Even though Oklahoma came into Saturday's game against the Sioux City Bandits with only two wins, Bandits head coach Erv Strohbeen knew the Flying Aces were looking for a signature win.
And a Flying Aces potential upset of the Bandits could've meant an end to Sioux City's playoff hopes.
Sioux City led for most of Saturday's game at Oklahoma but Strohbeen was right, the Flying Aces were looking to play the spoiler and came back to force overtime.
But the Bandits held on. Braden Meints tackled the Flying Aces ball carrier a foot short of the end zone on a two-point conversion attempt, giving Sioux City a 62-61 road win on Saturday.
"It was awesome. Unfortunately, we played them closer than we wanted to but I told them after the game, we stuck together to get the win. We haven't had the ball bounce our way late in games this year, so this could propel us," Strohbeen said. "In our first eight games, we played six of those games against the top three teams. We had a tough schedule and didn't win some of those close games.
"That tested us. It was good for us to pull out a victory like that. I don't think our guys ever got rattled. We played it close and it came down to Braden stopping the two-point conversion a half a foot short."
The Bandits improved to 7-4 overall and moved into a tie for second place in the North Division with Omaha, which lost to Salina on Saturday. The Liberty moved into first place in the North at 8-3 and have locked up a playoff spot.
Sioux City travels to Omaha on Saturday, June 22. It's the regular-season finale for both teams and since they have the same record, the winner of the Sioux City vs. Omaha game earns the final spot into the playoffs from the North Division.
"It's a big game. We hope a lot of the fans make the trip to Omaha," Strohbeen said.
The Bandits never trailed against Oklahoma and held a two-score advantage for a good portion of the game. But the Flying Aces got a couple of stops in the fourth quarter and started to come back. Two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including one with under a minute left, tied the game at 55 and the contest went to overtime.
The Bandits scored first in overtime and Oklahoma answered with a touchdown. The Flying Aces went for the win and Meints stopped the ball carrier short in the two-point conversion attempt.
"It was a great play by (Ben) Pister to string it out and great by Meints to finish it off. I told the guys that Oklahoma was going to go for two points if they scored," Strohbeen said. "Great call by their coach to try and get that signature win and I would've done the same thing. You don't play for ties. Credit to them and credit to our defense for making that last play."
The Bandits did have a chance to win the game in regulation and they thought they did. Greg Conry attempted the game-winning field goal and it looked like he made it. But the side judge said the ball hit the roof, meaning the kick was no good and it sent the game to overtime.
"Unfortunately the rule is if it hits the ceiling, it is no good," Strohbeen said. "Greg should've had the game-winner but it's a low ceiling and it grazed it. It would've been good regardless."
Conry hit a field goal for an early 3-0 lead and had another field goal before halftime for a 34-24 advantage.
Quarterback Dillon Turner rushed for three touchdowns in the victory and passed for three more, one of his most productive games since signing with the Bandits after the first couple of weeks into the season. Andre London caught two touchdowns and Londell Lee hauled in another. Todd Macon rushed for a touchdown.
"I thought offensively we played a pretty good game. Dillon played very poised. I was very impressed with his play," Strohbeen said. "We were able to run the ball effectively. he would've like to have a couple of passes back but otherwise, he played pretty well. Overall, I was impressed with our offense."