Liberty Hold off the Storm 41-34

The Southwest Kansas Storm took on the Salina Liberty in the first round of the Arena Football League Playoffs. The playoffs are single-elimination format winner advances, and the loser heads home.

Salina entered with a 6-2 record, while Southwest Kansas finished the year 4-5. In the regular season, these teams matched up twice, splitting the series 1-1.

First Quarter

Southwest Kansas began the game struggling to move the ball on the first drive with a defensive stop by Salina. With a poor snap, the ball trickled into the endzone. McCollum jumped on the ball but was forced to take a safety, giving the Storm a 2-0 lead.

Matt Struck found Athley deep down the sideline to flip the field and get the Storm within striking distance. Struck then found a large gap and danced his way for a touchdown, 9-0 Strom.

On the next series, McCollum Jr. found Washington for a huge touchdown to respond, 9-7 Storm. Quickly moving back down the field, the Storm stalled out on the goalline and kicked the ball to push their lead to 12-7.

Second Quarter

With the Liberty’s defense looking tough to crack, McCollum fired a deep pass, finding Washington on the receiving end for the second touchdown of the game, 13-12 Salina.

Off the kickoff, Salina sent it through the uprights, which pushed Liberty’s lead to 15-12. Backed up deep in their own territory, the Struck created a big first down. On the Storm’s field goal attempt, the Liberty made a great block and collected the football.

On the first play for Salina, McCollum dished it out to Sullivan, who plowed over a defender and ran it down the field, giving the Liberty breathing room, 22-12. On the next series, Struck took a sack-fumble, and the ball was scooped up and taken back for a touchdown, giving the Liberty a 29-12 lead.

Off the kickoff, Salina collected two more for the deuce, 31-12 Salina. With a desperate attempt, Struck connected for a quick hook and ladder to Athey, who carried it into the endzone, 31-18 Liberty.

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Third Quarter

Salina started the quarter with the ball, with a methodical drive down the field, taking five minutes off the clock. However, attempting to hand the ball off on the goalline caused a fumble, and the Storm jumped on the ball.

The Storm moved the ball down the field and hit a field goal, making it 31-21 Salina. On the next series, McCullom threw a pick deep in their own territory, giving the Storm life to stay in the game. Struck quickly found Athey for a corner of the endzone touchdown, 31-27 Salina.

Fourth Quarter

Salina stalled out again but were able to connect on a field goal attempt to push their lead back up to 34-27. The Storm attempted a deep 1 on 1 play for a touchdown, but Freddie McGee ripped the ball out of the receiver’s arms to get his first interception of the game. The Liberty could not convert on downs and turned the ball over.

On the first play for the Storm, Matt Struck plowed his way through for a touchdown, 34-34. Salina moved into field goal range but missed the kick with less than a minute to play.

The Storm missed the snap on the shotgun exchange, which rolled into the endzone. Salina recovered and took the lead 41-34. Struck threw a pass near the endzone. It was caught by Athey and stopped on the 1-yard line to make for a very fun finish. 

Salina advances and will head to Albany next Saturday for a 2:30 PM EST start.


Southwest Kansas Storm

Matt Struck 197 Passing Yards, 2 Touchdowns

Todd Athey 122 Receiving Yards, 2 Touchdowns

Eugene Minter 47 Receiving Yards 

Chris Platt Jr. 25 Receiving Yards

Salina Liberty

Chase McCollum Jr. 164 Passing Yards, 3 Touchdowns

Jacorey Sullivan 75 Receiving Yards, 1 Touchdown

DeMarious Washington 70 Receiving Yards, 2 Touchdowns

Caleb Smith 19 Receiving Yards

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