By Devin Golden
A week ago, the Georgia Rampage saved their season.
Today’s game is just as important, even if it isn’t against the originally scheduled opponent.
The Rampage kick off against the Georgia Riverdogs at 7:15 p.m. at the trade center in Dalton.
Despite the visiting team — the Riverdogs are from Douglas County — not being in the Ultimate Indoor Football League, Rampage co-owner Kacee Smith said the result still will count toward league standings.
It will be the third home game so far this season and will mark the halfway point with only four additional games remaining on the Rampage’s 2013 regular season schedule.
The Rampage originally were set to face the Sarasota (Fla.) Thunder today. In their first and only game, the Thunder lost 78-0 against the Lakeland (Fla.) Raiders, who beat the Rampage 74-25 in the season opener. According to the UIFL’s website, the Thunder’s second game — March 18 against the Florida Tarpons — was rescheduled for a date to be determined.
Then last week’s game with the Corpus Christi (Texas) Fury was canceled for financial reasons, said Smith, who then found a new opponent.
“I want to give the fans a good game,” Smith said. “A nightmare would be a cancelation, but a second nightmare would be blowing someone out 100-0.”
He landed on the Riverdogs, who compete in the National Developmental Football League with the Georgia Panthers, the Rampage’s preseason opponents. The game will count toward league standings, and the Rampage (1-2) have a chance to enter the mix for a playoff spot.
The top three teams in the six-team league reach the postseason — the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds play for the chance to face the No. 1 seed in the championship round. Corpus Christi, which edged the Rampage 58-47 two weeks ago, is 2-0 and in first place. The Tarpons (1-0) and Raiders (2-1) are in second and third, followed by the Rampage.
Rampage wide receiver Jeff Phillips believes this game has the same importance as last week’s 25-18 win against the Missouri Monsters (0-2).
“It’s the same thing,” he said. “Losing keeps us below .500 and a win gives us momentum going into the rematch with Corpus Christi next week.”
The Rampage’s defense held the Monsters to just 119 yards of offense, while the Rampage totaled 229 yards but turned the ball over four times.
“The mistakes we made on offense came back last week,” Rampage coach Mark Bramblett said. “This whole week has just been on us working on those specialty situations. We moved the ball down the field well I thought, but it got tougher when we got in close.”
On defense, Manny Rodriguez had seven tackles plus an interception and Patches Burgess picked off two passes. Quarterback Joel Statham was 19 of 34 while accounting for all 213 of the passing yards; he threw three touchdowns but as many interceptions.
“It’s make or break for a number of players,” Bramblett said. “I don’t want to put pressure on anyone. Joel has to come down on his interceptions. Our receivers have to fight for the ball. Our DBs have stopped making mistakes, but we need to continue cutting down on those.”
Wide receivers Dallas Walker (six receptions, 88 yards, one touchdown), C.J. Dial (six catches, 56 yards, one touchdown) and Phillips (six catches, 50 yards, one touchdown) each had big days for the Rampage. The Rampage might be missing multiple people at the position, though.
Walker won’t play — he will participate in a followup NFL tryout this week in Dallas — and Javares Taylor (thigh bruise) and Sidney Haynes (achilles) both could be out due to injury. The team signed Corey Briton, an Atlanta area native and former Corpus Christi Fury receiver, to fill some holes.
“He’ll probably finish out the season with us,” Smith said.