SIOUX CITY – Recent weather has sent the mercury rising, but the Sioux City Bandits’ play during a current three-game win streak has head coach Erv Strohbeen thinking in winter terms.
“It is kind of a snowball effect where the guys are starting to gain a little confidence,” he said. “We talked a couple of weeks ago about how the guys were playing a little tight and they are having a lot of fun with this now. They are going out there and making a lot of plays. It has been fun to see.”
The Bandits (7-3) enter Saturday’s game at Kansas City riding a three-game winning streak having scored 77 points in each of their past two games. Sioux City has gotten strong production from its rushing game during that stretch as the Bandits ran for 141 yards against Omaha last week, 165 against the Phantoms three weeks ago and 114 against the Omaha Beef May 5.
“You look at some of our touchdowns last week and the 40-yard pass to Brandon Shepherd was on a fake jet sweep, fake dive and throw over the top,” Strohbeen said. “That is typical of our Sioux City Bandits offense. You hit them with the run so many times that they can’t help but scream up there trying to stop it, and all of the sudden the guy is running wide open 40 yards down the field.”
That has allowed quarterback Liam Nadler to be precise with his passes as he is making the most of limited attempts. He is 19 of 28 over the past two weeks with seven touchdowns and one interception.
“He made a couple of great throws the other night,” Strohbeen said. “The threat of the running game with this offense helps everyone out. It helps the offensive line and the quarterbacks and wide receivers.”
It is an impressive turnaround for a team that dropped three consecutive games after a 4-0 start.
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“When you are losing three in a row, which had never happened to us, you are a little bit worried, but we felt like we as coaches have the recipe if we just stick to the game plan and maybe tweak some things here and there,” Strohbeen said. “We didn’t hit the panic mode and start bringing in a bunch of players. … We have always been pretty successful with the guys we pick and the guys we roll with. We are not like teams that continuously turn the roster over.”
This is the third meeting with Kansas City this season with the Bandits winning the first two in convincing fashion.
As strong as the offense has been during the win streak, the defense has been better. It has not allowed more than 40 points during that stretch and held Kansas City to just 26 in the teams' last meeting.
Isaac Wright leads the CIF in tackles with 86, Wesley Johnson is third in the league in sacks with 7.5 and Soloman St. Pierre has eight interceptions to pace the league. St. Pierre had two picks last week and was named the CIF Defensive Player of the Week.
Everyone is playing really well and you can’t really single someone out,” Strohbeen said. “Kansas City is coming off a win over a Texas team that had put some wins together. This is a team that is not going to lay down for us and it is at home for them so it is a scary thing to have to go on the road and pick up some victories.”
Kansas City (3-7) beat the Bandits 75-70 in the final game of the regular season a season ago.
The Bandits are in a three-way tie for first place in the North Conference with Salina and Quad Cities. Sioux City lost its lone game to the Liberty 60-58 while splitting two with the Steamrollers.
The Bandits close out their regular season hosting Bismarck at the Tyson Events Center next Saturday.