SIOUX CITY | The Sioux City Bandits are right back in the thick of the Champions Indoor Football league race.
Thanks to a 56-42 victory over the Wichita Force in front of 2,854 at the Tyson Events Center Saturday night, the Bandits moved into a three-way tie for second in the league standings with a 5-3 record.
Sioux City pulled even with Wichita and the Amarillo Venum, one-half behind the Dodge City Law, which has a 6-3 overall mark.
Frederick Bruno had a hand in four touchdowns and as it turned out, the Bandits needed every one of the points they scored while getting off to a fast start in this one.
Bruno, a former Wayne State College star, returned a missed field goal 58 yards for a touchdown and hauled in three scoring passes from Charles Dowdell as the Bandits chalked up their third consecutive win.
“We make it interesting with these guys all the time,” Bandits Coach Erv Strohbeen said. “Last year we got off to a big lead and they caught up and the same thing happened down there, they got off to a lead and we caught up. It's a great rivalry and I think the fans definitely go their money's worth tonight.”
The Bandits jumped to a 21-0 lead after one quarter, but short-handed Wichita stormed back to within 28-25 on an interception return for a touchdown on the first play of the second half. However, order was quickly restored when Johnny Bentley scored on a 5-yard run, pushing the cushion back to 10 points.
Bruno and Dowdell then teamed up for three touchdown passes in the last quarter-and-a-half.
“It's a good thing we got those 21 points in the first quarter because if you noticed, we came out in the second quarter and didn't score one,” Bruno said. “We came out in the second half a little shaky but those points in the first quarter kept us in the game.
“That third loss was an eye-opener for us and we had to put a stop on it. Coaches got together with us and we know we have to come out and execute every game from now on.”
After Willie Downs caught a 30-yard touchdown pass on the second play of the game, the Bandits forced Wichita to try a long field goal, which was short and fielded by Bruno with his back against the board.
He brought the ball out of the end zone then waited for a couple of seconds, seemingly scouring the field for open space. Bruno then turned on the jets, outrunning the defense 58 yards for a score.
“What can you say about Bruno? That field goal return, wow,” Strohbeen said. “It was like, come on and get me and then, boom, he's gone. That's the type of player he is. You need a big play on a return or catch and he's there to give it to you.”
Bruno had scoring receptions of 19, 9 and 16 yards from Dowdell, who completed 10 of 15 passes for 125 yards and four touchdowns. The versatile Bandits quarterback also scored on a 2-yard run as part of the fast first-period start.
The Bandit defense also came up with big plays, including a blocked field goal by Darius Davis that Marcus Miles scooped up and returned 10 yards for a touchdown. Rahn Franklin charted his eighth interception of the season and Cliff Stokes had a theft, while Sean Kelly recorded two sacks on Wichita's final possession, sewing up the victory.
Sioux City outgained the Force 209-108. Bentley had 57 rushing yards on 12 carries.
Wichita, which has lost a couple of quarterbacks to injury in the last few weeks, started with Michael Stewart, but he was replaced by Jonathan Wright after the Force fell behind 21-0.
Wright passed for two touchdowns and ran for another, but the Force basically got into a situation where they had to try to match the Bandits for touchdowns in the second half.
“I told these guys when we were sitting at 2-3 and everybody was questioning how good a team we were, we control our own destiny,” Strohbeen said. “We went from sixth to tied for second within a matter of three games. It's a competitive league this year and we like what we're seeing right now.”
The Bandits now get a much-needed week off before hosting the Omaha Beef.
Defensive back Jonathan Smith suffered what was believed to be a concussion and the Bandits have been without standout receiver Jeremiah Oates because of an ankle injury the past few weeks. Oates may be able to return for the Omaha game in a couple of weeks.
Wichita 0 18 10 14 – 42
Sioux City 21 7 14 14 – 56
SC: Willie Downs 30 pass from Charles Dowdell (Max Martin kick) 11:52
SC: Fredrick Bruno 58 field goal return (Martin kick) 8:56
SC: Dowdell 2 run (Martin kick) 2:30
Wichita: FG Ernesto Lacayo 48, 14:55
Wichita: Tywon Hubbard 2 run (Lacayo kick) 8:09
SC: Marcus Miles 10 blocked field goal return (Martin kick) 5:17
Wichita: Jonathan Wright 8 run (kick failed) :11
Wichita: Safety, Jason Catchings tackles quarterback in end zone, :00
Wichita: Dorrian Roberts 46 interception return (Lacayo kick) 14:26
SC: Johnny Bentley 5 run (Martin kick) 11:04
Wichita: FG Lacayo 40, 8:36
SC: Bruno 19 pass from Dowdell (Martin kick) 6:58
Wichita: Jarrell Kelley 45 pass from Wright (kick failed) 13:24
SC: Bruno 9 pass from Dowdell (Martin kick) 10:22
Wichita: Hubbard 12 pass from Wright (Wright run) 6:38
SC: Bruno 16 pass from Dowdell (Martin kick) 5:36, Tywon Hubbard 8-21, Dominque Terrell 1-(-2), Team 0-0. Sioux City – Johnny Bentley 12-57, Drew Prohaska 9-17, Damon Mothershead 1-4, Charles Dowdell 6-3, Fredrick Bruno 2-3.
PASSING: Wichita – Jonathan Wright 7-20-1—94, Michael Stewart 1-6-1—5, Brian Murph 0-0-0—0, Team 0-0-0--(-34). Sioux City – Charles Dowdell 10-15-1—132, Team 0-0-0--(-7).
RECEIVING: Wichita – Jarrell Kelley 4-64, Brian Murph 2-11, Tywon Hubbard 1-12, Brett Soft 1-12. Sioux City – Fredrick Bruno 5-55, Damon Mothershead 3-38, Willie Downs 1-30, Johnny Bentley 1-9.