WICHITA, Kan. – Erv Strohbeen sees the record but he is not letting it fool him.
The Sioux City Bandits coach remembers the battles his team has had with Wichita over the past several seasons and expects it to be just another chapter in that book when his 4-0 team travels to Wichita, Kansas on Saturday night.
“I know at one time a few years ago they had a 30-some home winning streak, so they like to play in front of the home fans and it is a tough place for us to play,” he said. “It was nice to see the offense put up some points in our last game and hopefully we can continue with that.”
Wichita is off to a 2-3 start on the season, picking up wins over Dallas (73-38) and Texas (30-27) while falling to Salina (17-15), Duke City (60-38) and Amarillo (41-24). The Force scored with 1:20 left against Texas on a Jalen Sykes touchdown to earn the come-from-behind victory last week.
The Bandits are coming off a 69-55 win over Kansas City. Both Darrian Miller and Brandon Washington ran for a pair of touchdowns as the Bandits' ground game continues to improve.
“It is always nice to know when you get down there that you can punch the ball in,” Strohbeen said. “Darrian is playing well and he is also getting involved in the return game with (Frederick) Bruno missing the game."
Bruno and fellow wide receiver T.J. Oates are likely to be back in the lineup this weekend after missing time with injury. That should help a passing game that is improving weekly behind quarterback Liam Nadler despite a rotating group of receivers.
Miller continues to pick up his play each week and is now averaging 109.5 all-purpose yards a game. He has rushed for seven touchdowns, caught one and returned a kick for a score. Nadler has the second-best pass efficiency in the league at 163.1 while averaging 147.3 passing yards a game. He has 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.
Defensively, the Bandits have been strong all season consistently causing turnovers and getting after the quarterback, but Strohbeen still sees room for improvement on that side of the ball.”
“We are still getting whistled for too many illegal defenses and penalties before the whistle,” he said. “That is something we need to clean up.”
The Force is averaging the second fewest points per game in the league at 36 and a league low 146.4 yards a contest. Sykes has run for 188 yards in five games.
Wichita recently signed veteran indoor quarterback Rocky Hinds who should help boost the offense and gives them a calming presence in the huddle.
“They have struggled on offense but bring Hinds back, and I don’t know if they talked him out of retirement or what, but he is a good veteran quarterback,” Strohbeen said.
The Force has leaned on its kicker as Luke Pray has connected on a CIF-best 15 field goals and has accounted for 60 points. Bandits kicker Greg Conry, the CIF Special Team’s Player of the Week, is right behind with 10 made field goals and 50 total points.
The Bandits are looking to maintain their game lead in the loss column in the North Conference. Even through four games there is beginning to be separation between the teams at the top and the bottom.
“More in the south, and nothing against those teams, I could see that remaining the same with some of those teams at the bottom, but we are in a very tough conference,” Strohbeen said. “When Quad Cities and Omaha are at the bottom you know it is going to be a challenge. We need to keep winning.”