The Horsemen lets 17-0 lead slip to lose to the Rush
(Pasco, WA) — It was a rematch between the top two teams in the American West Football Conference, and it certainly felt like it. The Tri-City Rush hosted the Idaho Horsemen inside the HAPO Center Saturday in a game that carried the same competitive intensity fans have come to expect between the two sides.
Horsemen Charge to Early Lead
It’s not often that the Tri-City Rush find themselves in an early deficit, but such was the case when Idaho drew first blood with 5:37 left in the first quarter. Horsemen quarterback Issac Hurd moved the ball down the field–mostly with his legs–leading to a 2 yd rushing touchdown. The Rush moved the ball well on the following drive, but the offense stalled out deep inside Idaho territory. Ja’Vonte Johnson hit receiver Antionne Wafer in the back of the end zone on a 4th down try, but Wafer could not hang onto the ball as he crashed into the barricade, and the Rush turned possession over on downs. The Horsemen were able to capitalize–this time with QB Austin Schafer checking into the game and connecting with WR Ryan Stokes for a nearly 40-yd TD pass. Idaho led 14-0 after the first quarter.
TC was deep in Idaho territory once again early in the second, but a tie-up for a touchdown pass was ruled an interception in the end-zone, gifting Idaho the ball at their own 5-yd line. A couple of pre-snap penalties gave them some breathing room, and Hurd led the Horsemen offense deep enough for a field goal try. The kick was good and Idaho jumped up 17-0 with 3:08 left in the first half. Looking to turn the tide on the ensuing drive, Johnson found running back Keithon Flemming wide open down the field. Flemming caught the ball and escorted it across the goal line to give the Rush their first score of the night. Special teams missed the PAT and it was 17-6 with under two minutes to play in the half. Neither team was done scoring yet, though. Idaho tacked on another TD with a PAT at the 47-second mark, and Tri-City responded with a 25-yd touchdown pass from Johnson to Dashun Salgado Jr. with just 20 seconds left. It was 24-12 at the half.
Rush Rally in Second Half
For as sluggish and hard-knock as the game felt offensively at times in the first half, the second half was anything but. It started with two Tri-City scores in just a little over two minutes. The Antoinne Wafer returned the opening kick 26 yards setting up good field position for the offense. Johnson found Flemming on the first play of the drive. Flemming caught the ball around the 15-yard line and ran the extra 10 to earn his second touchdown of the contest. Then, Hurd threw an interception early into Idaho’s first drive of the half. The Rush took over at their own 20 and dialed up a nifty little bubble screen-type pass for receiver Moe Strong who took off down the right sideline all the way in for six. The point-after kick was good, the Rush surged ahead for the first time with 12:32 remaining in the third quarter.
The lead was short-lived, however. Idaho returned fire through the air courtesy of a 32-yard TD reception by Kyler Henson to put the Horsemen back on top, 30-25 with just over six minutes gone by in the quarter. Tri-City punched right back with a 15yd TD pass completed from Johnson to Wafer. It was 32-30 entering the fourth quarter. The early stages of the quarter were the most important. The Horsemen had the ball deep in Tri-City territory but failed to convert a fourth-down try at the TC 11-yd line. The Rush was able to march the other way and score with another Moe Strong reception down the right side. Special teams initially attempted a point-after kick. The kick was no good, but the kicker was hit late resulting in a second try. The team went for two and converted to take a 40-30 lead. Johnson connected with Salgado for another scoring drive with mere minutes left in regulation. The Rush again went for two and was able to convert. Idaho engineered one more drive down the field but turned the ball over on downs at the Rush 18.
Final Score: 48-30
Tri-City improved to 4-0 on the season. The squad sits comfortably atop the AWFC. Idaho fell to 2-2. The Rush have successfully swept the regular-season series with the Horsemen. Both teams have a break in their schedules this weekend.