The Dodge City Law and the Wichita Wild battled tooth and nail in the Champions Professional Indoor Football League playoff tussle Saturday night at Hartman Arena.
And when it looked like the Law had provided the knockout punch, the Wild kicked the visitors in the gut with a 51-yard field goal to give Wichita the 33-31 victory.
The Law had just grabbed the lead with 49 seconds remaining in regulation on a 39-yard strike from Joshua Floyd to Maurice Young. The Dodge City defense did everything they could in moving the Wild offense back six yards to the Wichita 14.
Wild kicker Ernesto Lacayo's kick ended up clearing the cross bar by a couple of feet to the delight of the home team's fans and the misery of the Law players who had fought back against the defending league and regular season champions.
"That was the craziest game that I had ever been a part of," said Law defensive lineman Jarret Bilbrey. "It seemed like everything was going right for us. We stopped them four times in a row (with three minutes left) and moved them back with a penalty and a sack to back them up deep with three seconds left.
"It seemed like we were going to win it; but they made that kick. That kick just seemed blessed and I don't know how they made it. You have to give it up for the kicker."
All the Law players could do what reflect on what could have been in a contest that saw the lead change hands five times in the final quarter, including three times in the final 1:05 of regulation.
"There is no silver lining," said Dodge City running back Dominique Carson. "We can't be pleased with a loss and don't know how we can swallow that. We gave all we could. They made the field goal and we lost. That's it."
Carson put the Law offense on his back in the fourth quarter. He ran for two touchdowns and also caught a 38-yard pass from Floyd to set up his second score of the period. The CPIFL offensive rookie of the year finished with 67 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
Floyd completed seven of his 17 passes and finished with 119 yards through the air and 56 yards on the ground. Kicker Jared Wood converted on both of his field goal attempts, including one from 53 yards away in the first quarter.
The Dodge City defense allowed only 175 total yards — including 49 on the ground — while recording two sacks and six broken up passes. The squad also stopped the Wild on three plays with less than a yard to go at midfield late in the fourth quarter.
Walner Leandre led the team with seven tackles for the game, as well as recording his sixth block of a field goal attempt in the second quarter. Defensive lineman Andy Endemann, a roster addition late in the season, had one individual sack and teamed on another sack with Michael Graise.
Wichita quarterback Rocky Hinds — the league's most valuable player in the regular season — was 12-of-26 for 135 yards and three touchdowns for the Wild.
Dodge City head coach Sean Ponder was distraught with how hard his team had fought and left everything on the field in their attempt for the upset and qualify for next week's league championship game.
"They kept fighting back," Ponder said. "The game came with big plays and the kid made a big play at the end with the kick. He made a great kick with a lot of pressure.
"They fought throughout the whole game. This is an emotional time for our team and our fans. It's a hard loss to swallow, but they played as hard as they could for Dodge City. They left everything on the field."
The Law finish the season 8-5 and will start the work for the 2015 season soon with evaluations on who they would like to bring back for the new campaign. The team averaged over 3,000 fans during their home games at United Wireless Arena during their inaugural season.
"It was a successful season on and off the field," said Law co-owner/general manager Ricky Bertz. "Ultimately, we had a goal of winning the league championship in our first year. Unfortunately, we didn't reach that goal but that doesn't stop us from trying to reach it again next year.
"The work for our 2015 season started the moment Wichita made that field goal. While it's a painful to move forward, we are happy with all we accomplished in our first year."
Wichita will host Sioux City in the CPIFL title game next Saturday at Hartman Arena. The Bandits beat Salina 66-37 in the other playoff contest.
WILD 33, LAW 31
Dodge City 3 10 0 18 — 31
Wichita 7 0 14 12 — 33
DC — FG Wood 53
W — Kassanavoid 8 pass from Hinds (Lacayo kick)
DC — Floyd 1 run (Wood kick)
DC — FG Wood 23
W — Kelly 37 pass from Hinds (Lacayo kick)
W — Kelly 9 pass from Hinds (Lacayo kick)
DC — Carson 12 run (pass failed)
W — FG Lacayo 25
DC — Carson 2 run (pass failed)
W — Hubbard 1 run (pass failed)
DC — Young 39 pass from Floyd (pass failed)
W — FG Lacayo 51