Finally something went right for the Nebraska Danger in the first round of the Indoor Football League playoffs.
After a frustrating season that saw the Danger lose one close game after another, the team came up on the right side of a 45-40 score on the road against the Green Bay Blizzard Friday night.
It was the fourth meeting of the year between the two teams. Green Bay won the first two, but the Danger won the last two.
The Danger won Friday by coming up with a big play on defense when it needed it the most. Green Bay appeared to have a chance to put the game away in the final minute of play, but Nebraska’s Seyvon Lowry recovered a fumble by Green Bay quarterback Lenorris Footman on the Green Bay 15.
The Danger turned that into a 2-yard TD run by Davonte Sapp-Lynch and held on from there for the win.
“We caught a couple of breaks in the game,” Danger defensive lineman Chris Martin said. “There was a time to be resilient, I guess is the word we use. There was a time our offense kind of stalled out when we had a chance to go ahead.
“That required the defense to come out and get a couple of stops. A couple of things went our way but we ended up playing some pretty good defense to make things go our way.”
The big thing was the fumble recovery by Lowry. The game might have been over without that.
“What I’m talking about is that fumble man,” Martin said. “I don’t know what it was, but that fumble was a breath of fresh air for us. I’d just forced one. They got it back, and it was like, that was the opportunity. It was like we needed a break. All year we’d had crazy things happen to us. Finally something went our way.”
The win moved the Danger into an IFL semifinal game against unbeaten Arizona Saturday night on the road. But for a couple of days, the Danger players had a chance to reflect on the win over Green Bay.
The Blizzard put up 237 yards on the Danger defense, but that one fumble proved to be huge.
“We’ve been through so many tough losses all season,” Danger coach Pig Brown said. “It’s been a roller-coaster ride. We just continue to keep playing, keep working hard day in and day out. We as a team figured if we could keep playing hard things would fall in our favor. Things fell in our favor Friday night and we were able to come out with a victory in Green Bay.”
Martin pointed toward linebacker Luke Stice, a former University of Houston player, as an example of how the team is coming together on defense. Stice’s first game with the Danger was a 57-56 loss to Sioux Falls on May 18.
Stice had 10 tackles against Green Bay last week.
“We had Stice come in the Sioux Falls game, only about three or four games ago,” Martin said. “He acclimated himself extremely well. You wouldn’t even know he had just got in. He’s one of the guys.
“Just little things like that going on, it’s finally all gelling into one.”
Martin kept going back to that one series that ended in the Green Bay fumble.
“It was just like, man, if you can just play one series to define what this season has been like, it would be that series,” he said. “Making a stop, get down to third and long, force a fumble, and they get it back. And now somehow some way, the luck falls our way. That literally is a microcosm of our season for the defense.”
Danger quarterback Tommy Armstrong has seen it too. The Danger was just a play or two away from winning in those close games. In the current three-game winning streak, the team made the plays at the end.
“Definitely late in the game, our defense gave us key stops,” Armstrong said. “Our defense did a great job of playing all four quarters. When the offense is down, the defense picks us up. When the defense is down, the offense picks them up.
“So we’re helping each other, but at the same time we have to understand if the offense and defense are going at the same time, we can be a dangerous team.”
The Danger has just hung in throughout the season. It’s taken a while to put it together, but Brown likes the resiliency the team has shown.
“I think our guys have been fairly resilient these last few weeks,” Brown said. “We always tell them just one play at a time, and I think that’s exactly what they did in the closing moments of the game. They took it one play at a time, and our guy (Lowry) just happened to be in the right place to make a good play for us.”