Only two games into the season, the Fort Wayne Freedom may already be out of the race for the division title.
The Freedom lost their first Continental Indoor Football League game Thursday night, falling to Eastern Division leader Kalamazoo 50-34 before 2,550 Memorial Coliseum fans. The Xplosion are now 4-0, while the Freedom are 1-1, play their next two games on the road and have only four home games left.
“We played a championship-quality team tonight, and they did not beat themselves,” Freedom coach Willie Davis said. “We beat ourselves and the score showed it.”
Fort Wayne led 26-23 at halftime, but the Freedom offense fell apart in the second half. Fort Wayne didn't score until there was 3:32 left in regulation when Rocky Harvey took a screen pass 45 yards. He was actually knocked down on the play, but there was no whistle so he got up and kept on running.
The Freedom's offense was nailed by a fumble and two interceptions in the second half. After completing seven passes for four touchdowns in the first half, quarterback Eric Hooks had only the one touchdown in the second half, overthrowing his receivers several times. He was intercepted twice in the end zone.
“I didn't get settled in and I didn't make throws,” Hooks said. “Plays were there to be made, and I didn't make them. I could have made better decisions with the football and not forced things down on the goal line. I could have used my feet a little more. It comes with learning the position in the indoor game. It should be improving every week. I just have to bounce back.”
Kalamazoo quarterback Randy Hutchison completed 19 of 26 passes for 155 yards and six touchdowns. He picked the Freedom secondary apart in the second half with three long touchdown passes.
“We came out in the second half and just didn't make any plays,” Davis said. “We had turnovers in the end zone - you just can not have that. That's a good quality team, and you can't beat yourself against them. All the mistakes in the second half cost us the game.”
Luther Stroder was most of the Fort Wayne offense with seven catches for 102 yards, and Harvey caught three passes for 95 yards. Former East Noble star David Gater made one of the interceptions for Kalamazoo.
Fort Wayne plays at Rock River on April 4. The next home game is April 19.