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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The Sioux City Bandits pride themselves on building teams and playing a certain way.

It is a formula that is certainly hard to argue against.

The Bandits have won three titles since 2011, including the inaugural CIF championship in 2015 when they downed Texas 76-61. Saturday will mark their sixth trip to a championship game as a franchise having won three of the last four title games they have played in.

"We have developed a culture of winning here and doing things in a positive way," Bandits coach Erv Strohbeen said. "It is about the team, it is not about an individual guy, it is about the team and getting victories.

"If you go back and and read what everyone was putting on the internet in January and February when all these teams were getting put together, and there was a lot of talk that Sioux City was in a rebuilding year."

Sioux City was able to blend several young, new faces with key veterans to put together an 11-3 season that includes a current seven-game winning streak.

The Bandits advanced to the championship game with an impressive 45-39 win over Salina with a goal-line stand for the ages, but perhaps the bigger accomplishment is where the win occurred.

"We had one playoff road game win if our memories correctly served us and (offensive coordinator Jarrod DeGeorgia) and I were part of that victory when we played Lincoln in the playoffs as a Sioux City Attack player in the first year of existence," Strohbeen said. "Otherwise I don't think we have had a road win in the playoffs.

"Now we haven't played a ton of road games in the playoffs, but we have played a few, and we hadn't come out on top until the other night."

The Bandits will look to make it two in a row and improve on its 2-6 all-time playoff road record Saturday when they face Duke City in the first meeting ever between the two teams.

"They have only been in existence four years so to go from new franchise to being the No. 1 seed this year they have obviously done a very good job," Strohbeen said. "The team on paper is stacked."

Duke City (12-2) quarterback Caleb Holbrook ranks third in the league in passing yards per game at 199.7 while throwing 46 touchdowns. Dello Davis, his favorite receiver, leads the CIF averaging 80.1 receiving yards and has 22 touchdown receptions. Defensively, Brett Bowers paces the league with 13 sacks.

"They have some athletes and we are definitely aware that they are good on defense and they can surely light up the scoreboard," Strohbeen said. "The strength of their defense is probably their front four."

The Bandits come into the game averaging 55.9 points a game to lead the way while the Gladiators are fourth at 54.2.

Darrian Miller leads the Bandits on the ground with 797 yards and a league-leading 32 rushing touchdowns. Miller averages 60.5 yards a game and has five kick returns for touchdowns. His 132.7 all-purpose yards ranks second in the CIF.

Liam Nadler has thrown for 1,827 yards, 42 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

"We have some electric playmakers out there," Strohbeen said. "I think we have a great front three guys and they are kind of what is leading this team. We have a great quarterback, we still have Frederick Bruno and Andre London and those are two really experienced receivers and throw in Brandon Shepherd in the mix. Darrian Miller is putting up MVP of the league kind of numbers."

Defensively, Isaac Wright leads the league in tackles with 114 and Soloman St. Pierre has a CIF-best 11 interceptions.

Copyright 2018 The Sioux City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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