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Smothering Defense, Tomlinson Power Force to 61-34 Victory

The Wichita Force finally returned home after a three-game road trip that saw the team drop all three contests. They were in need of something to get them back into the playoff chase in the North Division and, thanks to three touchdowns by Jack Tomlinson and a smothering defense, the Force downed the Oklahoma Flying Aces, 61-34. The 61 points was a season high for Wichita.

It was a disastrous start for the Wichita Force. On their opening play Mikhail Lindsay would fumble the ball. He would recover, but not before losing 12 yards. The Force would be forced to kick after just three plays, and Jordan Drake’s field goal attempt was just short. Antwan Hadley fielded the missed attempt, broke a tackle and made two others miss before going 60 yards for the touchdown.

The Force would respond right away.  After starting at their own 22, Wichita would move to the Flying Aces four, thanks in big part to a 13-yard completion from Joe Hubener to Montero Dubose. On second and goal at the two, Hubener handed the ball to Jack Tomlinson on the wide receiver reverse. Tomlinson easily scored to tie the game at seven.

Oklahoma moved down the field on their first possession of the game to retake the lead. Quarterback Malik Watson scored on a quarterback keeper to make it 14-7, but the lead did not last long. The Flying Aces went for the onside kick, but it was recovered by Torrey Gill at the 11. On the next play, Hubener was flushed out of the pocket. As he headed to his right, he found Tomlinson in the endzone for the touchdown to tie the score at 14.

Watson restored his team’s seven-point lead with an 11 yard touchdown pass to Dashawn Gordon to make it 21-14, but a 36 yard return by Dubose put the ball at the Flying Aces 14. The Force moved to the four, where they were faced with a third and goal. Hubener rolled to his right, finding Dubose racing across the endzone for the touchdown to tie the score at 21.

The Wichita defense would shutdown the Flying Aces over their next two possessions, forcing a turnover on downs before a missed field goal attempt. Wichita looked like they had taken the lead when Hubener fired a bullet down the middle to Dubose who made a circus catch in the endzone, however, Oklahoma challenged, and the call was overturned.

After a missed field goal attempt gave the Flying Aces the ball at midfield, the defense would stiffen again. Allowing no yards, forcing a Brett Mathis 39-yard field goal attempt that he made to make it 24-21 Flying Aces. Jordan Drake would follow with a 38-yard field goal to tie the score at 24.

Oklahoma would start their next possession at their own 24. Watson looked for the quick strike, but Evan Ray read the play perfectly, picking off the pass in the end zone, returning it to the 23-yard line before being knocked out of bounds. The Force would take their first lead of the game thanks to an absolutely amazing catch by Gill. After Tomlinson made a 13-yard reception, Hubener’s pass to Gill was high, but he made an amazing catch, hauling in the ball before going over the boards for the touchdown. That made it 31-24.

Mathis would kick of 48-yard field goal to start the second half to cut the Flying Aces deficit to four, and it looked like it would be one when the Oklahoma had a 22 yard attempt, but Kelechi Chukwuka blocked the kick. That proved to be huge.

After taking over possession, Mikhail Lindsay took the ball on a sweep, evading two tackles, then streaked down the sidelines twice avoiding attempts to knock him out of bounds before scoring. That made it 37-27.

The Force would extend their lead early in the fourth quarter. Starting from their own 16, Wichita would move quickly down the field, thanks to a huge third down conversion. On third and 7, Hubener found Dubrose across the middle. The wide receiver made the catch on the crossing route, then headed down the sidelines before being knocked out at the two. On the next play, the Force employed a call they had used earlier in the game, handing it off to Tomlinson on the reverse. He raced near the sidelines, then leapt over a defender and into the end zone to extend the Wichita lead to 17.

Drake would add a 25-yard field goal to make it 47-27. The Oklahoma offense had scored just six points since the first quarter, as the Force defense was absolutely dominating. The Flying Aces would finally score when Wichita turned the ball over on their own 13. Watson connected with Donovan Logan to cut the Force lead to 13, but they would get no closer.

The onside kick attempt was recovered by Lindsay at the 10. Two pays later, Emmanuel Yeager threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Dubose, his second touchdown reception of the game.

The Wichita Force would add one more score. On the Flying Aces next possession, Kionce Roberts picked off the Watson pass at the Wichita 20. He then moved across the field to his right. When his running lane vanished, Roberts changed directions, heading to his left as he headed to the corner of the end zone to score. That made it 61-34, which was the final.

Mikhail Lindsay had his best game of the season, rushing for 58 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Jack Tomlinson had 41 yards receiving and a TD and added two more scores on the ground. Montero Dubose had 6 catches for 67 yards and 2 touchdowns. Joe Hubener threw for 134 yards and 3 TDs.

The Wichita Force defense was outstanding, allowing 158 total yards of offense. They held Oklahoma to just four of 12 on third down conversion attempts and the Flying Aces converted none of their four fourth down attempts. Kionce Roberts led the team with  tackles, and added 3 breakups and an interception return for a touchdown. Marcus Carter and Evan Ray each had 6 tackles. Besides the pass interception, Ray also had 7 pass breakups.

The Wichita Force (2-4) head back to the road, taking on the Sioux City Bandits on Friday night. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:05. The Force return home on Friday, May 10, when they take on the Duke City Gladiators. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:25. You can purchase your tickets by visiting https://www.wichitaforce.com/schedule.html.


By Robert Pannier
Minor League Sports Report