Southwest Kansas Storm Stop Salina Liberty 34-31

No Lead is Safe! The Southwest Kansas Storm takes down the Salina Liberty 34-31 in a thriller.

The Salina Liberty made the just under three-hour bus trip to Dodge City, Kansas, to take on the Southwest Kansas Storm Sunday afternoon at the United Wireless Arena in Dodge City. 

This was a thriller throughout the game, with the teams exchanging blows to the very last second. The Liberty won the coin toss and elected to defer. They kicked the ball off, tackled the return man in the end zone, and scored an “Uno” to take the 1-0 lead before the game really even started! 

Both teams would see two quarterbacks taking the field. Caden Waters got the start for the Storm. The Dodge City native rotated play-calling duties with Matt Struck. The two-quarterback system is very routine for this Storm team.

Storm Start Hot

Salina started two-time CIF MVP Charles McCullum at quarterback. In the first half, McCullum rushed for two touchdowns but also threw a pick-six. He was replaced in the second half by Jamario Benson, who showed his own rushing prowess, leading the team back to take the lead with just 1:00 remaining in the game.

The Storm’s first half was plagued with penalties. Ten times, the Storm were moved back, including two touchdowns taken off the board. However, they did control the first quarter, possessing the ball for almost 13 of the 15 first-quarter minutes. The Storm made up for their mistakes with a crazy last 1:05 seconds of the first half, during which they scored a touchdown, got a pick 6, successfully converted a two-point conversion, and got a safety to carry a 23-15 lead into the half.

Second Half Slog

Southwest Kansas slowed the game down even more in the second half, with Salina scoring the only touchdown of the third quarter on an Otis Odom rush. The teams entered the final quarter of action locked in a close battle that would go down to the wire. 

Salina missed a field goal attempt with just over 10 minutes remaining in the action that would have given them the lead. Southwest Kansas then scored a touchdown on a Matt Struck 20-yard dime to take the nine-point lead. But as we know, no lead is safe in the Arena Football League! 

Liberty Rally Late Falls Short

Jamario Benson would lead his team down the field, rushing into the end zone as the clock hit the 1:00 warning to cut the lead to just three points. Benson and the Liberty lined up at the 10-yard line to try a four-point conversion. Benson threw the ball underneath to Odom for a successful conversion, giving the Liberty the one-point lead with 1:00 left.

The ensuing kickoff hit the scoreboard, which gave the Storm the ball at the 25-yard line. They quickly drove down the field and then intentionally ran the clock down to just 18 seconds. The 25-yard field goal attempt was good! Giving the Storm the two-point lead with just 16 seconds left on the clock.

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On the kickoff, the Storm got their own “Uno” by tackling the defender in the end zone and increasing their lead to three points, a critical point to not allow the Liberty to be able to take the win on a field goal attempt.

Overall, Salina looked disjointed on offense. Despite their first-half penalties, the Storm were opportunistic and held on to a tough-fought 34-31 win. Salina falls to 3-2 and hosts the Washington Wolfpack on Saturday, June 8. Meanwhile, the Storm improved to 3-3 and host the Wichita Regulators on Sunday, June 9.

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