BLOOMINGTON — The Bloomington Edge defense sat deep in its own territory twice in the fourth quarter of a tight game against a winless rival.
Both times it managed to escape. After Cody Acree’s interception of a batted pass thwarted the Kansas Koyotes’ bid for a go-ahead score, the Edge offense capitalized.
“That sparked us tremendously. Defensively they were playing their behinds off in the second half,” said running back Andre Raymond. “They made a play, so offensively we had to come out and reward them by having a great drive.”
Raymond’s fifth touchdown of the game capped a five-play series that provided the final lead change as Bloomington pulled out a 43-42 Champions Professional Football League win Saturday before a crowd of 1,452 at U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
“Every single win is a big deal and none of them can be taken for granted,” said Acree, who seized his second pick of the game after Cedrick Young batted a Larry Wall pass with the Koyotes facing first-and-goal from the Edge 4, triggering the decisive drive. “It’s just great for us to get back on the right track.”
Still the Edge (3-5) needed to dodge a final bullet after Wall connected with a wide-open Chris Davis on a 16-yard TD pass with 1:18 to play.
A holding call negated Kansas’ first conversion attempt and Derek Doefler’s second try sailed well wide to the right. The Edge ran out the clock after Raymond jumped high to seize the ensuing onside kick.
“I was saying, ‘the ball is in the air, it’s mine,’” said Raymond. “I actually pulled it away from (teammate) De’Andre Eagle. But we have to be aggressive on that.”
Leading 36-33, Kansas (0-7) opened the fourth quarter on first down from the Bloomington 1. Jason Townson dropped Wall for a 3-yard loss, the Edge took possession after three straight incompletions and David Tomis tied the game with a 25-yard field goal.
“Our defense, as poorly as we give up the long play … the red zone defense is pretty good,” said Edge coach John Johnson. “Hat-on-hat, let’s see who’s tougher.”
Raymond increased his league-leading TD total to 22, with runs of 5, 1, 1 and 3 yards following a 9-yard pass from Charles Dowdell.
“I could have zero touchdowns and as long as we’re winning, it’s great,” he said.
A Koyotes offense that entered with the CPIFL’s lowest scoring average totaled 21 points in the second quarter and led 30-27 at halftime, forcing Johnson to give his defense an ultimatum.
“We really challenged them at halftime to be physical and stop making mistakes,” he said. “I thought we were the better team but we gave them some life and they took it.
“I liked our physicality in the second half. We fought, and that’s the main thing.”
After replacing starter Carlos Cavanagh in the first quarter, Wall ran for two TDs and threw for three scores, all going to Davis.
“A guy that can run the ball as well is a double-edged sword that makes it hard on the defense,” said Acree.
Eric Fisher intercepted Cavangh on the game's first series, but Antonio Clay returned a Dowdell interception 40 yards to give the Koyotes the early lead.
Kansas went ahead 15-14 on Davis' 8-yard TD grab on the first play of the second quarter. LaVaughn Macon put the Edge right back in front with a nifty 52-yard kickoff return.
Raymond's 1-yard slam after the 90-second warning in the second quarter had the Edge ahead 27-21. But Kaito Miller sacked Dowdell for a safety with :32 seconds on the clock and Wall found Davis in the back of the end zone with :13 showing.
The teams again traded interceptions to start the second half before Raymond powered in from the 1 to make it 33-30 for Bloomington. Clay's 20-yard runback on his second interception set up an 11-yard TD run by Wall.
Bloomington has four games remaining, beginning with a home contest against Salina on Saturday.
“I told the team we all need to come together and win five in a row,” said Raymond. “Each game is a playoff game; right now, we’re 1-0.”