Mustangs remain undefeated with 28-18 win over Sioux City Bandits

The Gillette Mustangs are 3-0 after defeating the Sioux City Bandits 28-18 in Gillette's home opener on Saturday.

The Mustangs are one of two undefeated teams in the Champions Indoor Football League, but the only 3-0 team. The Mustangs are winning from their stifling defense which is allowing around 17 points per game.

"The players are bought in, which is a good thing, but we have to keep continuing to go," coach Cedric Walker said. "We're close, but we have got a ways to go to get to where we need to be.

The Mustangs started the game with a forced fumble on the kickoff, leading to the Mustangs getting the first offensive snaps of the game. The offense sputtered on the drive and overall on the night struggled with multiple turnovers on downs.

From the start, quarterback Mike Pina was aggressive on the ground. The plan worked, as Pina broke off several runs for long gains and drew the defense in which allowed Pina to find open receivers down the field.

Sioux City scored first with a nine-yard touchdown pass, but didn't hold the lead for long. Pina found Karonce Higgins in the second quarter to tie the game at 6.

"We're going to be great, that's all I'll say," Higgins said of his chemistry with Pina.

The Mustangs scored again off a Pina sneak from the half-yard line and took a 14-6 lead in the second quarter.

Throughout the night, the Bandits were exploiting the open flat which turned short passes into long gains. Sioux City scored a touchdown in the second quarter after being set up from a long gain from a pass to the flat.

With just over two minutes left in the half, the Mustangs methodically moved downfield and capped the drive with a goal-line fade and a two-point conversion to bring the score to 22-12 at halftime.

In the third quarter, both teams' defenses tightened up and didn't allow a score. The Mustangs drained almost 10 minutes of clock, but couldn't add any points on their first drive.

The Bandits were driving down the field before Isaiah McFarland intercepted the ball and almost took it all the way for a pick-six. The Mustangs capitalized off the interception, scoring a 36-yard touchdown to take a 16-point lead.

"The d-line got good pressure and forced (the quarterback) to make a throw and I just had to do my job," McFarland said. "I was looking to score, but I was happy to get off the field."

Sioux City once again made a big play with a pass to the flat went the length of the field for a touchdown, bringing the game to 10 points.

Gillette drained the clock to just over two minutes left in the game when the Mustangs defense had some of its biggest plays of the game with two big pass break ups to squash the Bandits' comeback hopes.

The Mustangs made big defensive plays, but the team feels that there is still a lot to improve upon.

"We didn't play up to our standards," Toney Peters said. "We gave up those 18 points off of our mistakes."

Even so, the team holds the best defense in the CIFL. The defense has propelled the team to the best record in the league.

The Mustangs face the Billings Outlaws on Saturday in Gillette.