Key Interception sends OKC to National Championship
Bounty Hunters give Nashville Storm first loss in 22 games
BY: Michael Stewart, Stadium Voice of the Oklahoma City Bounty Hunters
One thing is certain for Oklahoma City’s Gridiron Developmental Football League franchise. After playing 13 games in a 39-team league across ten divisions that stretches 17 states, the Bounty Hunters are just one game away from winning Gridiron Bowl V and becoming National Champions.
Trailing by eight points midway through the fourth quarter on the road Saturday night, the Oklahoma City Bounty Hunters (11-2) found a way to score consecutive touchdowns in a span of 1:43 to upset the previously undefeated Nashville Storm (12-1) 23-17. The game was a national semifinal contest, allowing Oklahoma City to win the 2014 Impact Conference title while qualifying for the GDFL National Championship Game Sept. 27 in the Memphis area.
Bounty Hunters Assistant Coach Kevin Cox said that Oklahoma City’s chance to win the first ever national title as a franchise has the potential to become a franchise defining opportunity.
“Obviously, this is the biggest milestone in the brief history of the Bounty Hunters organization, and we are ecstatic to be in a position to play for a national championship,” Cox said. “The stage is set for an epic showdown between us and the Central Penn Piranha.”
Reggie Arnold finished Saturday’s game with 18 carries for 89 yards, averaging 4.9 yards per rush for Oklahoma City. Damien Dunning completed 50 percent of his passes, going 14-of-28 for 222 yards and a touchdown. But, Dunning also threw three costly interceptions that would require a timely defensive play from a teammate to alter the fate of both teams.
After former Millwood High School and Tennessee standout Gerald Jones scored on a three-yard quarterback keeper with just under four minutes remaining, defensive back Coryan Briggs gave the Bounty Hunters the lead for good. He intercepted Zack Ducker’s pass for a 39-yard touchdown return. Even though OKC only led for 5:31 of the sixty minute game, the defensive spark was the definitive play of a contest that would see Nashville’s 21-game winning streak snapped.
“I knew that Number 18 (Jeramie Whittaker) was their ‘Go To’ guy,” Briggs said after the game. “So, I was just trying to cover him like white on rice. I saw that the quarterback threw to him, but that the ball was underthrown. My teammate, Alton Lee, it hit his hand. So, when I grabbed it, I was thinking ‘Man, I got to score. I have to put this team in better position.’ So, I made a couple of people miss down the sideline, and I scored.”
The Oklahoma City defense stood out once again, overcoming four turnovers on the offensive side of the ball while holding Nashville to a season-low of 17 points at home. The last time the Storm were held to 17 points was in a 17-0 road victory against the Memphis Blast in a game played June 7th. The Bounty Hunter defense has only allowed an average of 17.22 points per game. Only two teams have managed have managed to score more than 20 points against OKC all season. The Texas Eagles scored 33 points in a 36-33 Bounty Hunter win played July 12 in Texas, and the Dallas Anarchy outscored OKC 34-7 in the Bounty Hunters’ final loss of the regular season played Aug. 9 in North Texas.
The Bounty Hunters played the Anarchy in a rubber match during their final home game of the 2014 season Sept. 6 at Putnam City Stadium. The third-round playoff game was similar to the first matchup between the two teams, as Oklahoma City defeated Dallas 28-18 in the capstone game of a budding rivalry. Even though Dallas defeated OKC during the aforementioned game last month, the Bounty Hunters earned a 23-18 victory at home July 26 to secure the Lone Star Division title.
Up next is the biggest test of the season for the Bounty Hunters. To win the National Championship, Oklahoma City will have to defeat the 2012 GDFL Champions in the Central Pennsylvania Piranha. The Piranha (12-1) have won four straight playoff games and traveled over 830 miles to pick up their most recent victory in Jacksonville, knocking off the previously undefeated Florida Falcons (12-1) 38-12 last Saturday in the other national semifinal.
Gridiron Bowl V will be played at Evangelical Christian School, located at 7600 Macon Road in Cordova, Tenn. Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 27 at 6:00 p.m. For more information, including how to obtain tickets for the championship game, visit www.GDFL.org.
Highlights – 2014 XFL Championship:
Highlights – OKC vs. Texas Eagles: