By Devin Golden
Technically, a loss today wouldn’t kill the Georgia Rampage’s hopes of making the Ultimate Indoor Football League playoffs.
But it could cripple them.
The Rampage (2-3) travel to Estero, Fla., for a 7 p.m. kickoff against the Florida Tarpons (2-1) with both teams competing for a third-place finish and the final spot in the postseason, which starts next month.
The Tarpons beat the Missouri Monsters (2-3) 43-20 on Sunday. The Tarpons split the series with the Lakeland (Fla.) Raiders, with whom they’re tied for second in the UIFL standings. With a win, the Rampage (2-3) will move into a tie with the Tarpons for at least third place — possibly second — and hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.
A loss is all but a postseason death sentence for the Rampage because the Tarpons would be two games ahead in the standings while holding the tiebreaker. The Tarpons would need to lose all four of their remaining games — three are against non-UIFL teams — and the Rampage would have to win their final two to finish ahead of Florida in the standings.
Mistakes popped up toward the end of the Rampage’s 44-36 home loss to the Corpus Christi (Texas) Fury (4-0) on April 8. Trailing by two in the fourth quarter, the Rampage fumbled a snap and the Fury were soon up by 10. The Fury stretched their lead to 16 points a few minutes later and held on to win.
“If we had won last week then we’d have some breathing room,” Rampage coach Mark Bramblett said. “We have some of the best athletes in the league, but several mistakes have cost us.”
Tonight’s contest is the first of two straight road games for the Rampage, who play the Monsters Saturday, April 27, in St. Charles, Mo. The Rampage finish the season May 14 at home against the Chattahoochee Valley Vipers, a non-UIFL team. The game will still count toward league standings.
Bramblett believes his team needs a three-game winning streak to safely assume the playoffs are a reality.
“We’re thinking we have to win out and even get some help,” he said.
As they look for their first road win of the season, the Rampage welcome back defensive back Akeem Scruggs, who will match up against what Bramblett described as a “tall and physical” Tarpons receiving group.
Bramblett is optimistic about what might happen up front defensively.
“I think our defensive line will get good pressure,” he said. “The Tarpons have been mistake prone as of late.”
This is the first game for the Rampage since wide receiver Dallas Walker signed a three-year contract with the NFL’s San Diego Chargers. Walker played in two games for the Rampage but sat out the others while preparing for NFL workouts.
No other roster changes have been ann-ounced since the loss to the Fury.