April 4, 2014

First win proves elusive

Rampage give up big points again; now 0-3

The Georgia Rampage needed its defense to make one stop Thursday and give the offense a chance to win.

That stop never came, and the Florida Marine Raiders added to the Rampage’s early troubles in the 2014 X-League season.

The visiting Raiders won 55-27 at the trade center to drop the Rampage, Dalton’s professional indoor football team, to 0-3.

“We’re struggling for an identity,” Rampage coach Mark Bramblett said, “and I think we took a step backwards instead of forward.”

The Raiders (2-0), who are from Lakeland, Fla., led 41-27 and had possession entering the game’s final minute, when the “X-Bonus” takes effect and all points are doubled. With a defensive stop, which would normally earn one point, the Rampage would have then been able to score and complete a dramatic comeback similar to one they fell victim to in the season opener. The Alabama Outlawz erased a 13-point deficit in the last minute to beat the Rampage 44-43 last month at the trade center.

Instead of a comeback for the Rampage, though, Raiders quarterback Chris Griffin connected with Kendrick Stewart for a 34-yard touchdown on second down that ended the home crowd’s hopes for a rally.

“They failed to run the coverage like it was called,” Bramblett said. “Defense has been phenomenal for us all year, but tonight we had breakdowns.”

The Rampage spent much of the game trying to catch up. After Stewart won the “X-Dash,” a race to the end zone with the ball to begin the game, the Raiders led 2-0. The Rampage scored on the first play from scrimmage as Demarcus Simons passed to Michael Figgers for a 45-yard score. The Rampage led 6-2 after failing to convert the two-point try, a recurring event after the team’s touchdowns.

Levi Raines scored from a yard away with 10:12 left to put the Raiders back in front. Two turnovers on downs for the Rampage sandwiched the first touchdown pass for Griffin, to Reggie Ellis, for a 17-6 Raiders lead when the first quarter ended. Raines scored again for a 23-6 lead, and a third straight Rampage turnover made it 24-6 and ended Simons’ day at quarterback in favor of Telford Chatman.

“We’re a young team with a lot of guys new to playing indoors,” Raiders coach Michael Mink said. “Overall, it was a good performance for us.”

After the Rampage’s defense forced a turnover on downs, the home side’s offense worked its way inside the 5-yard line hoping to end the half with a score. However, Raiders defensive back Matt Speed intercepted Chatman’s pass into the end zone and returned it for a score with 46 seconds left before halftime. The Raiders then led 33-7 — all defensive scores are worth eight points.

“If we score there and hold them to end the second half,” Bramblett said, “then we’re right back in it.”

The Rampage closed the gap to 33-13 at halftime with a 2-yard scoring connection from Chatman to Figgers. The Raiders led 41-20 entering the fourth quarter after the teams traded touchdowns and defensive stops in the third. The Rampage made it 41-27 after a fumble recovery and Chatman’s 8-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Dial with 5:46 left.

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