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Goal Line Stand Keeps Kalamazoo Undefeated at Home

by Randy Snow
June 8, 2008 - Continental Indoor Football League (CIFL) - Kalamazoo Xplosion

Dorothy was right in the movie, The Wizard of Oz, when she said, "There's no place like home." In sports, the home team is supposed to win and the Kalamazoo Xplosion is certainly doing whatever it takes keep their fans happy. But it took a goal line stand by the Xplosion defense late in the game to give Kalamazoo a 39-32 win over the visiting Fort Wayne Freedom.

Over the past two seasons, Kalamazoo has never lost a game at Wings Stadium during the regular season, or in the playoffs. But that streak appeared to be in jeopardy Saturday night (June 7) when the visiting Fort Wayne Freedom came to town.

The Xplosion jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the second quarter when Kalamazoo defensive back David Gater picked up a Freedom fumble and raced 35 yards for a touchdown. Fort Wayne answered with a 17-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Eric Hooks to running back Rocky Harvey. With under a minute to play in the first half, Harvey caught his second touchdown pass of the game, this time for eight yards. The Freedom trailed 19-13 at halftime.

In the third quarter, Xplosion wide receiver Kelly Baraka scored on a two-yard touchdown run and lineman Kyle Lacksheide caught a nine-yard touchdown pass, his third TD in the last three games. That gave Kalamazoo a 32-19 lead at the end of the third quarter.

On the ensuing Freedom possession, Gater recorded his 14th interception of the season. After a missed field goal attempt by Kalamazoo, Fort Wayne got back in the game with a couple of quick scores. Wide receiver Terrell White caught a 29-yard touchdown pass and then, on the kickoff to Kalamazoo, the Freedom recovered a lose ball in the end zone for another touchdown. The score was now tied 32-32 with 8: 57 remaining in the game.

On the kickoff back to Kalamazoo, Gater returned the ball all the way for a touchdown, but the play was nullified by a penalty. Kalamazoo eventually took the lead 39-32 on a 16-yard touchdown grab by Brian Dolph with 3:52 remaining in the game, but Fort Wayne was not about to give up.

With under one minute left to play, the Freedom had a first and goal on the one yard line, but the Kalamazoo defense kept Fort Wayne out the end zone on four consecutive plays. The Xplosion took possession of the ball at their own two-yard line with 16 seconds left and ran out the clock to keep their 13-game home winning streak alive.

After the game, Kalamazoo head coach Mike Sparks talked about the play of David Gater. "He's a tremendous player," said Sparks. "He brings more to the table than people understand because he is a leader. He is an assistant coach on the field and you can't replace that. What he does physically (on the field) stands alone as spectacular. But when you add the intangibles, he's one of the best players in this league. He makes his presence known week in and week out."

For Kalamazoo, quarterback Randy Hutchison completed 16 of 29 passes for 165 yards, four touchdowns and had one interception. Wide receiver Brian Dolph caught eight passes for 84 yards and a touchdown while Dan Musielewicz caught two passes for 22 yards and a touchdown.

For Fort Wayne, quarterback Erik Hooks completed 15 of 30 passes for 173 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Running back Rocky Harvey caught two passes for 25 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran the ball 16 times for 73 yards.

Kalamazoo finishes the regular season with an 11-1 record while the Freedom dropped to 5-7. The loss eliminated Fort Wayne from the playoffs.

NEXT GAME

Kalamazoo will host the Muskegon Thunder in the first round of the Continental Indoor Football League playoffs Saturday night, June 14, at Wings Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30. The Thunder gave Kalamazoo their only loss of the season back on April 4 with a 44-37 win in overtime at LC Walker Arena in Muskegon.

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Randy Snow is a freelance football writer from Kalamazoo, Michigan and is the organizer of Operation Gridiron Airlift, which is collecting footballs that will be sent to our troops serving overseas. Since 2003, he has covered the Arena Football League, arenafootball2, United Indoor Football, the Continental Indoor Football League, the All American Football League and the Canadian Football League. Randy has been a member of the Arena Football League Writer's Association since 2005 and can be reached at randysnow22@yahoo.com

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