SIOUX CITY -- Going up against the top offense in the league, Sioux City Bandits coach Erv Strohbeen knew defensive stops were going to be at a premium against Amarillo on Saturday.
The best solution - win a shootout, something the Bandits haven't done all season yet.
But the Bandits put together its best effort of the season offensively against Amarillo. The Bandits racked up 357 total yards and that led to 79 points as Sioux City won its third-straight game with a 79-71 victory over Amarillo on Saturday.
"We knew we had to score a lot of points to beat this team. It's no secret that they have a great offense," Strohbeen said. "We came out and did what we needed to do. The guys played great on both sides of the ball and the defense came up with the plays when they needed to and we got the victory."
The third-straight victory puts the Bandits right back in the playoff race in Champions Indoor Football. Sioux City improves to 4-3 on the season, tying the Bandits with Salina, who Sioux City faces next week, for the second spot in the Northern Division. Omaha leads the division with a 6-1 record.
"It was a big victory for us and now onto Salina and that's a big division game. We were playing behind the eight-ball all season and now we are back in the playoff hunt," Strohbeen said.
The Bandits took an early lead on a Braden Meints 2-yard touchdown run and Amarillo came back with a touchdown on Ricardo Bennett's four-yard catch from Nate Davis. Sioux City came back with a 24-yard touchdown run by Frederick Bruno and less than a minute later, Xavier Amey caught a 36-yard touchdown for a 14-13 advantage.
That was the last lead of the game for the Venom as Bruno scored on a four-yard run to put the Bandits up 20-14 with 1:11 left in the first quarter. Londell Lee caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Dillon Turner for a two-score lead with 10:33 left in the half.
Amarillo came back with a score with 5:41 remaining in the first half but the Bandits had an answer for basically every Venom score for the rest of the game. That's the opposite of what happened earlier in the season when the Bandits lost a road game to the Venom.
"That was huge. In Amarillo, we didn't answer every punch they threw in the second half and against a good team, you have to answer," Strohbeen said. "We were able to answer every one of their possessions this time. We felt we let one slip away from us earlier in the season to them."
Bruno added his third rushing touchdown of the first half on a 12-yard run for a 34-21 lead and Lee caught a 14-yard pass for a 41-28 lead. The Venom kept it close with a touchdown with 15 seconds remaining in the first and scored a team rouge point to cut the Bandits lead to 41-35.
The Bandits scored right away in the second half on a three-yard run by Todd Macon. Greg Conry hit a 43-yard field goal to keep the Bandits up 51-42 but a Venom touchdown cut the lead to 51-49 going into the fourth quarter.
Andre London caught an eight-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter and touchdown runs of 15, five and four yards by Turner kept the Bandits up in the fourth quarter. Turner's four-yard score came with 20 seconds left in the game and the Bandits stopped the Venom on the final drive to seal it.
The Bandits were playing without Daryl Virgies, who could miss the season with a knee injury. Turner was one of several players to step up. He was 9-of-14 passing for 130 yards and three touchdowns, and he led the team with 68 yards on nine carries and three scores. Meints rushed for 65 yards on 10 carries and Bruno, normally a receiver, rushed for 61 yards and three scores on 10 carries. Macon added 30 yards on seven carries.
"All of those guys had big nights and it was good to see us do what we wanted," Strohbeen said. "Our offensive line was getting to the second level and the receivers did a great job blocking. We were able to get more chunks of yardage on the ground and that's a credit to all of the guys."
Lee finished with four receptions for 96 yards and two scores. Devon Bridges had 2.5 sacks and Ben Pister had 1.5 sacks and forced two fumbles. Oscar Opera, Kenneth Maxwell and Randall Blash each recovered a fumble and Xavier Spann had an interception.
A week after turning the ball over six times, the Bandits didn't turn the ball over on Saturday and forced four turnovers.
"It's the difference in the game. Those extra opportunities in a shootout matter," Strohbeen said. "If we would've turned the ball over six times, it would've been an ugly game."