Former Quad City Steamwheelers coach Rich Ingold famously groused, on more than one occasion, "You can't win arena football games kicking field goals."
However, Ingold's old team had a chance to do just that Saturday. Yet, the 'Wheelers passed up a go-ahead, fourth-quarter, 3-ball attempt in favor of a fourth-and-goal offensive snap from the Louisville 15-yard-line.
The resulting pass-breakup in the endzone helped seal QC's fate late, with the 'Wheelers comeback attempt from a 21-point, third-quarter deficit falling just shy, 55-53 in an early-season, af2 Midwest Division rematch at Moline's i wirless Center.
Kris Peters scored three of his four touchdowns in the final period, but the 'Wheelers (2-3) never got closer than two points each time. One QC two-point conversion attempt was intercepted; another was knocked down.
The 'Wheelers hit an extra-point attempt on their last score, with 9 seconds remaining, for the final deficit, after Louisville's PAT was snuffed out by a bad snap on the previous possession.
But after recovering one QC onside kick, the Fire's Tymere Zimmerman tipped QC's last onside try out of bounds to preserve the first regular-season victory at Moline by rival Louisville (4-2). The Fire improbably won a playoff game on the last play at QC in 2004.
"No regrets," QC coach Troy Biladeau said after his club's third straight setback. The 'Wheelers beat Louisville just three weekends ago for a 2-0 start to the season.
"It's not only a risky kick, we also had an extra-point blocked earlier, which put us in that predicament in the first place, and I didn't want to get a field goal blocked there, because we had the momentum."
Agreed QC QB J.J. Raterink, "When we looked over to see if Coach wanted to kick it, and he gave us the thumbs up to go for it, that's what we wanted as an offense. We had a good play called. They just made a good play on the ball."
On that fateful snap, Raterink lofted a pass into the endzone, intended for Jesse Schmidt, but Louisville's Dominic Ross was there for the breakup.
"I always tell the guys you have to play 60 minutes, not 59 minutes and 58 seconds. We let down on that extra-point that got blocked and it cost us," Biladeau said. "But I'm proud of the guys because we never quit. We had some bad calls and a bad start but we kept fighting."
One of the bad calls, according to the video replay, was a fumble called on the game-opening kickoff return by Peters. Louisville scored four plays later.
Then, after a three-and-out series by QC, the Fire took a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Later, 46 seconds before halftime, Peters was called down short of an apparent QC TD. A couple of plays later, Raterink was intercepted to preserve Louisville's 35-21 halftime lead.
"That didn't look like a fumble to me," Biladeau said. "And Kris said he was in on the touchdown."
Added Raterink, "But even if we see on the game tape those were bad calls, there's nothing we can do about it. It still adds up to a loss."
"The positive is we never quit," agreed Biladeau. "We kept fighting until there were zeroes on the clock."
Raterink finished 22-for-33, for 315 yards and 7 TDs, but was intercepted twice. Peters caught 9 of those passes for 154 yards; Schmidt added 6 grabs for 110 yards and 3 scores.
Defensively, QC got a pair of sacks from nose man Andrew Jilles and an interception from defensive back Kevin Adams, who just rejoined the 'Wheelers this week after a short stint in the AFL.
"There's a lot of anger and frustration," Raterink said. "But the overwhelming feeling is how surreal this is. We should have won this game for a lot of reasons."
Instead, the 'Wheelers are left shaking their heads.
"We showed a lot of heart coming back," Biladeau said. "But now we'll really find what kind of character this team has. We're 2-3 with some other teams in our division. Are we going to fold our tents? Or are we going to respond to the challenge?"
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