The final week of the season in the IFL left a lot of questions to be answered. The Danger locked up their playoff spot in the Intense Conference Championship game with Spokane losing to Salt Lake. However, Wichita Falls came to the Heartland Events Center needing a win to advance to the IFL playoffs and came up empty against Nebraska Saturday night, ending their season 59-44.
The first quarter saw the Danger and the Nighthawks get going quickly as both teams scored in the first six minutes of the quarter. With just over six minutes left, Nebraska made a big defensive stop on fourth down to force a turnover. About a minute later, Nebraska quarterback Drew Powell took off up field, running 15 yards for a touchdown. The first quarter ended with the Danger leading 14-7.
Wichita Falls didn't waste any time getting on the board in the second quarter, scoring a touchdown while only taking one second off the clock. On the ensuing drive, a holding call seemed to shut down the Danger offense but then Powell found receiver Carl Sims for a 16-yard first down reception. That play would set up a 39-yard field goal from Josh Gable, giving the Danger a slim lead 17-14. A big Wichita Falls kick return allowed them to score less than 20 seconds later, also giving the Nighthawks their first lead of the game 21-17. Nebraska responded with a score of their own to retake the lead but Wichita Falls just wouldn't go away, scoring to end the half and take the lead away 28-24.
"I thought we played really well in the first half. The first quarter especially we gave ourselves an advantage simply by playing good defense and getting off the field. We didn't have the lead at the half but that was just some missed opportunities on our part," said Head Coach Hurtis Chinn.
The third quarter was all Danger. The ball got rolling when Powell found Carl Sims yet again, this time for a 10-yard pass for a touchdown. The Nebraska defense made their presence known a few minutes later, forcing the Nighthawks to make a field goal attempt. Wichita Falls kicker Rockne Belmonte missed it, turning the ball back over to Nebraska. Three minutes later, Nebraska's Powell rushed for his third touchdown of the night giving the Danger a 10-point lead, 38-28. The Nighthawks offense seemed to derail, committing back-to-back penalties and setting up long second and third and goal plays. An incomplete pass from McCullum to former Danger player Troy Evans brought on the field goal team for Wichita Falls. The kick was good, cutting the Danger lead back to seven 38-31 to end the quarter.
Drew Powell kicked off the scoring in the final quarter. After leading the Danger offense down the field, Powell rushed for a six-yard touchdown, his fourth on the night. At this point, the Danger had a 14-point lead but Wichita Falls again scored to cut the lead back to seven with under 10 minutes left in the game. In what seemed to be a common theme of the night, Drew Powell scored another rushing touchdown, this time tying the franchise record for most rushing touchdowns in a game. That record is shared with former Danger quarterback Jameel Sewell and former running back Waymon James.
Wichita Falls made one last attempt to score as the game approached the one-minute warning. Two penalties, one of which was a personal foul on the Nighthawks set up a fourth down and 25. A long pass from Charles McCullum was broken up by Danger defensive back Demetruce McNeal resulting in a turnover on downs. The Danger would have the ball at the Nighthawk ten-yard line. The next play receiver Eric Thomas took a direct snap into the end zone extending the Danger lead to 21 points, 59-38. Wichita Falls would score once more but it wouldn't be enough to catch the Danger before the end of the game.
"We played lights out in the second half. Big shout out goes to Drew Powell. I think he is one of the best duel threat quarterbacks in the league right now. As far as the playoffs go, we can now focus on Arizona and winning another conference championship," Chinn said.
The Danger play next Saturday in the Intense Conference Championship in Phoenix, Arizona.