By Devin Golden
Georgia Rampage coach Mark Bramblett has more than one reason for believing today’s game is important.
Aside from giving the home crowd a happy ending, a win would also keep the team’s playoff hopes from dwindling.
The Rampage kick off at 7:15 tonight at the trade center against the Missouri Monsters. It is the third game of the Rampage’s 2013 Ultimate Indoor Football League season, and both teams will be looking for their first win this year.
“I feel like it’s a big-time win for us if we win this game right here,” said wide receiver C.J. Dial, who had five receptions for 45 yards and a touchdown in last Sunday’s 58-47 loss to the Fury in Corpus Christi, Texas. “If we can win this one, then I think it turns the season around. I think in the last game we played we showed what we are capable of doing. I think we’re ready to stretch out and make a run for the championship.”
The top three teams at the end of the regular season advance to the playoffs, where the No. 2 seed hosts the No. 3 seed and the winner plays the No. 1 seed for the UIFL championship. Rampage coach Mark Bramblett knows each of the next seven games is vital.
“This is a big game; the rest are big games,” he said. “If we win the rest of our games, then I’m confident we’ll get the No. 2 seed.”
In a season-opening 74-25 loss to the visiting Lakeland (Fla.) Raiders — the only team the Rampage won’t play a second time during the regular season — the Rampage turned the ball over seven times. In the road loss to the Fury, they only committed two turnovers.
Add in blown coverages, and the team still isn’t as good as Bramblett believes it could be.
“If you take away those, then we win by 30 points,” he said of the most recent defeat. “It’s more so our guys recognizing when the other team will run pick routes and our defenders have to switch. ... That’s stuff we have to correct, and it’s mental mistakes. It’s stuff the guys know, and I’m not sure if it’s the speed of the game or what, but it’s stuff we have to erase.”
After the Monsters (0-1) lost 70-34 at home two weeks ago to the Fury, the team added defensive lineman Claude Wroten, a 2006 third-round draft pick for the St. Louis Rams, and defensive back Randall Burden, a 2011 University of Kentucky graduate. Bramblett said the Monsters are an improved team, but Rampage quarterback/wide receiver Javares Taylor still believes the home team “must win” this one.
“Just because we’re trying to bring the fans our to support and winning at home will rekindle that support,” said Taylor, who had a rushing touchdown against the Fury.
The Rampage also made roster changes between their first two games and had more shakeups this week. The team released 2009 Auburn graduate and running back Brad Lester but welcomed back defensive back Darius Pettigrew, who was signed last fall before signing with the Philadelphia Soul. He recently was released by that Arena Football League franchise.
The loss to the Raiders included three fumbled snaps. The Rampage have since signed center Tino Roland, who played against the Fury, and offensive lineman Josh Pugh, who should be ready for game action today.
Bramblett said Roland was “an improvement” on snaps.
But it wasn’t enough. Trailing 50-47 in the final minutes, Rampage quarterback Joel Statham threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Now the team is in a desperate situation, where another loss could prove deadly on more than one front.
“First, we want to get our first win and we’d like to get it in front of our home fans,” Bramblett said. “No. 2, it keeps us in the playoff hunt. No. 3, it helps build our fan base. If we lose another game, then fans and potential sponsors may give up on us, and we can’t have that.”