Empire edge Salt Lake in final minute for 31-29 victory

It wasn't pretty, but a win is a win. The Spokane Empire edge Salt Lake 31-29 at home, Sunday.

SPOKANE, WA - The Empire (7-2, 6-1) edged the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles (1-8, 1-7) in Week 11 of the 2017 IFL regular season at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena by a score of 31-29.

In a very defensive first half, the Salt Lake defense began the night by shutting the Empire offense down. Verlon Reed attempting to march down the field, but couldn’t get all the way to the end zone, running into roadblocks such as Nick Haag and Robert Brown. Josh Wilson came in to attempt the first field goal of the night, but had no luck with a wide left kick.

The first points of the game wouldn’t come until the second quarter as Brendon Garcia hit his first field goal of his Empire career. Reed soon after put up the first touchdown of the night, hitting Juwan Dotson for a ten yard score. Dowdell would feel the pressure of the Screaming Eagle defense in his next drive, taking him ten plays to finally hit Bryan Pray for the short passing touchdown.

After a Wilson field goal for Salt Lake, Spokane saw their opportunity leave as quickly as it came. James Calhoun would pick off Dowdell to set up the Screaming Eagles for a larger halftime lead. Brown had other plans, batting down a hail mary down intended for Dotson. After the half however, Dowdell’s first pass got deflected by Calhoun, who caught his own tip for a circus like pick six.

The Empire would not quietly go into the night, with Mulku Kalokoh powering through for a short touchdown. Dowdell thread the needle to Pray for the two point conversion, tying the score up at 17 each.

Spokane’s defense would cause some disruptions in the passing game, but not enough to avoid the second touchdown connection from Reed to Dotson. On defense, Calhoun made sure to keep the pressure on Dowdell, once again picking him off to make it three interceptions on his night.

The Screaming Eagle defense looked tired, but had to stop Spokane at all costs now. They would succeed after a 7 play drive ended in a turnover on downs, but could not capitalize as Wilson missed his second of three field goal attempts. The Empire marched downfield in their next drive, fighting against hard hits, and dropped passes, but they would finally hit paydirt with Dowdell to Pray once more for a touchdown. Garcia’s point after would give Spokane back the lead with a little over two minutes left.

Salt Lake looked heads up on special teams, seeing the onside kick coming. With possession at the Empire 15, Spokane’s defense fought the hardest they have all game with Haag and Harold Love helping to force a 4th down field goal. Wilson couldn’t handle the pressure as once again his kick hooked wide left, now 1-4 on the night. The Empire had enough time to add a little extra insurance with Dowdell breaking off a tremendous 30 yard run for a touchdown.

Reed had 15 seconds left in the game to force overtime. Dotson caught a short pass in the back of the end zone, but the two point conversion was no good as Haag picked Reed off at the end zone. Spokane breathes a sigh of relief as they win by a score of 31-29.

Salt Lake’s final stats had Reed go 14-28 for 78 yards and three touchdowns, all to Dotson who finished with 51 receiving yards. Defensively, Calhoun made a strong case for Defensive Player of the Week his three interceptions and one touchdown. Jerome McElroy was Salt Lake’s leading tackler of the night with 7 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

For the Empire, Dowdell finished his night 19-39 for 153 yards and two passing touchdowns, both to Pray. His ground game accumulated 56 yards and a third touchdown. Pray would rack 63 yards receiving on his night. Defensively, Haag would have 5.5 tackles and a sack on the night. The leading tackler was John Hardy-Tuliau with 6.5 tackles, 1.5 of those for a loss.

The Empire will be traveling to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to take on the defending IFL Champion Storm. The game kicks off Saturday, May 6th at 5:05pm Pacific time. The game will be broadcast live on the IFL’s YouTube channel, and will also be available on the 700 ESPN and 105.3 FM radio stations in Spokane with Larry Weir on the call.

© 2017 KREM-TV


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