SIOUX CITY | It has been a long road from the 2-3 start but the Sioux City Bandits did what they had to do.
Win. And a lot of it.
The Bandits are going for seventh straight win and with it the top seed in the upcoming Champions Indoor Football league playoffs.
“We started out 2-3 and we brought in a lot of guys, a lot of veterans, that came here to win and not just show up,” Bandits Coach Erv Strohbeen said. “The guys were able to turn it around.”
The opportunity to wrap up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs will not come easy as Sioux City travels to take on Dodge City, a team that beat the Bandits 51-39 in the second week of the season.
“This is a good football team and to travel eight hours and hopefully steal a victory we are going to have to have a flawless effort,” Strohbeen said. “This is déjà vu all over again for us from last year when we had to go to Wichita the last game and lost and had to go there to play the championship game.”
Sioux City dropped that championship game to finish as the runner-up last season.
The Bandits enter this game leading the league in scoring at 58.5 points per game while Dodge City is tied for third at 53. Sioux City is fourth in total offense and third in total defense.
However, Strohbeen believes the Bandits biggest need is to play disciplined, something they lacked the first time around.
“We have to eliminate the penalties,” he said. “We had 16 penalties for 152 yards in that game and now we have turned ourselves into the least penalized team in the league. In that game we had the ball inside the 15 eight times and got penalties that kept us from scores. We had seven 15-yard penalties and that ended up killing us.”
The indoor game is built around the passing game, but these two teams are 1-2 in rushing in the league with the Law averaging 104.5 yards. The Bandits come into the game at 94.
Dodge City running back Dominique Carson is second in the league in rushing at 48 yards a game, and quarterback Joshua Floyd has thrown for 1,552 yards, 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Strohbeen said his team will have to do a better job of containing both then it did the first time around.
Sioux City is getting strong performances on both sides of the ball as quarterback Charles Dowdell is the most efficient QB in the league. He has thrown for 1,757 yards, 37 touchdowns and just six interceptions.
Frederick Bruno is the multifaceted weapon that makes the Bandits offense go as he is averaging 15 points scored per game. He has five kick returns for touchdown, one missed field goal return for score and is averaging 125.4 yards all-purpose.
Defensive back Rahn Franklin is tied for the league lead in interceptions with nine.
Franklin was named the league’s defensive player of the week for last Saturday's win over Amarillo while Bruno took special teams honors.
“They were both very well deserving of the honors and I believe we could have swept the awards easily with Chuck (Dowdell) and Willie Downs both having very good games on offense for us,” Strohbeen said. “I think they just didn’t want to give us the sweep.”
As far as playoff scenarios, a win clinches the top seed while a loss would drop the Bandits to the three spot and force them on the road in the postsesaon.
The league's decision to suspend Salina for the rest of the season actually hurts the Bandits because a loss on Saturday drops them in a four-way tie for first, and the Bandits' strength of schedule doesn't get the boost it likely would have had the Bombers played and won their remaining game.
Dodge City is in the playoffs with a win or Amarillo loss while Amarillo needs to win and get a Bandits win over Dodge City. Wichita and Texas are the other two teams assured of being in the playoffs with seeding still undecided.