Corey's Corner 3/15

Posted 3/15/17 (Wed)

               One of the most common stories in sports is the tale where the athlete “comes home.” At every level of every type of athletics, this is a thing that is usually celebrated even if the player is on the other team. Such was the case for Isiah Dunning of the Bismarck Bucks. A guy who went to high school and college in Michigan was returning to his home state to take on the West Michigan Ironmen. And some of his close friends were happy to see him. Well, until the game started anyway.

               But Dunning didn’t make his presence felt right away. The first half of this one was all about the offensive side of the ball. That, and special teams On the opening salvo, the Bucks got great starting field position and trotted out there for their first drive. A concerted effort to get the ball to one of their top offensive threats paid big dividends when Lance Lewis took Bismarck down to the Ironmen’s two yard line. Then, it was a fresh face in the backfield who took it in as Tyler Floyd scored and gave the Bucks their first lead in franchise history. But the Ironemn answered right back with a 29 yard strike to Justin Mott that notched us up at a TD a piece.

               The second set of drives was nearly a carbon copy of the first. Bismarck again got incredible opening field position, starting at the Ironmen 20. Tyler Floyd moved it down to the doorstep, but this time it was Lance Lewis finishing off the drive as well as starting it. He cashed in on a 1 yard pass, and it was 13-6. And again, it was a big play for West Michigan that provided the retort. Dontea Ingraham tied up the ball game (with the good XP, which in this game was nowhere near automatic) from 27 yards out. The big play defined the West Michigan offense in the first half, and it allowed them to keep pace with the Bucks crew that was moving the ball with authority. Despite that, the Ironmen got in front with those splash plays on a 12 yard rush from Korey Ringer. Bismarck would notch another short TD on a pitch to WR Elby Pope from one yard out, having been gifted a second chance on 4th down following an Ironmen penalty. The Bucks were more than happy to take advantage, and it wouldn’t be the last time in the half the former Marauder would beat the Ironmen D.

               With about six minutes left until the break, the Bismarck d-line began to slow down the crazy offensive pace of the first half. Brenden Daley and Tyrone Ezell got to showcase the game wrecking skill they bring to the game, and back-to-back sacks thwarted the Ironmen attack. Amazingly enough, it was a third D-lineman who made the biggest impact on this one (spoilers in the open), but more on that later. The Bucks took hold of the defensive momentum and QB Jon Bane spun one down to Elby Pope that would go as a 27 yard touchdown with 27 seconds left. Unfortunately, that was enough time for West Michigan to get one last punch in, as they put it home with 4 seconds on the scoreboard at LC Walker Arena. Bismarck very nearly scored on the ensuing kickoff, but it would be a 26-25 halftime lead for West Michigan at the halftime break.

               In the locker room, Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Richard Davis had what he called a “spirited discussion” with his defensive guys, emphasizing the importance of minimizing the deep plays that were the lifeline for the Ironmen. And the team took his words to heart. The Bucks defense was revitalized in the second half, and the flurry of points from the open was gone in verse 2. The Bucks d-line is one of the strengths of this team, and boy did they show it. The TEzell and Daley were good, and the front combined to shutdown the opening drive of half. A QB sneak was denied to WM, and the Bucks got the ball back. Their offense was not slowed by the halftime lull, and a 13 yard TD to Lance Lewis gave Bismarck the lead back. And the D would make sure that lead would not be given back. Enter Isiah Dunning. He had made his presence felt on a couple tackles coming in to this spot, but here he stamped his brand on the hometown team. He got in clean on the 3rd play of the drive and got a hold of WM QB Alex Carder. He then did so again. On the very next play. That would make it 4th and a Michigan mile, leading to an interception. Dunning denied the Ironmen a scoring opportunity and absolutely wreaked havoc throughout the 2nd half.

               Unfortunately for Bismarck, they too found themselves in a 4th and very long situation. 4th and 22 to be exact. A 15 yard penalty put them in that sport, and took a touchdown off the board. That had the potential to be a 14 point swing and put West Michigan right back out front. Those are the kind of mistakes that can plague a young and new team. Instead, the Bucks got a veteran, all-star kind of play. Bane laid a good ball into Elby Pope. He was still short of the line-to-gain (the goal line) on the catch, so he lowered his shoulder and simply would not stop moving till he scored. The 24 yard TD made it a two score game and put Bismarck up by two scores. It was the single greatest offensive play in Bucks history.

               One last answer would come from West Michigan though, as they got a fortunate pass interference call to set up a Ringer TD. A one score game again, and West Michigan would get the football back with under a minute to go. They got a miracle on 4th down, as Alex Carder got immediately pressured and had to throw it off balance, off his back leg, off everything. And it somehow found Donovan Campbell, who then juggled it before coming down the conversion. The Ironmen got down to the two with four left. A false start pushed them back to the seven. Only time for one last play. Alex Carder sent it into the endzone, looking for the tie. And it was caught. By a guy in a Bucks uniform.  Michael Thompson secured the football, and the Bucks first ever win. Now the Bucks would be “coming home” with the W, and again it was the hometown college guy getting it done. The former Dickinson State Blue Hawk would send the Bucks into their home opener at 1-1. But their opponent couldn’t be any tougher, or any more familiar. It’s a rematch with the Sioux City Bandits coming your way from the Civic Center this Friday.