SALINA, Kan. — A win on Saturday would have given the Sioux City Bandits sole possession of second place in the CIF North division.
The Bandits held a 15-point lead in the third quarter, but the Salina Liberty came back to win 57-54 at the Tony’s Pizza Events Center.
Salina forced two fourth-quarter interceptions on Bandits quarterback Dillon Turner, and the Liberty turned those turnovers into scores.
Liberty running back Tracy Brooks scored the go-ahead touchdown with an 11-yard run with 6 minutes, 56 seconds left, then the Liberty scored in the final minute with an 18-yard TD catch by Ed Smith.
“This is definitely the most disappointing loss for me,” Sioux City Bandits coach Erv Strohbeen said. “ Our defense played well in the second quarter. At that point, all you have to do is score every time and stay ahead of them. We couldn’t turn the ball over twice in the second half. Unfortunately you can’t do those types of things.”
The Bandits scored with 2 seconds left — a Londell Lee 10-yard reception — but it was too little, too late.
Before the game on Saturday, Strohbeen told the team that there was one team that could beat the Bandits: themselves.
“We just have to get them to play error-free football,” Strohbeen said. “Our backs are against the wall. Just like a heavyweight fight, we got knocked into the corner, and the only way to get out was to start swinging.”
The Bandits’ first touchdown came in the first quarter on a 43-yard kickoff return on Frederick Bruno.
Turner was 10-for-20 for 83 yards with two touchdowns and the two interceptions. He also led Sioux City in rushing yards with 74, and his longest run was for 14 yards.
Bubba Jenkins had 39 yards on 12 carries.
“I thought the rushing game did a nice job,” Strohbeen said. “Dillon can do a lot of damage on the ground and that was working for us.”
Lee caught three passes for 40 yards; Andre London had five grabs for 28 yards.
Sioux City returns home for a 7:05 p.m. Saturday home game against Wichita.