Playoff Primer – Southwest Kansas Storm

The Southwest Kansas Storm of Dodge City, Kansas, head into the Arena League playoffs this weekend as the #5 seed. Let’s take a look at the path in this playoff primer for the Southwest Kansas Storm. 

How They Got Here 

This season has been full of Storms, you could say, for the team from Dodge City. They’ve been on both sides of the highs and lows throughout the season.

The Storm started the season off with a Week 1 thriller, falling to the Salina Liberty by a final score of 43-40. They bounced back with a win in Week 2 before losing another heartbreaker in Week 3 to the Wichita Regulators 44-42. 

In Week 5, the Storm were absolutely torn apart by the #2 seed in this year’s playoffs, the Albany Firebirds. Albany beat the Storm 66-15 at MVP Arena in Albany.

After that loss to Albany, the Storm went on a three-game winning streak. They avenged their Week 1 loss to Salina and their Week 3 loss to Wichita. 

Southwest Kansas’s regular season ended with two more heartbreaking losses. They fell to the Desert Hawks in Week 8 and lost on a last-second play to the Washington Wolfpack in Week 9. 

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The Keys to Their Playoff Run 

The best thing the Storm did was figure out their quarterback situation. At the start of the year, they were splitting time and series almost equally between Caden Walters and Matt Struck.

As the season progressed, the Storm turned the keys over to Struck and he’s run (literally) with it from there. Struck’s legs have been an integral part of the offense. 

Struck has a strong cast of teammates helping him on this team. Todd Athey has led the Storm’s wide receiver room, with Eugene Minter Jr. right on his heels.

Da’Quan Bailey-Brown’s lightning speed has been pivotal in the kick return game for the Storm. In the last game alone, Bailey-Brown had 130 kick return yards and a touchdown.

Vincent DiLeo II makes his presence felt in the run game and, more importantly, on the defensive side of the ball. Michael Lawson mans the defensive backfield with interceptions and pass breakups and also helps in the punt return game. 

The Path to ArenaBowl XXXIII 

The six remaining teams all dream of making the 33rd edition of the ArenaBowl, which will be held on Friday, July 19th. The ArenaBowl will be held at the iconic American Dream Entertainment/Retail Center in East Rutherford, NJ. 

The Storm may be the #5 seed in these playoffs, but you cannot count this team out. All but one of their five losses were by just four points or less. This team plays tough and can counter-punch and answer their opponent time and time again. 

To kick off round one of the playoffs, they’ll take the 2:45 bus ride northeast from Dodge City, Kansas, up to Salina, Kansas, on Saturday, July 6th, where they’ll face the #3 seed Salina Liberty at 4:00 p.m. ET at the Tony’s Pizza Events Center. The game can be seen on CBS Sports Network

These teams split their regular season games, winning their home games by just three points. You can expect this one to be another close shootout-style game. If the Storm can upset the Liberty in the first round, they’ll be just one game away from a berth in ArenaBowl XXXIII. 

Their next-round matchup with either Billings or a rematch with the Firebirds would be tough, no doubt, but this Southwest Kansas Storm team is nothing but grit and determination.

If they can run the ball and execute at the top of the potential they’ve shown so far in 2024, this team could no doubt be the champions of the Arena League.

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