February 26, 2013

Rampage talking about new beginnings

Preseason game set for today

Devin Golden

— As good as the Georgia Rampage players are at endearing themselves to local residents, co-owner Kacee Smith hopes that will bring more people to today’s game and future games this season.

Some of the Dalton indoor football franchise’s main faces were at Oakwood Cafe Monday evening advertising the team’s 2013 regular season, and also today’s preseason game at home against the Georgia Panthers. The preseason game begins at 7:15 p.m. at the trade center and is the precursor to the Rampage’s 11-game Ultimate Indoor Football League season, which begins Monday against the Lakeland (Fla.) Raiders.

Smith has been impressed with the players’ ability to speak in public.

“On my Facebook, I keep getting all these picture notifications,” Smith said. “They (the players) are not even wearing Rampage shirts. I’m like, ‘You have to be going up to people and ... are saying that you play for the Rampage and want your picture taken.’”

At the downtown Dalton restaurant, players were handing out information regarding seating charts and schedules to customers.

They did enough to inform at least one person, Dalton resident Jerry Puckett, who didn’t know anything about the team.

“We got to talking and what I was telling them was I think it’s awesome,” Puckett said.

“They really need to get stuff in this area, anything in the trade center and anything that can pull people in.”

Puckett is a prime example that some people don’t hear about the Rampage through mainstream media, offensive lineman Lamond Williams said.

“Fliers and billboards only go so far,” Williams said. “We have to get out and talk to people. I’m all for that.”

Benny Middleton, another Dalton resident, and Chip Young, a 17-year-old Dalton High School senior and former football player, each said the players’ efforts worked.

“We probably will (go),” Middleton said. “We live close to the trade center and will check it out tomorrow.”

In today’s game, 2002 Murray County High graduate Joel Statham will start as the Rampage’s quarterback. He is the only local player on the Rampage’s current 24-man roster. Another local player was on the roster Smith sent The Daily Citizen last Wednesday but is no longer on the team, Smith said.

Statham was one of the original six or seven who signed last fall. Some of the players — like defensive lineman Samuel Chester and offensive lineman  Robert Stephens — signed anywhere from two weeks ago to last December. Being less than 24 hours away from playing an actual opponent brings with it a ton of excitement.

“We’re just like, ‘We’re playing (today),’” Chester said. “Man, we just can’t wait until the game.”

Said defensive back Akeem Scruggs, “Going through practices and practices and more practices, it’s a longer season.”

When Smith and fellow co-owner Amer Awad announced last August the franchise would move to Dalton, it was the same day as Dalton State College’s announcement of Tony Ingle as the Roadrunners new men’s basketball coach. While Dalton State offered the collegiate athletics the area had been missing, the Rampage filled the professional void.

“This is something new that this town had never had before,” Chester said. “It needed something.”

But in between that announcement and today’s game, quite a bit of marketing went into the project. Smith described the Northwest Georgia area as “one of the trickiest markets” he’s dealt with.

“We’re just trying to figure out how to get the word out,” he said.

And Monday was the last chance before everyone sees how much the area takes to its new football team.

“The scary thing is there’s people who don’t know,” Smith said. “It’s just tough to get it going. ... I think (today) will be a good indication and I think it’ll also help get it out a bit more.”