April 2, 2013

Catching a second (win)d

Rampage bounce back to enter playoff mix

Chris Whitfield

— Through two games of the Georgia Rampage’s inaugural season in Dalton, mistakes were made, decisions were poor and timing and familiarity were missing.

Now after four games, the team has found its rhythm.

The Rampage (2-2) took their second victory in as many games and evened their record in the Ultimate Indoor Football League on Monday night with a 58-19 win over the Georgia Riverdogs at the trade center. The Riverdogs were a replacement foe for the Rampage after the Sarasota Thunder canceled.

Even though the Riverdogs are not part of the UIFL, the game counts in the league standings and puts the Rampage in the thick of the playoff race.

“The more we work in practice, the better your instincts and your timing gets,” said wideout/defensive back C.J. Dial, who had a pair of touchdowns in the win. “It is showing on the field. I really think we can make a push to a championship.”

Quarterback Joel Statham, who has been plagued this season by interceptions as the offense has adjusted, had seven touchdown passes and was picked twice — once on a fade route in the corner of the end zone and the other on a deflection. His favorite target was Jeff Phillips, who finished with four touchdown receptions.

“There are a lot of different weapons on this team,” Dial said. “As time goes on, experience builds, and we are finally all getting in sync. We have been working to improve, but it has taken time.”

The defense, which gave up 132 points in its first two games, held an opponent under 20 points for the second straight week. The Riverdogs didn’t score their first touchdown until their last possession of the second quarter. By that time the Rampage already had a 27-6 lead, and Statham made it 33-6 at the half with a 30-yard scoring pass to Phillips.

Phillips and Statham hooked up again to start the third — this time from 9 yards out — and the Rampage were never threatened in the second half. Still, coach Mark Bramblett wasn’t pleased with the two touchdowns the Rampage surrendered in the second half.

“I am still not happy with where we are,” Bramblett said. “We should have scored a lot more points, and we are still having breakdowns on defense. I thought we looked good at times, and we had some letdowns at times. We are finally getting our timing down, but we still have a long way to go.”

Having won two in a row, the Rampage are now hoping to position for a playoff berth. The top three teams in the six-team league will advance to the playoffs with the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds facing each other for a shot at the league’s No. 1 team. Corpus Christi (Texas) will be the team’s next opponent, and the Fury are currently in first place in the league. Monday’s game at 7:15 p.m. at the trade center is a rematch. The Fury beat the Rampage 58-47 in the second game of the season.

“We are a lot more comfortable than we were two weeks ago,” Bramblett said. “We still need to be more efficient, but this was a solid win and it should help us going into next week.”