Iowa Barnstormers Win Season Opener
DES MOINES – The Iowa Barnstormers (1-0) took an early lead and never looked back on Sunday, beating the Quad City Steamwheelers (1-1) 53-39 on the road at the TaxSlayer Center in Moline, Illinois.
The Barnstormers picked up where they left off in 2018, scoring on the opening possession of the game. Iowa quarterback Daquan Neal connected with wide receiver Ryan Balentine on a seven-yard touchdown pass, making the score 7-0 after a PAT from kicker Nathan Criswell. The Iowa defense held the Quad City offense to a three-and-out and Neal found Balentine again on the following possession, After a missed PAT, the Barnstormers led 13-0 heading into the second quarter.
In the second quarter, the Steamwheelers finally found the end zone when quarterback E.J. Hilliard swung it to running back Isiah Neely for a two-yard score. With 12:10 left in the second quarter, the Barnstormers led 13-7. Iowa answered when Neal found receiver Connor Hollenbeck in his first touchdown with the Barnstormers. The extra point made it 20-7. Quad City drove down to the two-yard line but the Iowa defense came up big again when Jajuan Harley sacked Hilliard on third down. The Steamwheelers streak of bad luck continued after a missed field goal attempt from kicker Jacob Stytz. On the fourth and final Barnstormers possession of the half, Neal hit receiver Samuel Charles from 27 yards out for his fourth touchdown pass of the night, 26-7. The Steamwheelers scored on a three-yard rush from Hilliard with four seconds remaining in the half, 26-14.
On the opening drive of the second half for the Steamwheelers, Hilliard threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to receiver Quinton Pedroza, closing the gap 26-21. Barnstormers running back Jamal Tyler answered, running it in from two yards out, 33-21. Iowa's defense held the Steamwheelers to a field goal attempt, and the snap sailed over the holder's head. The Barnstormers would make the score 40-21 after a two yard touchdown run from Neal. The Steamwheelers came storming back, scoring on a touchdown pass and a fumble recovery in the end zone on defense. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Barnstormers led 40-33.
The fourth quarter started rocky as both teams had a series of unsportsmanlike conduct calls. Neal eventually connected with Balentine again, putting Iowa ahead 46-33. On the next possession for the Steamwheelers, Hilliard delivered a 32-yard strike on a touchdown pass to receiver Keyvan Rudd. The extra point was blocked and Iowa remained ahead 46-39. On the very next play, defensive back Tyrell Pearson took the kickoff return to the house, giving Iowa a commanding 53-39 lead with 3:37 remaining in the game. Pearson would cause a fumble that was recovered by the Barnstormers defense Iowa would kneel it and run the clock out to win the game.
The Barnstormers returner to Wells Fargo Arena on Saturday, March 9 for their home opener against the Green Bay Blizzard. Kickoff is set for 7:05pm. Tickets are on sale now for as low as $12, call 515-633-2255 to order.
Written by: Gunnar Davis
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