March 1, 2014

X-citement for X-League

Changes coming as Rampage begin second year in Dalton

Who will be the first to win the “X-dash?” Which team will benefit first from the “X-spot” or “X-bonus?”

Those questions are yet to be answered, but one thing is set. The Georgia Rampage and the city of Dalton are billed high on the casting sheet for the first X-League game.

Dalton’s indoor professional football team will host the new league’s inaugural game at 7 p.m. Monday in the trade center as the Alabama Outlawz visit from Birmingham. All eyes around the five-team league will be centered on the two teams, the city and all the new scoring quirks added in to spice up an already-explosive brand of football.

“I wanted the first game,” said Rampage owner Kacee Smith, who also is the league president and one of the founders. “I try to do a fair job of balancing the league operations and team operations. I don’t want anyone to say we have favoritism. I thought it’d be cool for our fans in Dalton to come to the game and witness history. If all goes as planned, I’d like to walk away from the game winning and also be the first team to win a game in the league.”

The Rampage finished 3-5 in the Ultimate Indoor Football League a season ago, the first calling Dalton its home. For the second year in the Carpet Capital, the Rampage hope to grow their fanbase with both continuity and fresh ideas, and those goals start with Monday’s groundbreaking X-dash. 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).

“I know Kacee worked diligently for us to host (the first one),” Rampage coach Mark Bramblett said. “He was one of the front-runners making this league happen. They hope with the current business model they have to make this last for years.”

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.

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.

“One thing I’d encourage them to do is grab a gameday program because we have them all listed out,” Smith said. “In the preseason game, we experimented with them. ... The things we did in the preseason game went over well. A lot of the fans thought it was great. We didn’t use the X-spot and X-bonus in the preseason game. We’ll be doing that from here on out.”

Some of the players on the current 23-man roster are veterans of the franchise. 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.

Smith previously said the staff had “a couple areas circled” to add players before the regular season started. Bramblett said the offensive and defensive lines have been improved since the end of training camp. Bobby Johnson, Ray Robinson and Domineek King join Love on the offensive line. King is the most recent addition for the team. Prentice Hollins and Allen Craine join Williams on the defensive line with Craine switching from linebacker to one of the end spots.

“That’s probably the smartest thing we’ve done so far as a franchise,” Smith said of the change. “He’s a handful coming off the line.”

Steven Stone and Tevin Pullum are listed at linebacker, which will be easier to play this season. Last year, in the UIFL, linebackers were restricted in how deep or wide they could play zone coverage. There also were blitz restrictons for linebackers. There aren’t any restrictions in the X-League.

The team added former Georgia Tech player Jerrard Turrant as a defensive back, along with Rother Heard.

“We’re tickled to death to get a player like (Turrant) who fell in our lap,” Bramblett said. “We went from being solid to now one of the best defensive backfields in the league.”

On offense, Telford Chatman will play quarterback with Demarcus Simons acting as a hybrid between quarterback and wide receiver. Chatman has eight years of indoor football experience, most recently with the X-League’s Raiders. Simons most recently played with the Columbia (S.C.) Enforcers and played college ball for Benedict College, also in South Carolina. Bramblett said Chatman will get “95 percent of the snaps” and Simons will be used at quarterback “every now and then.

“Telford is more of a pocket passer,” Bramblett added. “... Demarcus is more of a shifty runner. If he has to run, it’ll be something the defenses have trouble bringing him down.”

Joining Simons and Dial at wideout are Travis Ledbetter, Erik Jones and Michael Figgars. Fred Brown and Anthony London are listed at fullback.

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