The Dodge City Law talked in practice that they had to play a complete 60 minutes in their games.
For most of the franchise's home season opener Saturday night against the Oklahoma Defenders, the Law players were intense and had United Wireless Arena rocking in a party atmosphere. But the Law players lost focus in the fourth quarter and the Defenders scored 30 points in the stanza to complete a comeback and beat Dodge City 56-49.
Law head coach Sean Ponder was very disappointed about his team's performance, feeling the squad made too many mistakes at different times throughout the game that kept Dodge City from sealing the victory in the franchise's first home game.
"The ball just didn't go our way tonight," Ponder said. "There are some things we need to fix and we need to get to the drawing board. We have to look at the video and correct those mistakes. We didn't make the plays when we had to."
Dodge City outgained the Defenders in total yardage, but stalled in the fourth quarter except for two plays: a 48-yard pass from Charles McCullum to Kendrick Ings and a 28-yard rushing touchdown by D.D. Holyfield. The Law didn't score in the 7:51 of the game after Holyfield's score.
The Defenders scored five touchdowns in the fourth quarter; as well as a point after touchdown after blocking an attempt after Ings' touchdown and a safety when McCullum was sacked in the endzone in Dodge City's final offensive drive.
McCullum was 13-of-20 for 143 yards and six touchdowns in the game, but he also threw two interceptions in the endzone before the Law's first touchdown as he tried to force the ball to the receivers. Holyfield ran 10 times for 88 yards to lead the ground game.
Zack Russelman was 19-of-29 for 146 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Defenders. Four of those scores through the air went to Hubert Anyiam. Anyiam caught six passes for 79 yards in the game.
The Law also hurt themselves with eight penalties for 98 yards in the contest, allowing the Defenders to keep several drives alive.
The only score in the first quarter came on a four-yard pass from McCullum to Brandon Venson for the Law; and Dodge City increased the lead to 14-0 early in the second quarter after McCullum connected with Maurice Young on a touchdown and the two-point conversion.
Oklahoma got on the scoreboard when Rasmussen and Anyiam hooked up for the first time in the game on a 17-yard touchdown, but Walner Leandre blocked the extra point attempt and returned it for two points to make the score 16-6.
Young and McCullum hooked up again for a second touchdown in the quarter; but Oklahoma was able to convert a fourth-down into six points when Rasmussen found Patrick Jones with one second left on the clock to cut the deficit to 23-12 at halftime.
The teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter with McCullum throwing touchdown passes to Vinson (9 yards) and Ings (30), while Rasmussen threw his third touchdown pass to Anyiam and ran for a six-yard score.
Kingjack Washington scored on a 2-yard run with 12:49 in the fourth quarter started and Delaney Dobard returned a blocked extra point attempt by Dodge City after Ings' touchdown to make the score 43-35. Anyiam caught a 15-yard pass from Rasmussen to make the score 43-41.
Holyfield's touchdown gave the Law an eight-point lead, but Isaiah Anderson answered back immediately with a 50-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and the Rasmussen-Anyiam connection put the Defenders in the lead for the first time, hooking up from nine yards with 1:35 left in regulation.
The Defenders looked to try to run the clock down by recovering an onside kick, but they weren't able to and gave the Law a final chance with 19 seconds left in regulation, but Kiounta Cathey sacked McCullum in the endzone for a safety.
Dodge City tried to recover the ball on its own inside kick, but the Defenders recovered to seal the victory.
The Law won't play again until March 24 when they travel to Wichita for a battle against the defending CPIFL champion Wild at Hartman Arena.
OKLAHOMA 56, DODGE CITY 49
Oklahoma 0 12 14 30 -- 56
Dodge City 6 17 14 12 -- 49
DC -- Venson 4 pass from McCullum (kick failed)
DC -- Young 4 pass from McCullum (Young pass from McCullum)
OK -- Anyiam 17 pass from Rasmussen (kick blocked)
DC -- Leandre PAT return
DC -- Young 3 pass from McCullum (Burkhard kick)
OK -- Jones 4 pass from Rasmussen (pass failed)
OK -- Anyiam 16 pass from Rasmussen (Frevert kick)
DC -- Venson 9 pass from McCullum (Burkhard kick)
OK -- Rasmussen 6 run (Frevert kick)
DC -- Ings 30 pass from McCullum (Burkhard kick)
OK -- Washington 2 run (Frevert kick)
DC -- Ings 48 pass from McCullum (kick blocked)
OK -- Dobard PAT return
OK -- Anyiam 15 pass from Rasmussen (run failed)
DC -- Holyfield 28 run (kick failed)
OK -- Anderson 50 kickoff return (pass failed)
OK -- Anyiam 9 pass from Rasmussen (pass failed)
OK -- Safety, Cathey sacks McCullum in end zone
RUSHING -- Oklahom, Washington 13-45, Anderson 1-40, Rasmussen 6-12; Dodge City, Holyfield 10-88, McCullum 7-18, Carson 7-18.
PASSING -- Oklahoma, Rasmussen 19-29-0-146; McCullum 13-20-2-148.
RECEIVING -- Oklahoma, Anyiam 6-79, Jones 6-21, Anderson 5-40, Washington 2-6; Dodge City, Venson 6-62, Ings 3-85, Young 3-10, Holyfield 1-(minus 9).