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December 7, 2012

Rampage will kick off 2013 season at home

The Georgia Rampage found a home in Dalton and the trade center this summer, then added players and coaches to the offseason roster this fall.

Now the Ultimate Indoor Football League franchise has a few dates to circle on the 2013 calendar.

The Rampage have released the schedule for their first season in Dalton after functioning as a full-time travel squad last season, and they’ll kick off the year by hosting the Lakeland (Fla.) Raiders on March 4. It’s a Monday night matchup as all of the Rampage’s home games will be.

“I love the schedule,” said Kacee Smith, the team’s general manager and a co-owner, along with Amer Awad. “I like that we start at home, I like that we end (the regular season) at home and I like that that we get our longest trips out of the way in Weeks 2 and 3.”

The Rampage follows the opener with treks to Florida and Texas to take on the Miami Sting on March 10 and the Corpus Christi Fury, but they’ll return for three straight games at the trade center. Those matchups will be against the Missouri Monsters (March 25), Sarasota (Fla.) Thunder (April 1) and the Fury (April 8).

“I hope everyone gets to see us in that first game and get a taste of it, then keep up with us the next two weeks before we have that little homestretch,” Smith said.

In addition to league games, the Rampage are expected to play a non-UIFL matchup at home on May 13. That opponent has not been determined.

A combination of the Rampage’s status as a second-year franchise, the team’s geographic isolation — of the league’s remaining teams, four are located in Florida, while the others are in Missouri and Texas — and some offseason shakeup of the UIFL’s membership means there aren’t yet any easily discernible rivalries for Dalton’s team.

While no one will have the chance to take on the Cincinnati Comm-andos, who won the past three UIFL championships but will not play in 2013, Smith said he’s looking forward to the Rampage’s April 27 road game against the Florida Tarpons. That team was undefeated last season before losing to Cincinnati in the league championship game.

But ultimately, he believes fans will be won over by the level of talent on the field in any given game, as several names on the roster might be recognizable for their college football success. And Smith has already learned firsthand that some players are good enough to bump up to another team and league.

This week the Rampage’s Darius Pettigrew, who played at the University of West Georgia and has four years of pro indoor football experience, was picked up by the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena Football League.

“At any given moment these players could be gone to a higher level,” Smith said. “But that’s what we’re for. It’s good for us and it’s good for them.”

Smith said the league is also encouraging teams to play preseason exhibitions, and he’d like to have one at the trade center to give fans an additional chance to see what indoor football is about.

In addition, Smith said he hopes to turn the start of the team’s training camp on Feb. 15 into a community event with a festival atmosphere as Rampage players take their first major steps toward the season. Although the team has more than 20 players signed to its offseason roster — and some five to 10 more invited to camp, where up to 40 players are allowed to participate — they won’t be able to do much work as a group until February because of league restrictions.

“We’re allowed to do two mini-camps where we bring in the guys for a day or two,” Smith said. “Other than that, there’s no organized practice or anything until Feb. 15 when camp starts. We’ll start hard and heavy and probably do two-a-days or three-a-days.”

What Smith expects will be the team’s final offseason tryouts are set for 11:15 a.m. Saturday at DI Sports Training in Chattanooga. The Ram-page will hold those workouts in conjunction with the Kentucky Drillers of the Continental Indoor Football League.

The fee to try out is $65 the day of the event, and a portion of the proceeds raised from tryout fees will be donated to the City of Refuge Dalton charity to help with its Christmas expenses.

In addition, the Rampage will hold auditions for its dance team for women ages 18 and older at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Bradley Well-ness Center.

To learn more about either tryout or purchase tickets, visit georgiarampage.com. The complete league schedule is available at uiflfootball.com.

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