Story by T.J Rushing/ Des Moines Register
After 18 seasons, the Iowa Barnstormers can finally hang a championship banner high in the rafters of Wells Fargo Arena.
The 'Stormers were firing on all cylinders most of Saturday night during the Indoor Football League title game, or the United Bowl, and took care of the Sioux Falls Storm with a thrilling 42-38 win in Des Moines.
Their championship banner will join existing division and conference champions banners, in addition to the Kurt Warner Hall of Fame one.
"All this stuff that's going on, it's going to pass by. Some people might not know who the Iowa Barnstormers 2018 team was, but when you come in this arena and you look up at that rafter, it goes down in history," Iowa quarterback Drew Powell said." So for me to go down in history with these guys — you can't even make up dreams like this. I'm just thankful."
Powell, the recently named IFL MVP, led the 'Stormers down the field in less than 3 minutes for what proved the be an exhilarating game-winning drive. It was capped by a bruising and dramatic Jamal Tyler touchdown run.
The Barnstormers were down 38-35 heading into the final drive. Tyler's go-ahead touchdown came with just 13 seconds left in the game.
"Jamal has been incredible this whole season. That last touchdown was determination and that's the story of his whole career with us," Iowa coach Dixie Wooten said.
Powell was, as expected, very good in the win. The dual-threat quarterback was 12-for-16 for 178 yards and four touchdowns. He ran for another 48 yards and a touchdown. The crowd was chanting "MVP" after Powell found the endzone to give the Barnstormers the lead late in the third quarter.
"He deserved the MVP chant. Everything we do is around him, the way we run the football, the way we throw the football, the way he takes care of the football," Wooten said. "We wouldn't be here right now if it wasn't for him. "
It was wide receiver Ryan Balentine who tended to be on the receiving end of the big plays. He caught two first-half touchdowns: a 42-yard bomb and a 23-yard catch and run.
The Southern Mississippi product finished the game with five catches for 91 yards and three touchdowns. He was named the game's MVP.
"I love throwing to him, he's been great all season," Powell said. "I just can't help but be happy for him, because he's been in this league a long time, and he finally got his."
Unexpectedly, it was Lineman B.J. Butler that got the scoring started for Iowa. To cap the opening drive of the game, Butler broke free from the line, and was on the receiving end of a perfect strike from Powell in the endzone. It was Butler's second catch of the season, both touchdowns.
"They weren't expecting that so we threw a little wrinkle in there, B.J. did a great job, that was an athletic catch, and he's an athlete, so there wasn't nothing to it for him," Powell said.
The cohesive effort capped a 13-3 season for the Barnstormers, and more importantly, they can finally get that championship banner hung.
"To put a banner up there for this city and this team is unreal," Wooten said. "It's the most important thing in the world to me right now."