May 14, 2013

Rampage's season finishes on an upswing

Chris Whitfield

— Georgia Rampage quarterback Joel Statham, a former Murray County High School standout, doesn’t know if Monday night’s season finale for Dalton’s Ultimate Indoor Football team will be his last in a football uniform.

If it was, he went out with a bang.

Statham tossed seven touchdown passes and the Rampage closed out their second season in franchise history — and their first in Dalton — with a 54-22 victory over the Chattahoochee Valley Vipers at the trade center.

“I highly doubt it,” Statham said when asked if he would return to the team next season. “I am getting too old for this stuff. We will see what happens between now and then. It could be that things change, but I want to help coach my little brother.”

Statham’s brother, Nich Bartley, will be a senior next school year at Christian Heritage, where he plays football, basketball and baseball.

Against the Vipers, Statham didn’t appear too old, hooking up four times for scores with Jeff Phillips as the Rampage led 20-8 at the end of the first quarter and were never threatened. The victory over the Vipers, who do not belong to a league, gave the Rampage a season record of 3-5. The game counted in the UIFL standings, but the Rampage were eliminated from playoff contention with a quadruple-overtime loss to the Missouri Monsters on April 29.

“This was a season of a lot of improving,” Rampage coach Mark Bramblett said. “If we make seven or eight plays here and there, we could easily be 6-2 or 7-1 on the year and headed to the playoffs. We have to work on some things, but the excitement was there all season and you could tell that we were right in the mix. The big thing as we move forward was getting that last win.”

Statham and the offense were certainly noticeable in that “last win,” but it was powered more by the defense, which held the Vipers scoreless in the second half. The Rampage scored 20 unanswered points in that half.

If the game is Statham’s last, he went out with no regrets and enjoyed his season with the team.

“I love the game of football,” said Statham, who played collegiately at Maryland and Carson-Newman. “(Indoor) is an exciting brand of football and a lot quicker, and it was great to learn the new formations and the speed of the game. It increased my football knowledge, and that is always a good thing and it is always good to learn new things.”

Statham said he was proud of bringing a new sport to the area and that the ownership of the Rampage is on the right path to success.

“A lot of what they do have is the will to have and build a good team,” Statham said. “They have the right people running things, and it is just a matter of building it up from here. They have started off with a solid foundation, and hopefully they can continue to build the fanbase.”

Bramblett certainly has hopes for growth.

“This is the smallest arena in the league, and it would be nice to have it filled up every time we come on the field,” Bramblett said.

“The biggest lesson for me is to pay a little more attention to the smaller details. It is a totally different game from outdoor football, and this was the first year that I coached indoor football as well.

“But by competing against teams with a little more experience in the league and seeing how they do things and how they prepare, we will come back next year with a good solid plan to keep growing the team and win more ballgames.”