Barnstormers destroys Empire
SPOKANE, WA - The Spokane Empire (8-7, 7-4) were defeated by the Iowa Barnstormers (13-2, 8-2) in Week 17 of the 2017 IFL regular season at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, IA by a score of 58-28.
It only took three snaps for the Barnstormers to score, as quarterback Travis Partridge connected with Brady Roland to quickly go up 7-0. Spokane signal caller Aaron Wilmer took over and though having success running the ball himself, he could not connect with a pass this drive. Spokane saw familiarity from last week in a failed fourth down conversion, but would get another try with John Hardy-Tuliau intercepting Partridge on a third down conversion. The Empire were crippled with penalties, which brought out kicker Brendon Garcia on 4th and 20. His 51 yard kick had the distance, but was hooked wide. Iowa couldn't take advantage, going three and out before the horn.
Second quarter action started with another miss by Garcia. Iowa would make Spokane pay for their missed scoring opportunities with another huge connection from Partridge to Rowland for an endzone to endzone touchdown. Spokane started their next drive in Iowa territory, but the Barnstormer defense held their own only allowing 12 yards in the six play drive. Again, Spokane failed to convert on fourth down, allowing Iowa to take over in their own red zone.
Spokane's defense played hard to keep Iowa from going up by 20 with Harold Love and Nick Haag keeping the running game at bay. Partridge looked for another endzone pass, but was denied yet again by Hardy-Tuliau, recording his second pick of the night. The Empire would finally get one past the goal line, enabling weapons in Andrew Pierce and Trevor Kennedy to march downfield, eventually hitting paydirt with a pass to former Barnstormer Bryan Pray. Iowa would strike right back, as Partridge ran right through the Empire defense on the next possession with a 22 yard rush setting up a six yard score.
Wilmer looked to have a few plays to score before halftime, but his deep pass was intercepted by Jamie Bender. Iowa now had time to widen the gap even further, and did so with big passing plays from Partridge. The Barnstormers went 48 yards in 23 seconds, scoring with a Ryan Balentine reception. Spokane only had enough time for a field goal attempt, but again would be hooked wide by Garcia.
The Empire came back out of the break with Marcus McDade under center, heading up a nice drive for Spokane. The hand off to Pierce would score, but another miss by Garcia would halt momentum. Partridge just kept running towards Spokane's end zone, and fooled the defense switching up to a pass to Rowland for their biggest lead of the game so far. McDade was focused on threading the needle to a score, but errant passes and a near pick by Dee Maggitt Jr. paved the way for Garcia's fourth field goal attempt. Finally, Garcia would boot one through to inch closer to Iowa.
Penalties set Iowa back in their own red zone, but Lucas Hefty helped the Barnstormers out of their 3rd and 23 situation with a 27 yard reception from Partridge. The fourth quarter started with more flags on Iowa, setting them back in a 2nd and 30 situation. What would have been Hardy-Tuliau's third interception of the game was called back due to a personal foul call on Haag. Now bailed out of trouble, Partridge again rushed in for the touchdown and an even bigger lead.
McDade took over in Iowa territory, fighting against the tough front of Iowa to stay alive. In a 4th and 1 situation, McDade would break the conversion curse and score with a dive over the goal line. The two point conversion could not connect, being intercepted by Bryce Enyard. Worse for wear, Spokane failed to recover their onside kick, setting up the Barnstormers at the Empire 11. Keshaud Spence would be credited for the rushing score. With not much time left, a miracle needed to happen for Spokane. McDade didn't use the same weapon twice in this drive, with Pierce making his second end zone trip of the night. The Empire, forced to go for two, again could not complete the pass.
Partridge couldn't stop scoring if he tried, this time to Balentine again after a 44 yard kickoff return by Maggitt Jr. The Empire only had two minutes to climb out of a 28 point deficit, and the Barnstormer defense would not make anything easy, as they pressured McDade. Spokane unexpectedly shot themselves in the foot with a holding call in the end zone, resulting in a safety in Iowa's favor. The last minute of the clock was run out as Iowa earned win number 11 in a row at Spokane's expense.
For the Barnstormers, Partridge racked up five passing touchdowns, marking the fourth time in five games he has accomplished the feat. He would finish 9-19 for 186 yards and two interceptions. Partridge was also the leading rusher, accounting for 88 yards and two more touchdowns. Roland was the Barnstormer's leading receiver at 104 yards and three scores.
Spokane was equal parts passing and rushing, with 81 and 83 total yards respectively for a total of 164 on the night. Pierce is the only Empire member with multiple touchdowns, accounting for two scores with his 35 yards. Wilmer is Spokane's top rusher this game with 46 yards on the ground.
Defensively, the Empire were led by Hardy-Tuliau's two interceptions and four tackles. Andrew Jackson was the leading total tackler with eight. For Iowa, Bryce Enyard claimed an impressive eleven solo tackles. Bender kept Spokane's passing game at bay with one interception and three pass breakups. No sacks were had by either team.
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