SIOUX CITY | Too many times Sioux City has made the trip to Wichita with something big on the line only to come away disappointed.
Last season the two teams squared off in the regular season finale with the top seed in the playoffs on the line only to see Wichita win 59-54. That loss forced the Bandits to go on the road in the title game where they rallied but fell 46-41.
“This is something where we have to get over the hump,” Sioux City Bandits Coach Erv Strohbeen said. “They have continually taken things from us that we felt should have been ours. We need to go there and steal something from them so we can win the season series.”
The teams have split two games already this season with both winning on their home turf. The Bandits won the first meeting 56-42 before falling 42-35 in Wichita. Sioux City is hoping to gain the upper hand in any tiebreakers with the Force, who are atop the standings at 7-3. The Bandits are second at 6-3.
Wichita dominated the ball in the fourth quarter in its victory as the Bandits had the ball just twice, one possession ending in a fumble and the other on downs.
The Force finds ways to win despite going through numerous quarterbacks this season. However, they are second in rush defense and will look to slow a Bandits ground game that has been gaining steam behind Johnny Bentley and Drew Prohaska.
“Defense is their strength and I have said it before, but it is a credit to their organization to lose that many quarterbacks and keep on winning,” Strohbeen said.
The Bandit defense will have to play the rest of the season without leader Sean Kelly, who suffered a season-ending injury against Omaha last Saturday. Sioux City will rely on Darius Davis, Marcus Miles and Richard Daniel, but Strohbeen knows it was a big loss for his team.
“Sean plays with a passion for the game that is second to none, and he has done so many community appearances that people love his energy and how he plays the game,” Strohbeen said. “Everyone respects the way Sean plays the game and hopefully they rally around this.”
Bandits quarterback Charles Dowdell is the most efficient passer in the league while Frederick Bruno has ignited the Bandits' special teams. Bruno has five kick returns for touchdowns this season and is the reigning special teams player of the week after returning two a week ago.
“What more can you say because he does everything for us,” Strohbeen said. “Our last game he dropped the first pass of the game and I think it really bothered him. The next play he threw a block on a linebacker, decleats him, and it goes for 15 yards.”
Wichita, which downed Salina in overtime last week thanks to a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown, saw quarterback Emmanuel Taylor throw for 109 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Running back Tywon Hubbard leads the team in rushing with 312 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Defensively, Matt Moss and Jason Catchingsare are fourth and fifth, respectively, in the league in sacks with 7-1/2 and 5.
After Saturday, the Bandits host Amarillo on May 30 before closing out the regular season June 6 at Dodge City.