For a while, it seemed the Buffalo Destroyers were going to end their disappointing Arena Football League season on an upbeat note. But instead, the finale was just another disappointment.
Coach Ron Selesky had called Sunday's game against the Las Vegas Gladiators "the first game of next season" and the Destroyers looked like they believed him.
Early in the third quarter, Buffalo's Jarrall Jackson caught his third touchdown pass of the game from quarterback Bob Bees and the going-nowhere Destroyers opened a 31-20 lead on their playoff-bound foes.
Then Vegas backup quarterback Todd Hammel stepped on the Thomas and Mack Arena field and ruined everything.
The 12-year AFL veteran threw four touchdown passes and ran for another to lead Las Vegas to a 55-38 victory and send Buffalo -- which gave up two interceptions and four unanswered TDs in the fourth quarter -- running for the bus with a 5-11 record.
"I was glad to come in and get a win and get some momentum for next week," said Hammel, whose 8-8 Gladiators will face the Arizona Rattlers in the playoff opener.
Hammel, who relieved Jay McDonagh, completed 11 of 14 passes for 138 yards. After his first TD pass, in the third quarter to Sean Riley, Buffalo countered with another Bees-to-Jackson score and still led, 38-27, at quarter's end.
But Hammel was on a roll in the fourth quarter. He hit Mike Horacek for a score, got the ball back on Jeroid Johnson's interception, and found Horacek again to take the lead for good at 41-38.
Vegas' T.J. Hill intercepted a Bees pass in the end zone and Hammel quickly threw another score to Sedrick Robinson. Then, after Buffalo fumbled away a kickoff on the 1-yard line, Hammel ran in for the final score.
Bees completed 20 of 37 passes for 232 yards. Jackson gained 365 all-purpose yards, including a team-record 216 on kick returns. JoJo Polk made eight tackles and finished the season with a team record 86.5.