SIOUX CITY -- After last week's loss to Salina, the Sioux City Bandits find themselves in a must-win situation again on Saturday when they host Wichita.
The loss to Salina separated the two teams in the standings. Salina improved to 5-3 and have a game lead on the Bandits, who fell to 4-4 for the No. 2 spot in the Northern Division. Omaha leads the Northern with a 7-1 record. The top two teams advance to the CIF playoffs.
The Bandits only have four games left in the season - Wichita on Saturday, then the NTX Savages, the Oklahoma Flying Aces and then a road game at Omaha. If Sioux City is going to qualify for the playoffs, the Bandits need to win all four games.
Essentially, the playoffs begin with the 7:05 p.m. kickoff at the Tyson Events Center on Saturday for First Responders Night.
"We definitely can't be dropping any more games if we want to make the playoffs and we have to make a run," Bandits coach Erv Strohbeen said. "It definitely starts (Saturday) night for us and I think things have to happen with the other teams playing each other. We aren't out of the picture. There's a lot of football to be played but we have to take care of our end of the deal."
First Responders can bring their identification to the game for free admission for themselves and their family (up to four people). St. Luke's and CVA will also be hosting a tailgate for these professional prior to the game. The tailgate starts at 5:30 p.m. in the west parking lot at the Tyson Events Center. Please bring your own chair.
If the Bandits are going to climb back into the No. 2 spot, they also need some help. Salina faces Omaha on Saturday and the Beef are on a six-game winning streak. Omaha's last loss was to Sioux City.
But the Bandits have to worry about their own game first. Last week Sioux City had two crucial interceptions in the fourth quarter that allowed Salina to erase a two-score deficit as the Liberty came back in the fourth quarter.
While the blame could be pointed at the two interceptions, it was a team loss, Strohbeen said. The Bandits failed to cause a single turnover in the game and struggled to get a stop in the second half against Salina.
So both sides of the ball had their issues last week.
"It was a perfect storm. The defense didn't stop anyone in the second half and we turned it over. If we don't turn the ball over twice and we get a stop, we win," Strohbeen said. "I don't feel like this team has played a complete game yet. To be 4-4 and to have not played a complete game, I am optimistic. We just have to find a way to dig deep and play a full 60 minutes."
Even though injuries have decimated the Bandits backfield, Sioux City still had another strong game on the ground. The Bandits lead the lead with 132.4 yards per game on the ground. Quarterback Dillon Turner rushed for 74 yards last week and he is third in the CIF with 42.3 yards per game and fourth with nine touchdowns. Bubba Jenkins rushed for 39 yards and former wide receiver Frederick Bruno rushed for 35 yards. Braden Meints added 23 yards.
"It's kind of that next man up mentality," Strohbeen said. "We've been successful in the ground game and we will continue to execute the gameplan. Plus in another guy and that aspect. I am proud of the guys. Now we finish by playing a full four quarters."