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Empire use defense to pick up fourth straight victory

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. – Spokane picked up its fourth consecutive Indoor Football League victory, mainly on the strength of its defense.

The Empire forced four turnovers and outlasted the Nebraska Danger 25-23 on Friday at Heartland Events Center.

Spokane’s 25 points marked its second-lowest output of the season (22 versus Billings), but it limited the Danger to 23, matching the season low set against Tri-Cities on May 20.

The Empire took the lead with 5:17 remaining on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Charles Dowdell to Carl Sims. Pat Clarke missed the PAT and Spokane led 25-23.

Defensive lineman Benjamin Perry forced a Nebraska fumble that was recovered by linebacker Nick Haag with 2:22 left. Spokane picked up a key first down on another Dowdell-to-Sims connection and ran out the clock.

Tyree Robinson picked off two passes and Adrian James had one interception to help offset two Empire fumbles in the second half.

The Empire sputtered offensively from the outset. They led 9-0 after one quarter but trailed 16-12 at half, despite doubling the Danger in total yards. Spokane was 0 of 4 on third downs, 0 of 1 on fourth down and struggled in the red zone.

Spokane converted 4 of 5 third-down attempts in the second half. The Empire finished with 281 total yards, 99 more than the Danger, and enjoyed nearly an 18-minute edge in time of possession.

Dowdell completed 19 of 32 for 205 yards and three touchdowns. He also had a team-high 56 yards rushing. Sims had six catches for 111 yards and two scores, including a 45-yarder that ranks as the team’s longest play from scrimmage this season.

Spokane (12-2) returns home to face Sioux Falls (13-1) next Saturday. The Storm defeated the Empire 63-50 last month in South Dakota.

Nebraska (5-9) dropped its seventh straight game but remains two games in front of Tri-Cities for the third and final Intense Conference playoff spot.