The San Angelo Bandits indoor arena football team started the 2014 campaign off with a bang Saturday night, riding multiple turnovers created by their defense and an early offensive blitz for a resounding 47-24 win in the opening game of the season for the arena football team.
Leading the way for the defense was rookie defensive back Demitrius Quarles, who grabbed two interceptions, one coming midway through the second half in a scoring onslaught put on by the Bandits and another that effectively ended the game late in the fourth quarter.
“It was an exciting game. Being a rookie, it’s great to finally get out here and play a real game in an arena and it’s just a real fast paced, exciting game,” Quarles said.
Adding to the six total turnovers committed by the Wildcatters were Austin Benson and Demarcus James, each intercepting one pass each. Add that to a fumble recovered by Greg Yeldell and a turnover on downs, the Wildcatters never had a chance despite having the ball for 38 minutes to the Bandits 21 minutes.
“Our defense is phenomenal. Our goal is five stops a game. They exceeded that. We gave up 24 points in arena football, that’s a great job by the defense-- pretty proud of that defense,” head coach Joe Brannen said.
The game started off quick for the Bandits, holding the West Texas (Odessa) Wildcatters to a quick four-and-out on their first drive before scoring on the very first play attempted by the offense. The result was a 33-yard bomb from quarterback Bryon Ingram to wide receiver Le’Juan Edwards.
The scoring didn’t stop there for the Bandits, as they went on to score three more times on offense and once on Benson’s interception before halftime to lead 35-6 at the break.
“It was just, you know, running through everything, sprinting, and letting them get a different look,” wide receiver Lamans Casimier said, who had a team high of five receptions for 33 yards and two touchdowns. “You know, the other guys played their part, getting where they got to get to so, you know, it popped open for us tonight.”
The second half saw the Bandits slow down a bit on the offensive side of the ball, scoring just two more times. A one-yard run by Alex Joyner capped off an epic offensive drive that lasted six minutes plus and a quick 11 yard pass for one of Casimier’s two touchdowns finished off the third quarter and the scoring for the Bandits.
The Bandits were also fortunate on Saturday night, able to recover all but two of their six fumbles on the night, three of which came from the quarterback-center snap.
“Biggest thing [to improve] is just efficiency,” coach Bennan said. “We kinda lacked a little bit of focus on the offensive side of the ball in the second half. We weren’t very clean, some fumbled snaps, things like that. Defensively, they just got to keep doing what they’re doing. You know, they played hard all game long and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Quarterback Byron Ingram, who was 13-22 for 162 yards and three touchdowns added, “First, we just [need to] improve on sticking to our assignments so everybody is not over-thinking nothing [and] doing what they’re supposed to do. But after we do that, all we have to do is execute: Complete balls, make stops, make drives, and finish up strong.”
After enduring a tough season last year, the win helps the Bandits get off on the right foot and establish the right kind of momentum early on--momentum that is already helping the Bandits complete some of their goals on the season.
“Our motto is to go 1-0 each week and to get that first win obviously we accomplished our goal,” coach Brennan said. “It’s good to get out in front right away and we've got to improve on a lot of things but we’re pretty happy getting that win right out of the gate."
“It’s real important for setting the tone from last year,” Casimier added. “We finished 1-11 last year so for us to get the first win in the first game of the season, it feels really good.”