A learning experience for all at the Honda Center
Over a month ago, the KISS were the doormat of the Arena Football League. They were a team at the time that was confused, dejected, and at times embarrassed to step on the field, only to be blown out each game.
This season has also become a trend for the LA KISS, where before the seats would even get warm, they would find themselves down by at least two scores. Granted, their last two losses showed a lot of resilience and fight to get back, but they have always been used to this story line.
No matter how you look at it now, the KISS are a completely different football team. Adding veterans have made a significant difference. Losing Adrian McPherson to that-league-up-North did nothing as Danny Southwick has now become a blessing in disguise. Head Coach Bob McMillen now has a chip on his shoulder and can actually say that not only is he proud of the way his troops are playing, but that they are playing at a much more consistent level.
But all of that could have been erased if things went south against Spokane.
Sunday felt weird, but in such a way that not even the most die-hard LA KISS fan would even expect. By far the KISS played their best 30 minutes of football in the team’s history. Nothing could go wrong. Danny Southwick was hitting his numbers. Donovan Morgan and company flowed through their routes and glided into the end zone with ease. Whenever the Shock offense would try and settle down, Rayshaun Keiser was there to crush all hope. No team had ever been shut out after the first half this season. The KISS managed to be the first to make that happen. Up 28-0, players, fans had to rub their eyes and wonder if they were dreaming. They have had leads before going into the break, but the way the KISS had complete control was unthinkable.
Arvell Nelson finally got the Shock offense back on track and in four plays to open the second half, found Nuck Truesdell for a 12 yard strike. 28-7 Los Angeles. The KISS retained the ball and get into the red zone, but come away empty after their field goal try was blocked. Spokane responds and cuts the lead to two scores.
One play later, Southwick mishandles a snap in the end zone and James Ruffin finds a gift. What was once a 28-0 KISS lead all of a sudden turns into a derailed nightmare. Fans were uneasy. Joe Windham could not bare to look. Gene Simmons at times shed a glow on his forehead letting his nerves take over.
“If we did not go up 28-0 in the first half we would have lost that ball game,” McMillen said. “All of it is my fault. We haven’t been in this situation where we have been up this much. We have to learn to win as a team. We have to learn how to finish. We still got the W.”
Both teams trade scores through the one minute warning, and with the KISS having the ball to potentially close out the game, they failed to get any points when Andre Heidari’s field goal was blocked. Spokane turned the table and had one final shot of their own, but Nick Truesdell could not keep the ball inbounds in the end on the game’s final play.
LA came out victorious. LA needed a game like this. Even with players like Kizer, Morgan, and Southwick understanding how the Arena game works, LA most certainly learned from these 60 minutes.
“We haven’t had many wins here,” McMillen said. “To be able to come out and fire was phenomenal. We though had a much different swagger in the first half compared to the second. We had a different type of intensity because we have never seen this before. Sure we have some veterans but we have a lot of rookies that took a lot from this.”
“It was a good thing to see a game like this,” wide receiver Tyrone Goard said. “It is the story line every time in arena football. You have to keep playing until the fourth quarter and the clock hits the end. It was a good learning experience, but thrilled we came out with the victory.”
Thoughts were running through everyone’s heads at the Honda Center within a three hour span. They never once thought the KISS would ever come out favored to win and show the way they did in the first half (by the way, Vegas had them to win by at least one point). But never as well did fans think that up 28-0, a lead like that really means nothing if you can’t play a complete football game. It is a rarity in the outdoor game, but inside it is much different. Instead, all those thoughts were put to rest and what matters to everyone is notching up a tally on the left side of the Standings. Gene Simmons agrees too.
“Gene was happy to come out and see what we did tonight,” McMillen said. “He told me it was the best first half he has ever seen from us in our history. He was disappointed about the second half, but everyone agrees from the locker room down to me that we could have played a lot better.”
A KISS loss would have all but ended any hopes of making the playoffs. A KISS loss the way they could have given up the game would have forced fans to drink some “Cold Gin” and reminisce on not closing out. Instead, fans went home happy. Fans went home relieved. Fans are now thinking with how lopsided the National Conference is, they now have a legitimate shot at something with the right pieces.
“Danny is feeling more and more comfortable with us,” McMillen said. “I think Danny is a guy that does think too much and just needs to play football, and he has been. Our defense by adding Keiser proved to be important and the way they stepped up on defense consistently was important.”
The rest of the AFL fans can criticize now all they want. The LA KISS have now become one of the most dangerous teams in the league.