SIOUX CITY -- The Sioux City Bandits already faced Salina this season. The two met in the season-opener for the Bandits in Salina with the Liberty claiming a 65-45 victory.
Since that game on March 30, the Bandits are a completely different team going into Saturday's home game at the Tyson Events Center. They added a new quarterback, Dillon Turner, who made his first start last week. Daryl Virgies got a good amount of the carries last week and scored five touchdowns. Plus wide receive Andre London rejoined the team.
"We definitely have changed a few moving pieces and we like to think we've helped the roster out some and we are playing a little better now, hopefully," Bandits coach Erv Strohbeen said. "The first week, we had a lot of rookies on the team. That was their first crack at it and now they have three games under their belt and that makes a world of difference."
The Bandits are coming off a last-second loss to Amarillo last week and are 1-2 on the season. Salina is 2-2 and soundly defeated Wichita 50-22 last week. Saturday's game kicks off at 7:05 p.m. at the Tyson Events Center.
"We have to get the fans out there on Saturday," Strohbeen said. "It's a big week. It's a must-win type of game. We need fans in the stands yelling loudly."
Last week Turner, a former Dakota Wesleyan quarterback, played with a limited playbook since he was only with the team for a few days. He was still able to make an impact for the Bandits, passing for 174 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for another.
Now Turner has had a full week of practice leading into Saturday's game.
"He did really well with what he ran and played well," Strohbeen said. "We've got some different wrinkles for him to run."
London, who was the Bandits' leading receiver, returned to the team after missing the first couple of games. He's ready for a full workload this week.
"It's very nice to have Andre back. He's a veteran guy who believes in the system and can teach the young guys all of that good stuff," Strohbeen said. "That's a big piece of the puzzle for us."
Salina comes into the game with 58 point scores per game, tied for second in the league. Salina quarterback Andrew Jackson is fourth in the league with 192.3 passing yards per game and has thrown for 20 touchdowns, the third-most in the league. Running back Tracey Brooks is averaging 90.3 yards per game and has scored 10 touchdowns, both are leading the league. Rashad Pargo is second in the league with eight touchdown receptions.
Jackson passed for 274 yards and five touchdowns in the first game and Brooks rushed for 88 yards and three touchdowns to go along with 79 receiving yards and a score.
The Bandits are allowing the third-most points in the league at 55.7 points per game.
But Strohbeen thinks his defense is playing more physical each week.
"I think we had a lot of guys getting pushed around that first week. Now we are starting to see how this defense can really play," Strohbeen said. "We gave up 70 points last week as a team but the defensive line brought the heat. We are playing more physical and that will lead to some good things later one."
Ben Pister has been a force for the Bandits this season. In two of the three games the Bandits played, Pister earned CIF Defensive Player of the Week honors. Last week he had three sacks and he leads the league with four sacks. He has seven tackles for loss this season and three blocked kicks.
"Nothing he does surprises me because we know how he's that good and he's on a tear," Strohbeen said. "He's putting up player of the year type stats. It's good to see a quality individual with good character like him succeed."