WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – Verlon Reed hit Devin Mahina with a 2-yard touchdown pass as time expired and the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles beat the Spokane Empire 45-42 on Friday, knocking the Empire from Indoor Football League playoff contention.
The Empire (8-8) dropped six of their last seven games after starting the season 7-2.
Spokane needed a road win over Salt Lake in the regular-season finale and a Wichita Falls Nighthawks victory over the Nebraska Danger (8-7) to reach the playoffs. With the loss at Salt Lake, the second half of the equation is moot.
Spokane trotted out its third starting quarterback in five weeks against the Screaming Eagles (5-11), as Marcus McDade took the helm.
McDade went 7 of 16 with three touchdowns and no interceptions, but the Empire defense let down, allowing 20 fourth-quarter points including the winning drive.
The Empire appeared to have stopped Salt Lake late in the fourth, nabbing Reed for a loss of 6 yards on third-and-goal with less than a minute left.
After both teams used timeouts, Spokane forced an incompletion of fourth down. But illegal contact was called on the play and interference on the next attempt.
On the third try inside the Spokane 8, Salt Lake broke through and wrecked the Empire’s postseason hopes.
Spokane led by 10 points at the start of the fourth quarter after McDade found Andrew Pierce on a 5-yard touchdown pass and Brendon Garcia kicked a 26-yard field goal. But the Screaming Eagles outscored Spokane 20-7 in the fourth.
Pierce rushed 16 times for 112 yards and three touchdowns.
Salk Lake’s Reed completed 11 of 17 for 115 yards and five touchdowns.