In a modern version of the classic tortoise vs. hare story, the hare won by a hair on June 24 when the Utah Blaze narrowly escaped the Kansas City Command, 61-60, on Arena Football Friday by blocking an extra point attempt with under a minute left to play.
All night long, the Kansas City Command (5-10) labored to move the ball down the field while the Utah Blaze (7-7) sprinted down the field with relative ease. Utah scored on their opening possession in two plays. Kansas City followed it up by plodding down the field in seven plays, resulting in a touchdown. Three plays later, the Blaze were back on the scoreboard, and the Command responded by chugging along for nine plays before scoring.
The longest-lasting scoring drive for Utah all evening was a four-play drive that consumed 2:16 of the game clock in the third quarter. Midway through the second quarter, Blaze quarterback Tommy Grady hadn’t even broken a sweat.
On the other side, four of the Command’s nine scoring drives took seven or more plays a piece and each took more than five minutes off the clock. To the surprise of absolutely no one, Kansas City (40:06) more than doubled Utah’s (19:54) time of possession in the game.
What the hare couldn’t do, however, is stop the tortoise from scoring. It took Blaze DL Caesar Rayford getting his hands up and blocking an extra point attempt by the Command with :53 left to play to provide the margin of victory in this one.
The Command received the opening kickoff of the second half after battling Utah to a 33-33 halftime score, and after Kansas City scored to take the lead, they held the possession advantage. However, Utah defensive back Alfred Phillips shifted the possession advantage back to the Blaze when he intercepted Stephen Wasil on the Command’s next drive for the game’s only turnover.
The teams continued to trade touchdowns throughout the remainder of the game with the difference in the score coming off the hands of Rayford. Utah recovered Kansas City’s ensuing onside kick and killed the clock for the Blaze’s first consecutive wins this season.
Grady finished the game with 257 passing yards and eight touchdowns. Alvance Robinson hauled in nine receptions for 127 yards and five scores while Aaron Lesue, fresh off a successful marriage proposal to his girlfriend on national television before the game, celebrated with seven receptions for 109 yards and three touchdowns.
Wasil had another good game in his second start for the Command, passing for 309 yards and seven touchdowns against his one interception. Robert Gill was Wasil’s favorite target, tallying 10 receptions for 117 yards and three touchdowns. Additionally, Gill scored on a two-yard rushing touchdown.
With the loss, Kansas City’s playoff hopes are effectively extinguished, since they’re three games behind in the National Conference wildcard race with three games left to play, and there are four teams in front of them. The Command have a bye in Week 17.
Utah, on the other hand, is now tied with the Spokane Shock (7-7) for the final wildcard spot in the National Conference. The Blaze beat the Shock earlier this season and have an important rematch with them in two weeks. First, though, they have to travel to the Windy City to take on the Chicago Rush (10-4) on Friday, July 1.
Who has the coolest uniforms in the Arena Football League? The Utah Blaze? The Kansas City Command? Go to Area 44 and cast your vote!