When fans watch the Georgia Rampage’s preseason game Satur-day at the trade center, they’ll recognize some returning faces for Dal-ton’s professional indoor football team.
Team owner Kacee Smith and head coach Mark Bramblett both appreciate that continuity, although for different reasons.
The Rampage host the Tifton-based Georgia Firebirds at 7 p.m. in preparation for the regular season, which starts next month. Tickets for Saturday’s game range from $9 to $20. Tickets for the preseason game and the regular season — both single-game tickets and season passes — are available on the team’s website, garampage.com.
After playing last season in the Ultimate Indoor Football League and finishing 3-5, the Rampage are now in the five-team X-League, a new league for which Smith is serving as president.
Some of the players on Saturday’s 25-man roster are veterans of the franchise. Notable returnees include offensive lineman Chris Love, wide receiver C.J. Dial, defensive end Lamond Williams, linebacker Albert “Bam Bam” Catron and defensive backs Akeen Scruggs, Patches Burgess and Aldrickious Shumate.
“I think you want the fans to be able to recognize some of the guys on the field from the year before,” Smith said. “Our fans from Dalton do a good job following these guys on Facebook and Twitter all year. Now that they’re back in town, these fans have been meeting with them.”
From Bramblett’s perspective, it’s a positive having players who you know and know you.
“I know what they’ll bring to the table,” he said. “The difference between last year and this year is their growth. They’re able to step up into that leadership role. “Last year, there were no returners or veterans of the team.
“Now we (have that). ... They are self-correcting themselves or answering questions for new guys coming into the team.”
There are personnel changes, though. Joel Statham a 2000 graduate of Murray County High School, played quarterback last season but chose not to return. Now the Rampage turn to Telford Chatman, who most recently played for the UIFL’s Lakeland (Fla.) Raiders, who are now the X-League’s Florida Marine Raiders. Chatman has eight years of indoor football league experience.
Other new additions are: nose guards Prentice Hollins and Bobby Johnson; defensive end/linebacker Allen Craine; linebackers Steven Stone and Travis Ledbetter; defensive back Rother Heard; wide receivers Michael Figgars, Erik Jones, Stephen Osadolor and Demarcus Simons; running backs Fred Brown and Anthony London; and offensive linemen D.J. Foster, Tevin Keith, Domineek King and Ray Robinson.
“Nothing against our guys from last year, but I think we’ve added a lot more depth, especially on our offensive and defensive lines,” Bramblett said. “We only brought one back from our defensive line and one from our offensive line. Our offensive line hurt us for several games last year, especially early on.”
The new league affiliation affected roster strategy as well. Teams are more inclined to sign outdoor-style players, Smith said, because of rule changes aiding defenses and making life tougher for passing attacks.
In the UIFL, teams couldn’t have multiple backs lined up behind the quarterback. In the X-League, teams can use the I formation or split back sets. In the UIFL, teams were allowed to have two wide receivers in motion toward the line of scrimmage before the snap, but the X-League only allows one. In the UIFL, linebackers were restricted in how wide and how deep they could cover in zone schemes. In the X-League, there aren’t any restrictions.
Bramblett said the team called a running play “maybe three times a game” last year. The split will still favor pass plays, but not as heavily.
“With us, because of what we’ve added running back-wise, it may be more of an 85-15 split,” Bramblett said. “We’ll run the ball a lot more.”
Smith said the staff has “a couple areas circled” to add players before the regular season starts March 3 as the Alabama Outlawz visit the trade center. The Rampage will host games April 3 (Florida Marine Raiders), April 19 (St. Louis Attack) and May 12 (Pennsylvania Steam). The Rampage will play road games March 30 (Attack), April 25 (Steam), May 17 (Marine Raiders) and May 23 (Outlawz).
There also are scoring tweaks and an innovative way to begin the games. The “X-dash” is a replacement for the customary pregame coin toss to decide which team receives possession of the ball first. One player from each team will start the same distance apart from midfield, where the ball is, and will race and fight to gain possession. The one-on-one competition was used in the now-defunct XFL, a football league created by World Wrestling Entertainment owner Vince McMahon.
Other additions are the “X-bonus” and “X-spot.” The X-bonus makes all scores in the final minute of each half worth double points. The X-spot is a 6-foot wide, 6-foot long box in the end zone, and if a receiver catches a touchdown pass in the spot at any point during the game, the scoring team earns two extra points.
Other scoring tweaks are: eight points for defensive touchdowns, four points for field goals via a drop kick, three points for post-touchdown conversions from the 25-yard line, two points for extra points via a drop kick and one point for all defensive stops.