INDOOR FOOTBALL: Win at Green Bay was personal for coach Fuller
BEMIDJI -- For Bemidji Axemen head coach Robert Fuller, going back to Green Bay was personal, as he was fired by the Blizzard last season, despite taking the team to a conference title game and earning IFL coach of the year honors.
The team delivered with a thrilling, 66-61 win in the final seconds to give Fuller a 3-0 record against his former team.
"I would be lying if I said it was not a big deal on a personal level," Fuller said of returning to Green Bay. "But we never really discussed it as a team. We wanted their focus to solely be on what it would take to win the football game."
Perhaps even more satisfying for Fuller was seeing former Blizzard receiver Ryan Balentine catch the game-winning 15-yard touchdown with just five seconds left in the game.
"It really seemed fitting that Ryan would be on the receiving end of the game-winning throw," Fuller said. "He has been clutch for us all season and that was a big time play."
The game-winning pass was one of seven touchdown passes from quarterback Cody Kirby, who also ran in a touchdown in his third game with the team.
"Cody really has done a great job of coming in and earning the trust and respect of his teammates," Fuller said. "Cody and I work a lot closely together and that has accelerated his command of the offense."
Kirby's favorite target was Nick Truesdell as they connected seven times for 100 yards and four scores, but defensive back De'Markus Washington stepped in to contribute three catches for 49 yards, highlighted by a 30-yard touchdown, to a depleted receiving core.
"De'Markus has proven as a kick returner that he can do some pretty great things with the ball," Fuller said. "Stepping in to help on offense really was not a big deal to him. He just wants to do whatever he can to help the team win and he did that in a big way Saturday."
If not for a last-minute debacle in Cedar Rapids on April 19, the Axemen would have picked up their third consecutive road victory, but will instead settle for improving to 2-3 away from home on the season.
"Our team has been through a lot up to this point in the season and for them to overcome a rash of injuries to get a last second win on the road speaks volume about their character and mental toughness, Fuller said. "After the last two games, composure was a point of emphasis for us and our guys responded."
Bemidji (5-4) will host the Tri-Cities Fever Saturday at the Sanford Center.