KC Command late woes continue in 56-28 loss to Arizona
It was not a good night for the Kansas City Command. Thursday night they fell to the visiting Arizona Rattlers by 56-28, which pushed their winless streak to 0-3. A gathering of 2833 fans had ample elbow room in the Sprint Center. The concession lines were short, if you get the drift.
Once again the Command lit up the score board first with quarterback Nate Davis' one yard plunge into the end zone at the 11:54 mark.
The visiting Arizona Rattlers quickly regrouped and had little trouble putting their first two scores on the board. Quarterback Nick Davila hit designated tight end John Booker for a 6-yard score with 3:18 left. After Kansas City missed a field goal attempt the Rattlers needed only one play to get fullback Odie Armstrong close enough for a rumbling, stumbling and bumbling running play into the end zone from 16 yards out. The Rattlers ended the first period ahead by 14-07.
But giving up that opening touchdown was least of the Rattlers early worries, as they lost Jack linebacker Kevin McCullough on the play. A wicked looking dislocated elbow could not be treated on the field and McCullough was carted off the field for further treatment and an expected overnight hospital stay. Besides his play at the Jack position McCullough was also lost as the long snapper. Head Coach Kevin Guy had to be just thrilled with that. His team would have some true adventures on their remaining extra point attempts.
On the first snap of quarter two Command fullback Trey Bryant bulldozed his way into the end zone from two yards out to tie the score at 14-14. Kicker Gary Cismesia then expertly made sure the ensuing kick would "clank" off of the goal post upright, where it was snagged by Command Rashad Barksdale for their first net recovery of the game. The Command were in business at the Arizona 13-yard line. Nate Davis only needed one snap for his second rushing touchdown of the night and Kansas City took its second lead of the game at 21-14. The clock read 13:44 in the second quarter and the home team was leading the mighty Rattlers by a touchdown!
Apparently visiting quarterback Nick Davila was not impressed with this situation and proceeded to lead his team to the next 29 points before Kansas City could find the end zone again. The aforementioned long snapper situation provided an interesting sequence after Arizona's last score of the second period. The extra point snap was muffed, recovered by kicker Chris Gould, who tossed a lateral to holder Jason Murrietta, who put up an abbreviated "Hail Mary" into the end zone which didn't have a chance. The first half ended with the Rattlers leading 30-21.
Command head coach Danton Barto was quoted at half time as being very unhappy that his team trailed, instead of leading by at least a point. He felt they had two good scoring opportunities go unrewarded and he realized a team like Arizona could take advantage of this poor play.
The third period has not been kind to the Command all season. This game was no different as the woes continued. When a team's first touchdown pass of the game comes with only :43 seconds left in the third quarter - it is a bad night. It got worse in the fourth quarter when the Command could not score on either of their possessions. Reserve quarterback Steven Gachette saw some late action but to little avail. The damage was done. Three rushing scores and one scoring pass is a poor half in the AFL. For an entire game output - no one was happy upstairs.
For the game the Command missed three field goals and had three turnovers on downs as the offense continued to sputter. Quarterback Nate Davis had a final line of 14-29-1 for 173 yards with one scoring pass and suffered one sack. Davis also added two rushing scores. Statistically this seemed to be a slight improvement from previous efforts, but progress is still needed. Recent returnee Bubby Gill lead the home team receivers with 6 catches for 73 yards, but Syvelle Newton (5 for 48) had the only scoring catch. Kicker Gary Cismesia was close, but missed on all three field goal attempts. He hit the net consistently on his kick offs and converted all four extra points. Rashad Barksdale and J C Neal lead the Command defense with six solo tackles each and local favorite Tommy Chavis (three seasons at Missouri) recorded the Command's only sack of the night.
The Rattlers clearly showed their pedigree with quarterback Nick Davila going 21-29-0 for 297 yards and seven touchdowns. Davila had two other scoring passes that were nullified by penalty. His favorite target was Maurice Purity with seven catches for 113 yards and three touchdowns. The last few minutes of the game were mercifully quick as Arizona just wanted to hit the showers and head for the airport. The final score was 56-28 for the visitors.
Arenafan.com wishes to thank Command President Pete Likens for escorting us through the locker room and into head coach Danton Barto's office for some quick post game comments. Mr. Likens made clear he recognized the worth of the coverage provided by ArenaFan.com. We are most thankful for his courtesy.
Coach Barto, when asked if the offense was showing enough progress, acknowledged "we just need to start scoring more points" and made clear that no one's job is secure, including starting quarterback Davis. He was pleased that his defense had held the Rattlers well below their usual offensive output but stressed that "something has to be done" and "better play has to happen". Barto indicated the team is always looking around to see who is available and did not rule out the possibility of roster changes. He realizes his team is the only AFL team starting a rookie quarterback but did not offer this as an excuse. His staff knew it would be a challenge to get Davis up to speed for the in-door game and that process continues. The upcoming three game road stretch (with one BYE week thrown in) does present a challenge but the coach feels it takes a group effort to deal with such circumstances and he is confident his squad will give a full effort. Coach Barto also indicated his wife is an avid follower of ArenaFan.com and enjoyed following all of the various internet chatter generated by fans of the Arena Football League.
After leaving the coaches office our observations of post game body language and general locker room attitude indicated this team is just as unhappy with their current situation, as is the coaching staff. No one likes to be 0-3 with only 95 points scored in three games. These guys play professional football for $400 a week (with the one exception we all know about) because they want to. None of them (cliché alert) want to go back to working in their Dad's hardware store, etc.
All games have been UStreamed this season, but this was the first local telecast for the Command. The game was broadcast on local channel KSMO-TV 62 with long time Command announcers Nick McCabe and Stan Weber providing their usual expert work. Sideline reports were provided by Neil Harwell, who discreetly made himself scarce as the game neared conclusion. Radio broadcast was on Sports Radio 810 WHB by long time local broadcasters Dave Borchardt and Jay Binkley. Arena PA duty was handled by another local radio voice, Steven St John, who never lost his enthusiasm, whatever the score. Noticeably absent from press row this week was The Kansas City Star, the area's leading newspaper. Disappointing, but the loss is theirs. And their readers!
Next week Barto takes his team to Chicago, where the Command surprised the Rush last year with a 58-51 drubbing on an NFL Network game of the week. Then the BYE week, then a visit to the high flying San Jose Sabercats. The road stretch concludes with a visit to the Tampa Bay Storm. The Command's next home game is a month away, on May 5, when Aaron Garcia will lead the San Antonio Talons into the Sprint Center.
Will there be some new faces in the Command colors? Will the scoreboard operator have to forego that third quarter siesta? Will the Chick-Fil-A balloon drop awaken the crowd with more free chicken coupons? Will blue face paint and a hockey mask scare Aaron Garcia? Will the cheer leaders throwing the free T-Shirts into the crowd find some arm strength by then? During media time outs, will the fan involvement events ever have a fan finally win something?
Whatever happens www.Arenafan.com will be there.
Tom Campbell has written about the AFL since 2006, when the local team was the Kansas City Brigade. Previous game articles appeared on www.arenapulse.com and www.sportsphan.com, and he was a voting member of the AFL Writers Association. Tom currently owns a franchise in the American Poolplayers Assoc and previously worked in commercial banking for 17 years.