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Freedom Hold Off Bandits in Season Opener

by Randy Snow

Originally posted on OurSportsCentral.com, Sunday, March 26, 2006


FORT WAYNE, INDIANA - In an unusually low scoring game in United Indoor Football, the Fort Wayne Freedom defeated the Sioux City Bandits 28-23 last night in the season opener for both teams.

After very successful 2005 seasons, both Sioux City and Fort Wayne were looking to rekindle their success on the field. Last season, the Freedom posted a 14-2 regular season record, winning the Midwest Division, while Sioux City was the runner-up in the inaugural United Bowl championship game against the Sioux Falls Storm.

The Freedom jumped out to a 7-0 lead on their opening possession when quarterback Bill Skelton connected with WR Dan Musielewicz on a 14-yard touchdown pass. The Bandits countered with a 26-yard Justin Green field goal on their first possession to make the score 7-3. On the ensuing kickoff, Freedom return man Adrian Reese was tackled in the end zone for a Bandits' rouge. By rule, Sioux City was awarded one point, making the score 7-4. The Bandits added another field goal in the second quarter and the score was tied 7-7 at halftime.

Freedom RB Rocky Harvey scored on a 2-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter and on the team's next possession, Harvey connected on a 22-yard touchdown pass to WR Adrian Reese, giving Fort Wayne a 21-13 lead at the end of the third quarter.

A scary moment occurred with 9:56 to go in the fourth quarter. Fort Wayne LB Bam Carter was chasing down Bandits quarterback John Nielsen, who was scrambling along the sidelines. Carter wound up flying over the boards and into the stands. He landed hard, hitting his back on the metal handrails in the aisle. He was on the ground for a couple of minutes and was attended to by team trainers. He eventually got up and walked to the team bench under his own power. Incredibly, Carter only missed one play before returning to the game.

The Bandits kicked a field goal with 1:23 left in the game to take a 23-21 lead, but on the ensuing possession, the Freedom countered with a touchdown pass to Adrian Reese with 21 second remaining, giving the Freedom the lead once again, 28-21.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Bandits returned the ball to mid-field, giving them excellent field position for their final possession. First year Freedom head coach Dan Pifer said the play did not go as planned. "It was supposed to be a squib and (Freedom kicker Cam Smith) kicked a line drive. We wanted him to kick it hard on the ground, let it kind of roll back there and hope it takes a funny hop where they have to juggle it, screw up their return and try to pin them deep. He just miss hit it and kicked a line drive. That isn't exactly how we drew it up."

The Bandits completed a 14-yard pass down to the nine-yard line and stopped the clock with 8 seconds remaining. On the last play of the game, Sioux City completed another short pass, but the receiver was tackled inbounds and the clock ran out, preserving the win for Fort Wayne.

"We're definitely not where we need to be," said coach Pifer after the game. "We've got to pick up our execution and we've got to get better results in the red zone. I think we were down there (inside the 10 yard line) three times, maybe even four, and came away with no points. Whether it three or seven (points), we've got to get something. The game shouldn't have been this close. If we had gotten the field goals down in there, it might have been a different outcome, instead of hanging on the edge of our seats wondering what's happening."

A total of eight field goal attempts were missed during the game, two by Sioux City and six by Fort Wayne.

Next week, the Freedom (1-0) travel to Illinois to take on the expansion Bloomington Extreme (1-0) while Sioux City (0-1) will be home against the Omaha Beef (0-1).


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