going to go in a game.”
It was on the bus ride home that Strohbeen got a call from Dodge City’s owner congratulating him for making the decision, but it was one that came in the heat of the moment with plenty of previous thought.
“That was a gutsy call,” Bandits offensive coordinator Jarrod DeGeorgia said. “I don’t know if I agreed with it right away, but when it was done of course I agreed with it. Erv told me don’t worry about it I will take the blame if it doesn’t work.
“This is one of the biggest wins I have ever been part of in the last 15 years with this team.”
The Bandits begin the playoffs on Saturday as it will host Amarillo in the semifinals riding a seven-game winning streak and the determination to end a championship drought that is in its third season.