Story by The Grand Island Independent
SPOKANE, WA — Danger head coach Mike Davis anticipated a rough go for his team if it could not slow the Spokane Empire early in a hostile environment in the biggest game of the season.
The long-time danger coach was spot on.
The Danger failed to slow Spokane early in the Intense Conference title game Sunday at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena with the Empire securing the 55-44 win. The Empire will play Saturday against the Sioux Falls Storm in the United Bowl.
The Empire outgained the Danger 160-6 in the first half in a dominant start that put them over the edge.
The Empire faithful was loud from the beginning as Spokane's first two possessions ended in touchdowns. Other than one third-down conversion, the Empire moved the ball with relative ease.
Meanwhile, the Danger's woes multiplied early. After settling for a field goal from Josh Gable on their first drive, a personal foul penalty, and a sideline warning pushed them back deep in their territory on their second drive.
Deep in his own end zone, quarterback Derrick Bernard was pressured and forced to get rid of the ball but was called for intentional grounding, forcing a safety, putting the Empire up 16-3.
A fake field goal backfired for the Empire when they had the chance to go up by three scores in what was a rare break for the Danger. Nebraska capitalized on their first play when Bernard took the ball in on a zone read.
However, the Empire punched in another easy score to resume its two-score advantage that kept the Danger at bay for the remainder of the contest. The Empire did get their three-possession lead when quarterback Charles Dowdell found Charles Samuel for a passing score to put them up 31-10 with 10 minutes left in the first half.
The Danger answered when Bernard was able to string together a few completions following a rocky start. He found Dello Davis for the 18-yard touchdown strike.
The Empire scored once again when Dowdell found Diondre Borel over the middle for their second hook up of the day on a fourth down and short play. The score was a nail in the Danger coffin, who needed a stop for a chance to get the game within one score before halftime.
Spokane put the ball in the endzone yet again the in the first half after Bernard mishandled a snap, setting up the Empire on the Danger 8-yard line. Dowdell registered another touchdown pass as the Empire went up 45-17 at the break.
After a quiet first three quarters, veteran wide receiver O.J. Simpson grabbed a 12-yard touchdown pass from Bernard to cut the lead. The Danger recovered an onside kick, but were unable to capitalize as a fourth-down conversion attempt fell short with five minutes in the contest.
A score could have brought the game within a score, instead, a late Empire field goal iced the game.
Dealing with injuries and league transfers throughout the season, the Danger finished the season 7-11 and just short of their fourth straight United Bowl appearance.
The Empire take on the Storm Saturday in Sioux Falls at 7:05 p.m. The Storm have won five straight league titles.