(Pasco, WA) — It’s gritty, tough, and the residual smoke from the team’s entrance blots out the some of the light. That’s why they call it Gotham City. The hazy atmosphere is home to the Tri-City Rush Indoor Football Team. The Rush are the defending 2021 American West Football Conference Champions, and it would appear they’re still very much the Kings of the West–having routed the Oregon High Desert Storm 51-13 in the Home Opener at the HAPO Center Saturday night.
A (Relatively) Competitive First Half
It was the first game of the season for Oregon. For lack of a better phrase, it looked like it. The Desert Storm started the game with the ball but fumbled on their first drive. The ball was picked up off the turf and returned for a Tri-City touchdown. The point-after try was good and the Rush took a 7-0 lead less than five minutes into the game. Oregon then turned the ball over on downs later in the first quarter. Ultimately, that led to Rush QB Ja’Vonte Johnson connecting with receiver Manuel Flores on a 1-yd touchdown pass to take a 13-0 lead mere seconds into the second quarter.
The High Desert Storm showed some life when QB Deandre Churchill connected with Parker Lapsley for a touchdown reception about midway through the second. A successful PAT made it 13-7 with about nine minutes left in the half. The Rush wasted little time regaining their two-score lead, though, as Dashun Salgado Jr. reached over the barricade at the edge of the end zone to haul in a TD catch from Johnson and put the Rush up 20-7 with five-and-half minutes remaining. Tri-City had one more scoring chance before the half ended, but the Oregon defense held on a 4th-and-1 to keep the game within reach entering halftime
The Storm Subsides in the Second
The Rush received the ball to start the second half. Their opening drive culminated in a 1-yd TD rush for Antoinne Wafer and a 26-7 Tri-City lead. With under four minutes to go in the third quarter, Churchill again connected with Lapsley on a TD pass to keep Oregon within two-scores, 26-13. The storm would subside shortly, thereafter, however. The Rush drove quickly down the field and Salgado made his second touchdown catch of the night off of a deflection; it was 32-13 with just one minute remaining in the quarter.
Feeling the pressure of such a large deficit, the Oregon staff started dialing up some bigger plays, but it backfired when Churchill dropped back to pass and the TC pass rush stripped the ball and recovered it at the Oregon 11-yard line. Shortly after, receiver Mustaful Strong leapt high in the corner of the end zone to corral a pass from Johnson for another Tri-City TD. The score was 38-13 with under 12 minutes remaining. Oregon would not have another scoring drive for the rest of regulation. They turned the ball over on downs at their own two-yard line which gifted TCR a 44-13 lead courtesy of a Marco Garcia rushing touchdown. Oregon was advancing late in the fourth, but Rush defensive back Bemnet Morgan intercepted a desperation heave thrown up by Churchill. The Rush offense would again cash in on the Oregon turnover when Wafer caught a pass from Johnson and picked up several yards-after-catch to score from 28 yards out. With just 2:20 to go in the game, it was 51-13. That’s how the score would stay until the final whistle blew.
The defending AWFC Champions improved to 2-0 on the year–now with wins over the second and third best teams in the conference last season. They’ll host Wenatchee Valley at the HAPO Center next Saturday. Oregon fell to 0-1. They will host the Washington Elite in Redmond this upcoming Sunday.