REDMOND — Saturday marked a night of firsts at First Interstate Bank Center.
It was the first home game for the newly formed Oregon High Desert Storm of the American West Football Conference, and it was the first time that defensive back Terrious Triplet returned an interception for a touchdown in his football career.
But perhaps the most sweet for the new pro indoor football team in Central Oregon, it was the first time that the Idaho Horsemen were handed a loss in team history, falling 44-40 to the Storm.
“First time they’ve been beaten,” said Storm coach Keith Evans. “I had them beat when I was coaching in Wenatchee four times. I was up 19-0 once against them and they came back and won. They had me sweating bullets tonight.”
The AWFC is a pro arena football league with five teams from the Northwest. Arena football is exclusively played indoors on a 50-yard field, with eight players on each team. Players can be tackled into walls that run up against the sidelines of the field.
After trailing 21-7 early in the second quarter, the Storm went on a 37-3 run to take a 44-24 lead with just five minutes remaining. Wide receiver Buck Solomon scored two touchdowns, and receivers Kris Lewis and Bob Pugh both added offensive touchdowns during the run.
However, it was an interception returned 48 yards for a touchdown by Triplet — his third pick of the second half — that provided the Storm just enough cushion to hold on as the Horsemen went on a late rally.
Triplet’s touchdown gave the Storm the commanding 44-24 lead with five minutes left, but Idaho scored 16 unanswered points to make it 44-40.
“There is not a better feeling than a pick six,” Triplet said. “When I get a pick six, I feel like I am on top of the world. We adjusted to the offense. At first we were playing their game. Then I told our team to just let the game come to us and not force anything.”
The Storm improved to 2-1 in the AWFC standings with the victory, while the Horsemen — the reigning AWFC champions — fell to 3-1.
Three games into the season, Evans said he likes where his team stands after Saturday’s win. Next week, the Storm travel to face the Tri-City Rush in Pasco, Washington, before returning home where three of their next four games — including a third meeting with Idaho — will be played in Redmond. Their next home game is June 19 against the Wenatchee Valley Skyhawks at the First Interstate Bank Center.
“We got to roll, that is all there is to it,” said Evans. “It is as simple as that right now for us. We have to be ready for when Idaho comes back here. We really control our own destiny right now.”