Sioux Falls, SD -S It would be safe to say that the Green Bay Blizzard (12-4) had struggled to contain the Sioux Falls Storm during their four previous meetings. The Blizzard had suffered four losses by an average of 29 points in those match-ups. So when the Blizzard held a 36-35 lead with less than 20 minutes to play in the United Conference Championship game on Saturday in Sioux Falls, the undefeated Storm were in an unfamiliar position. Three touchdown passes, an interception return for a touchdown, and 26 unanswered points later the Storm (16-0) were well on their way to consecutive championship game victories over Green Bay. League MVP Chris Dixon was nearly unstoppable, rushing for 48 yards and two TD's and connecting on five touchdown passes to three different receivers. The final score was 61-42.
For the Blizzard, record-breaking running back La'Ron Council ran for a hard-earned 83 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Including his four pass receptions, Council finished with 105 all-purpose yards in the game. John Halman, Marquel Willis, and Scott Burnoski combined for 143 receiving yards and one TD. Kicker Adrian Trevino put on a tremendous performance in the loss, converting 5 of his 7 field goal attempts to keep the Blizzard in the game throughout. Aaron Moore and Greg Jackson each made five tackles to lead a balance Blizzard defense.
A playoff game featuring two of the top offenses in the IFL got off to a predictably explosive start in the opening 15 minutes. After two incomplete passes to start the game Dixon connected with Clinton Solomon for a 36-yard touchdown on third down to grab an early lead. The Blizzard appeared ready to answer with seven of their own as they moved quickly inside the Storm five. However, three plays later they were forced to settle for a short field goal by Trevino to trim the lead to 7-3. At that point the offensive fireworks began as the teams alternated scoring touchdowns on the game's next three plays from scrimmage. Sioux Falls began the burst when Dixon found Solomon over the top again for a 26-yard touchdown reception. On the Blizzard's next offensive play Porterie hit popular target Scott Burnoski downfield for a 28-yard score of their own. Before anyone in attendance could take a breath Dixon and Sioux Falls struck again. This time he hit Carl Sims for a touchdown that covered almost the entire length of the field (45 yards) to extend their lead to 21-10. The Blizzard used a long drive, aided by penalties and the punishing running style of La'Ron Council, to cut the lead to just 4 points. The drive was capped by a Council TD run from two yards out.
The second quarter was dominated by the Blizzard in every way except the final tally on the scoreboard. Although Green Bay created the game's first turnover and dominated possession of the ball in the period, the resilient defense of the Storm caused the Blizzard to outscore Sioux Falls only 9-7. On the final play of the first quarter Sioux Falls fumbled away the kickoff which was then recovered by Blizzard defensive back Curtis Thomas. A few plays later, Adrian Trevino began what turned out to be a fantastic 15 minutes for himself by booting home a 40-yard field goal. After a defensive stand the Blizzard drove 26 yards in 8 plays to set up another Trevino attempt. Trevino was good again, this time from 34 yards, to give the Blizzard their first lead of the night at 23-21. The lead would prove to be short-lived as approximately two minutes later Storm receiver James Terry took a sweep and raced eight yards off the left edge to paydirt to regain a 28-23 lead for Sioux Falls. Trevino would not be outdone, however, adding a 44-yard field goal, his third of the quarter, with only four seconds left on the clock. That kick resulted in the Storm holding a slim 28-26 lead going to the break.
The Blizzard scored first in the second half on a two yard scoring plunge by Council to retake the lead 33-28 and quiet the Sioux Falls crowd momentarily. Green Bay gained most of their yardage via the ground game and was able to drain almost five minutes off of the clock. Dixon took over on the Storm's following drive. He single-handedly tallied 33 rushing yards on the drive and eventually scored a go-ahead touchdown by slipping through the defense on his way to a 14-yard run. Trevino continued to impress, drilling his fifth field goal to give the Blizzard the slimmest of leads 36-35.
Dixon answered by evading the Green Bay pass rush and spotting Terry standing all by himself against the boards in the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown hook up. After the Storm kick bounced out-of-bounds off of the hands of return man B.J. Hill the Blizzard were forced to start their next drive at their own five. On second down Porterie dropped back to pass and threw short toward the right flat. He did not see defensive lineman Xavier Jordan dropping into coverage and the ball was delivered right between his numbers. Jordan proceeded to run the pick back 10 yards for a touchdown that put the Blizzard behind by two possessions. The interception was the lone turnover in the game by the Blizzard.
The end of the previous quarter was a sign of things to come as Sioux Falls would continue to pull away throughout the final period. The Storm scored the first pair of touchdowns on a two yard run by Dixon and a 21-yard hook up from Dixon to Solomon respectively. The Blizzard was finally able to get on the board again with just under three minutes remaining when Porterie leapt over the goal line from under a yard away to cut the lead to 61-42. Green Bay elected not to attempt an onside kick and was unable to stop Sioux Falls' offense from picking up a few first downs which allowed Dixon to take a knee and run the clock out on the 2012 season for the Blizzard.
After taking next week off, the United Bowl will be played on Saturday, July 14th in Sioux Falls. The Tri-Cities Fever (14-2) will be on the road to take on the Storm in a rematch of last season's United Bowl won 37-10 by Sioux Falls.