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Barnstormers clinch playoff berth in wild victory over Steamwheelers


Quarterback Daquan Neal’s nine touchdown performance, including a wild dive in the end zone as time expired, powered the Iowa Barnstormers (9-1) to a 59-56 victory over the Quad City Steamwheelers (3-7) on Saturday, May 11 at Wells Fargo Arena.

Quad City opened with the ball and went to work early. Quarterback E.J. Hilliard threw to receiver Carlos Wiggins on a screen pass that went the distance to put the Steamwheelers up, 7-0. Barnstormers quarterback Daquan Neal answered back quickly on a 17 yard touchdown run. The extra point was missed, 7-6. Steamwheelers running back Zavier Steward and Hilliard both scored rushing touchdowns on the next two possessions for Quad City to make the score 21-6 after one quarter of play.

In the second quarter, Neal earned his second rushing touchdown of the night to cut into the Steamwheelers lead, 21-13. Quad City scored on their fourth straight possession. This time Hilliard found receiver Quinton Pedroza for a 20 yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 28-13. Neal scored his third rushing touchdown on a play-action quarterback keeper, but the PAT was missed, 28-19. Quad City again extended their lead on the next possession when receiver Keyvan Rudd took an end around to the house, 34-19. With time winding down in the first half, Neal faked a run and dumped it over the middle to receiver Ryan Balentine for a one yard score. Iowa failed to convert a two-point conversion before the half came to a close, 34-25.

The Barnstormers started to make up ground right away in the third quarter. Neal shoveled a short pass to Balentine to cut the score to 34-32. The Steamwheelers again extended on the next possession. Hilliard found Pedroza for a 20 yard touchdown, 41-32. Neal found Balentine for the third time, this time on a deep ball over the middle, 41-39. The Barnstormers defense came up big, stopping the Steamwheelers offense. That stop led to Iowa taking the lead for the first time on the night. Neal threw to Connor Hollenbeck for the 8 yard score to put the Barnstormers up 46-41.

The fourth quarter was just as wild as the three preceding it. The Steamwheelers would re-take the lead when Hilliard scored on a one yard touchdown run, 49-46. Neal and the Barnstormers offense wouldn’t let them have the lead long, as Neal scored his fourth rushing touchdown to put Iowa ahead 53-49. With 55 seconds remaining, Quad City scored when Hilliard dumped the ball off to Steward, 56-53. Insanity ensued on the Barnstormers’ last possession. With seven seconds remaining, Neal rolled to his right and dove into the end zone as the clock expired. The call was originally ruled a touchdown, but was challenged by Quad City. After review, referees ruled that Neal had fumbled on his dive attempt, the ball hit the side of the wall and was recovered by Neal for a touchdown, 59-56.

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The Barnstormers travel to Green Bay to take on the Blizzard for the final road game of the season on Sunday, May 19. Kickoff is set for 3:05 p.m. CST at the Resch Center.

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