LAS VEGAS – The Minor League Football Ventures Sunset Bowl was played Saturday, August 13, at Western High School in Las Vegas, pitting the #7 ranked Dixie Rebels of the Rocky Mountain Football League against the #5 ranked River City Gators of the Northern California Football League. The Gators pulled off an exciting 28-22 victory.
With about nine minutes to go in the first quarter, the Rebels decided to go for it on a fourth and goal from the two-yard line. Diarra Fields ran it in with a quarterback sneak, giving the Rebels a 7-0 start.
But the Gators didn’t wait very long to make it interesting, returning the kickoff well into Rebel territory before being tackled at the 25-yard line. From there, the Rebel defense held the Gators to two yards and forced a turnover on downs.
The Gators are better than any other team the Rebels have faced this year and the Rebel offense struggled for the remainder of the first half. Not only did they fail to score again, but also they couldn’t get anywhere with their running game. To make matters worse, the Gators were able to throw Fields off as he struggled hitting his target, which led to two first half interceptions by Fields.
Early in the second quarter, the Gators scored a touchdown, but were unsuccessful on the extra point when the snap was fumbled and two Rebel players got through before he could regain control.
The Gators were able to throw off the Rebels defense by using a two quarterback system with one quarterback, DeAndre Montgomery, throwing nice passes from the pocket and the other, Tim Lang, scrambling for positive yardage almost every time the Rebels were able to put pressure on him.
By the end of the first half, the Gators were up 14-7 and the Rebels were visibly frustrated.
Whatever Rebels Coach Bruce Hardy did or said in the locker room at halftime worked very well. They came out a completely different team. The running game was flowing immediately and the passing was much more in sync.
The Rebels tied up the game when Fields completed a 15-yard pass to Andy Stokes in the end zone.
Early in the fourth quarter, Gators quarterback Tim Lang connected with Kyle Providence for a 45-yard touchdown. After converting the two-point conversion, the Gators were up 22-14.
The Rebels did not hesitate to respond as Misi Tupe finished a strong drive with a 12-yard touchdown run. Attempting the two-point conversion, Fields faked two different hand-offs then ran the ball into the end zone to tie up the game at 22.
It appeared like the Rebels were going to have a chance to take the lead after a gang of Rebel linemen blew through the line of scrimmage and finished the play with a beautiful sack, causing a loss of nine yards. However, on the very next play the Rebel defense was called for pass interference giving the Gators an automatic first down in the first of a string of penalties, which made it easy for he Gators to score a touchdown. The Rebel defense was successful at stopping the two-point conversion to contain the score at 28-22, giving them a chance to take the lead with a touchdown, but the penalties against the Rebels continued. Which kept their offense from going anywhere. The crowd, which consisted of mostly Rebel fans, disagreed strongly with many of the calls that were made late in the game. After a turnover on downs, the Gators ran out the clock to win the game.
After the game, Hardy shared a few thoughts with St. George News. He didn’t try to put forth any excuses. He explained that the team gave up more “big, Hail Mary-type plays” defensively than in any other game. While the Rebel fans were focusing on the calls the officials made at the end of the game, Hardy wanted to talk about cutting out mistakes so that the flags aren’t thrown
“You can try and blame the refs all you want, but if we would have made less mistakes we could have won in spite of the refs,” Hardy said.
His overall feeling about the game had to do with how good the team really is.
“This California league is one of the best in the country,” he said.
He made sure to point out his team put themselves in a position to beat an incredibly good team, showing just how good the Rebels are.
“We have some great players and I’m proud to be able to coach them,” he said.
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