It’s never an easy task to open the season on the road against the defending champions who were returning their MVP quarterback, but that was the task the Wichita Force were forced to race on opening night of the Champions Indoor Football League season. Sadly, the very things that helped to make the Duke City Gladiators paid big dividends for the defending champions again, as quarterback Donovan Porteri threw for seven touchdowns, and the defense held the Force to just three points through the first three quarters in the 76-24 Gladiators victory.
Things turned badly for the Wichita Force early. After nearly turning over the opening kickoff on a fumble, they would give up the ball on their first play from scrimmage. One play later, last year’s MVP, Donovan Porteri, found Dello Davis for the 10 yard touchdown to make it 7-0.
Wichita would be forced to punt on their next drive, and the Duke City Gladiators would make them pay again. After the missed field goal attempt was retuned to the Force’s 16 yard line, it was Porteri to Davis once again, finding his receiver wide open in the end zone for a touchdown to make it 14-0.
The Force would respond, thanks to a return by Gary Jolevet that put the ball at the Duke City 22. Wichita would move to the 2, where the drive would stall. Jordan Drake then nailed the 25 yard field goal to cut the deficit to 11.
Duke City was virtually unstoppable early on thanks to the play of their MVP quarterback. On their next possession, Porteri moved his team to the Wichita 1 yard line where he would score on a quarterback keeper to make it 21-3. Through the Gladiators first three possessions, he completed 4 of his first 5 passes and had three touchdowns total.
The Force were able to make a stop when they forced a turnover on downs on the next possession for Duke City, but were not able to take advantage of the big defensive series. However, Duke City would not be denied on their next opportunity. With 27 seconds left in the half, Porteri dropped a perfect touch pass to Sederick Johnson in the end zone for the 15 yard score to make it 28-3.
It had been a very tough first half for the Wichita Force. The team generated just 32 yards of total offense on their 19 plays, as the running game had been completely shutdown, losing six yards on eight plays before the break. Quarterback Joe Hubener was 6-11 passing for 38 yards through the first 30 minutes.
Despite trailing by 25, the defense for the Force had played well. After giving up touchdowns on the first two plays by the Gladiators, the defense allowed 53 yards on 23 plays, with just four coming on the ground. Plus, despite having three touchdown passes, Porteri was held to just 9 of 19 passing.
Davis had produced two touchdown catches in the first half, but he would give his team a real spark in the return game coming out of the break. Davis took the kickoff return and went virtually untouched to the house to make it a 35-3 lead.
The Gladiators would make another big special team’s play, when Misael Rivera blocked a Jordan Drake field goal attempt, but it would be the Force that would recover the ball at the Duke City 12. However, on review, the referees overturned the call, giving the home team back the ball at their own 12. Two plays later, Porteri found a streaking Demarius Washin for the 36 yard touchdown and the route was on.
The Wichita Force would finally start to move the ball on their next possession. Starting from their own 9, Hubener made a series of nice pass completions to reach the Duke City 11, but on fourth and 9, his pass would fall incomplete, turning the ball over on downs. Three plays later, Porteri passed the ball to Davis near the right-side boards. He took the pass, then raced the distance for the 25 yard touchdown, his fourth score of the game. That made it 49-3.
The Wichita Force would finally reach the end zone with 13:32 left in the fourth quarter. With it third and 10 at the Wichita 21, Hubener finally got a little time, lobbing the ball toward Jolevet who had gotten past two defenders. He made a nice move to turn his body and reach back for the ball, making the catch before bounding into the end zone for the touchdown.
The Gladiators would respond right away. Duke City returned the ensuing kickoff to the Wichita 14. Two plays later, the Gladiators quarterback connected with Washin for the second time in the game to make it 56-10. That was the sixth touchdown pass for Porteri.
The Force showed that they could produce the quick strike as well on their next possession. On the first play from scrimmage, Hubener got a little time, then found Jack Tomlinson moving down the sideline to his left. Tomlinson reeled in the ball at the 20 of the Gladiators then raced the rest of the way untouched for the 45 yard touchdown to give Wichita 17.
A short kickoff went just 23 yards. Washin recovered the ball, returning it 17 yards to the Wichita six. Two plays later, Porteri threw his seventh touchdown pass of the game, tossing a swing pass to running back Romello Brown, who barreled into the end zone to make it 63-17.
The Force had shown that they could score quickly, but they would put together an impressive drive that took 6:21 off the clock to get back into the end zone. Starting from their own five, Wichita moved the length of the field in 10 plays, converting a third down and a fourth down to keep the drive alive. On second and 5 from the Gladiators 5, Donteye Rivera bull rushed forward and into the end zone to make it 63-24.
The Gladiators would close out the scoring with two more touchdowns. The first came on an 11 yard touchdown run by Javin Kilgo. The extra point was no good. On the next possession for Wichita, Jayson Serda intercepted a Hubener pass, returning it 10 yards for the score. That made it 76-24, which would be the final.
After a rough start, Joe Hubener finished 21-33 for 191 and 2 touchdowns. Jack Tomlinson had a big day at the receiver position, making 10 catches for 99 yards. Gary Jolevet had 5 catches for 61 yards. Both players had a touchdown.
Donovan Porteri had an outstanding second half, completing 6 of 8 passes with 4 touchdowns. The reining MVP would finish 15 of 27 for 166 yards and 7 TDs. Dell Davis had 4 TDs (3 receiving and 1 return) to go along with 5 catches for 64 yards. Demarius Watson had 4 receptions for 85 yards.
The Wichita Force (0-1) will have their season opener next Saturday when they welcome the Texas Revolution. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:05.
Featured Image by Ed Bailey
By Robert Pannier