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Empire Falls Short in Double Overtime Thriller

March 6, 2017 - Indoor Football League (IFL) - Spokane Empire News Release

SPOKANE, Washington (March 6, 2017)* - The Empire (1-1) went on the road in Week 3 of the 2017 IFL regular season and fell to the Wichita Falls Nighthawks (3-0) by a final score of 56-57 in a double overtime thriller.

The Friday night matchup in Wichita Falls left no questions as to the caliber of the two teams whom many expect to be favorites for playoff positions within their respective conferences.

In Week 2 of the 2016 season, Spokane was able to secure a 66-65 victory after a failed field goal attempt by the Nighthawks with no time left on the clock. In Week 3 of the 2017 season, and in a similar fashion to the thrilling matchup last season, Wichita Falls secured their one-point victory by a final score of 56-57 when the Empire was unable to find the end zone on a two-point conversion attempt in double overtime.

Wichita Falls was the first to strike as quarterback Charles McCullum found receiver Jordan Jolly for his first of three touchdown receptions on the night via a 22-yard pass. The Nighthawks were able to recover the ensuing kickoff after the squib kick bounced off an Empire front line blocker, but were unable to convert on a 26-yard field goal attempt. After trading interceptions, Spokane found the end zone on the final play of the quarter as quarterback Charles Dowdell connected with receiver Bryan Pray on a 34-yard reception.

In the second quarter, the two teams would go on to combine for 30 total points. Only six of the total points would come on offense, however, as the teams combined for three total field goals and Spokane defensive back Tyree Robinson returned an interception for a touchdown. Down seven with timing running down, Empire kicker Craig Peterson converted on a 33-yard field goal to reduce the Nighthawks lead to 20-24.

Spokane took their first lead of the game at the start of the third quarter after Charles Dowdell threaded a pass to receiver Carl Sims, who made a terrific catch in traffic, and took it in for the 13-yard touchdown.

Throughout the remainder of the game, there would be four additional lead changes as the teams traded scores heading into the final minutes of the contest. Trailing by a touchdown with just over a minute to play, Empire running back Trevor Kennedy made an incredible one-handed catch down the sideline for a 27-yard score to bring the game to even at 43-43. Wichita Falls had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation but failed to convert on a chip-shot field goal from the Spokane 12-yard line. The Empire attempted a long field goal at the end of regulation, but the kick made contact with the center scoreboard and was no good.

In the first overtime period, the teams traded one-play scoring drives as Charles Dowdell and receiver Dejuan Miller connected on a 20-yard catch and run for a score before Charles McCullum and Jordan Jolly found the end zone on the Nighthawks' first series.

Spokane went on to answer Wichita Falls in the second overtime period with a touchdown drive, and after an unsportsmanlike penalty had given the Empire the ball at the Nighthawks 1.5-yard line for the two-point try, Spokane found the end zone on a sweep by running back Trevor Kennedy. The play would be negated, however, via a holding call. After a defensive penalty against Wichita Falls was called on the second try from the 11-yard line, Spokane had a final shot for the win but failed to convert as Wichita Falls would win by a final score of 56-57.

Wichita Falls quarterback Charles McCullum completed 29-of-51 pass attempts for 272 yards, six touchdowns, and two interceptions. Receiver Jordan Jolly hauled in a game-high 11 receptions for 132 yards and three touchdowns. Kicker Tanner Graeber converted on 3-of-5 field goal attempts and 6-of-7 of his point-after-attempts. Defensive backs Michael Green and Kenny Walton each recorded an interception.

Spokane quarterback Charles Dowdell finished the contest completing 16-of-27 his passes for 254 yards, six touchdowns, and two interceptions. Dejuan Miller led the Empire receiving effort with five receptions for 78-yards and two touchdowns. Three other Spokane receivers also hauled in touchdowns (Kennedy-2, Sims-1, Pray-1). Kicker Craig Peterson converted on 3-of-5 field goals and 5-of-6 point-after-attempts. Defensive back Tyree Robinson led the Empire with nine total tackles, one tackle for loss, one pass breakup, one interception (returned for a touchdown). Linebacker Pasquale Vacchio also recorded an interception on the night. The Spokane pass rush recorded three sacks on the night (Haag-1.5, Love-1, Griggs-0.5).

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