The Kansas City Phantoms achieved something that is a rarity in arena football – and because of that – they are still in the playoff hunt.
The Phantoms came up big on defense, holding the Texas Revolution to just 28 points and it helped them overcome a 14-0 deficit to earn a 41-28 victory Friday at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
“Coming off the bye week, we really wanted to change the culture,” said Phantoms linebacker AJ Downs, who also had three solo tackles. “We just came out with intensity and left it all on the field. We were able to do that. Holding a team to 28 points is an accomplishment in arena football. Especially against them. That’s a team that can score 80 points.”
Phantoms head coach Meadow Lemon brought in some new players on both sides of the ball and it resulted in the team playing by far its best game of the year as the Phantoms improved to 3-7 overall. Before this game, Kansas City’s only two wins came by one point.
They were able to slow down a red hot Texas team that had won four in a row, including wins against the top two teams in Champions Indoor Football's South Conference.
“It’s been a rough past couple of weeks,” Lemon said. “It was great to see our guys stick together even through adversity. Nobody even gave us even a thought of winning this game tonight. The other team was the hottest in the league. We’ve been on the other end, so it was really rewarding to see it finally go our direction.”
A big part of that was a Kansas City defense that held the Revolution to just 174 yards from scrimmage. With 2:06 left in the first period, Texas led 14-0 after a 7-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Jackson to Tavarres Williams. After that, the Phantoms held them scoreless for the next 31:51 as the team totaled eight stops.
And it was the defense that got things started for Kansas City when Patrick Graffree recovered a fumble at the Texas 11 following a crushing strip sack from Isaiah Lewis. That led to a 8-yard TD pass from Donovan Portier, who leads the league in touchdown passes, to offensive lineman Zachary Fordal, who was a legal receiver on the play.
“Our new guys really made some plays today,” said Lewis, who also had the game-clinching interception and 13 tackles. “We all showed up today. Our D-line was getting to the quarterback, which allowed our secondary to make the plays that we did. We had three interceptions. We haven’t done that all year.”
Another interception from Donovan Jackson led to another touchdown pass from Portier to Julian Walker. Dallas Herndon missed the extra point to make it 14-13, which was the score at halftime.
Portier hit Walker for another scoring pass. It went for 19 yards and came after his defense forced a turnover on downs.
On Texas’ next possession Downs picked off a Jackson pass and returned it 39 yards for a TD and stiff-armed and spun around a defender in the process.
“It was all about watching film and studying my opponent,” Downs said of the interception. “I know No. 1 (Clinton Solomon) is their go-to guy who likes to make plays. We made our defense to bracket him.”
Portier added his fourth TD pass of the day with 1:03 in the third and Andre Taylor returned the kickoff 49 yards for a TD in the fourth to cap the scoring for the Phantoms.
Portier was able to put up 161 yards and four scores even with a completely new receiving corps, as some of the receivers who were on the team at the beginning are injured.
“It always brings up challenges because they have their own personalities – different heights and different speeds,” Portier said. “We took a lot of time watching film and getting work in on the field. We really tried to put together a scheme that everyone was comfortable with. It just happened to be against the champs from last year.”
Even though Kansas City sits four games below .500, the team still thinks it can sneak in if it can win its last two home games.
“We’re not out of it. All we have to do is keep winning,” Lemon said.