In all three phases, the Amarillo Venom were on their “A” game.
Quarterback Nate Davis threw nine touchdown passes with no interceptions, defensive back Nathaniel Gaines tallied two interceptions, and place-kicker Jacob Felton displayed his game-changing ability on special teams in an 82-61 win over the Salina Liberty on Saturday night.
To open the contest at the Amarillo Civic Center Complex Cal Farley Coliseum, Felton had the freedom to do as he wanted on the opening kickoff. He elected to go with an onside kick.
“We let Jacob make his mind up and do what he wants,” coach Julian Reese said. “When he’s back there, whatever he sees, he makes the call. Good thing they weren’t ready for it, and that was the longest bounce ever, but that set the tone of the game.”
The end result was a recovery for the Venom (5-2), and Davis and company took advantage. Davis finished the opening drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to veteran wide receiver Raymond Johnson, who caught four passes for 39 yards.
Gaines came up huge twice for his team. Right before halftime, he picked off an errant pass by Salina (4-3) quarterback Andrew Jackson to end a Liberty drive at the 18-yard line, and he returned it 21 yards to Salina’s 11.
His interception set up a 4-yard touchdown pass from Davis to wideout Ricardo Barnett to give Amarillo a 41-29 advantage at halftime.
“It was a big play, just because I owe it to my teammates,” Gaines said. “We’re always looking for that next guy to make a big play. If it’s going to be me, so be it.
“My teammates get on me all the time, ‘Hey Nate – big play, big play.’ I’m like hey – I’m right behind you. I’ve got your back.”
“It all starts with our O-line,” Davis said. “Our receivers can do whatever they want when our O-line blocks. If the O-line does their job, everybody eats.
“And I’m not selfish. I’ll hit any receiver that does their job and gets open. What we say in here is, ‘Help a brother out.’”
One of those brothers was 6-foot, 375-pound center Bernard Flores, who anchored Amarillo’s offensive line.
“This offense is rolling,” Flores said. “This is a blessing. We take pride, every game, going out and making sure Nate doesn’t get sacked. We want to make sure we keep him clean, so he can keep going out there and keep being Champions Indoor Football league player of the week.”
And out wide, Davis has a bevy of pass catchers. Xavier Amey had nine receptions for 83 yards and two scores. Barnett had eight grabs for 75 yards and three touchdowns, Terrell Smith hauled in six passes for 41 yards and two TDs, and Mazio Rhodes caught five passes for 40 yards and a touchdown.
Versatile running back Jah’son Patterson added four catches for 22 yards and a score, as well.
Amarillo is scheduled to face Omaha Friday at 6 p.m. at Ralston Arena in Omaha, Neb.