Rampage Come Up One Yard Short in OT
The Rampage started slowly, falling behind 10-0 early and at the end of the first quarter the score was 10-7. With one minute to go in the first half, Grand Rapids trailed 31-20. What followed was the most exciting sixty seconds of the first half.
FB/LB Chris Avery rushed for an 8-yard touchdown to close the gap to 31-27. Then, Grand Rapids tried an onside kick, but the ball was recovered by Arizona. That led to a Rattler touchdown and a missed extra point. Arizona then tried an onside kick of their own, which they recovered. However, the officials penalized the Rattlers for illegally touching the ball and the Rampage took possession on the Arizona seven-yard line. WR/LB Steve Smith caught a touchdown pass to make the score 37-34. Grand Rapids attempted another onside kick, but once again it was recovered by Arizona. WR/DB Randy Gatewood then caught a touchdown pass and the Rattlers were back on top by ten points. In the closing seconds, Grand Rapids missed a 49-yard field goal and the score at the half was 44-34 in favor of Arizona.
The final minute of the first half saw three onside kicks, a missed field goal, a missed extra point and two touchdowns by each team. The combined 27 points scored in that sixty-second time frame was more than the entire first quarter.
In the third quarter, Grand Rapids took control and outscored Arizona 20-10. Steve Smith led the way with a 54-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. It was the fifth one of the season, a new team record, whichresulted in the Rampage taking their first lead of the game, 48-47.
The score was tied at 54at the start of the fourth quarter. With 44 seconds left in regulation, and the score tied at 68-68, Arizona attempted the fourth onside kick of the game. The ball landed right into the hands of OL/DL Rod Manual who ran ten yards for a Rampage touchdown. It was Manual’s first touchdown of the season. As time expired, Arizona’s Randy Gatewood caught a four-yard touchdown pass to send the game into overtime tied at 75.
“We fell behind by 10 points early and had to fight, claw, and scratch to get the game back to even, which we were able to do at the end of the third and we had the possession to go ahead.” said head coach Michael Trigg. “As crazy as this sounds, when they on sided and we recovered it, all I needed my guy (Manual) to do was go down and lay on the ground because were tied. We run two plays, they burn their time outs. We run a third play in the middle, we take it down to 3 seconds and let Brian (Gowins) kick it and it’s over. It’s weird, we score and actually open up an opportunity for them to continue to get back in the game.” Unfortunately, everything is much clearer in hind sight.
Grand Rapids won the coin toss and elected to kick off. “The way that we try to play overtime, since each team get a possession, is to go ahead and let them dictate what we need to do to win,” said Trigg.
In overtime, Arizona scored first on a 27-yard pass from quarterback Sherdrick Bonner to FB/LB Bo Kelly. The score was then 82-75. The Rampage countered with an 18-yard touchdown pass of their own from quarterback Clint Dolezel to OS Terrill Shaw making the score 82-81. The Rampage decided to go for two and win the game. Arizona began to celebrate when Dolezel’s pass was incomplete in the end zone, but the Rattlers were penalized for an illegal formation. Grand Rapids second try was a run by Willis Marshall, who was stopped short of the goal line. Once again, Arizona was flagged with a penalty, this time for encroachment and Grand Rapids had one more try. Dolezel attempted a quarterback sneak but was stacked up at the line of scrimmage. He fumbled the ball forward into the end zone where it was recovered by teammate Steve Smith for the apparent win. Unfortunately, the officials ruled that Dolezel was down at the one-yard line and the game was over.
“It was a great game for the fans and all, but as a coach, losing… it’s not a lot of fun,” Trigg said.
For Grand Rapids, it was their first overtime game since a 60-59 win over Indiana in the first week of the 2001 season. Arizona won it’s second overtime game in a row, defeating Los Angeles 82-76 last week.
Arizona’s quarterback Sherdrick Bonner, 26-43 for 358 yards and 9 touchdowns, was named MVP of the game while Grand Rapids WR/LB Steve Smith, 8 catches for 97 yards and 2 touchdowns, was named the Ironman of the Game.
A Lion in the house
Before the game, Detroit Lions defensive end Robert Porcher held a private autograph session at the Van Andel Arena for Rampage season ticket holders. He also participated in the coin toss at the start of the game.
During the game, the Rampage wore special red and black jerseys. After the game, those jerseys were auctioned off with the net proceeds going to Big Brothers, Big Sisters of West Michigan. It is the second year in a row that the team has auctioned jerseys for the charitable organization.
Log Jam at the Top
Even with the loss, Grand Rapids still has one of the best records in the league. They are one game behind Tampa Bay and Los Angeles, who both have 9-3 records, and they are tied with San Jose and Orlando who have similar 8-4 records.
The Rampage will travel to the Windy City to face Central Division rival Chicago (5-7) this coming Sunday. The game is scheduled to be broadcast regionally on NBC.
Randy Snow covered the Grand Rapids Rampage of the Arena Football League for ArenaFan from 2003-2008. He also covered the Fort Wayne Fusion of arenafootball2 in 2007. From 2004-2008 and in 2010, he was a member of the Arena Football League Writer’s Association and, since 2011, has been a member of the Professional Football Researchers Association. Randy lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan but will travel just about anywhere for a football game or a great football story. He runs the web site www.theworldoffootball.com and hosts a podcast with his son, Adam, called “This Week in The World of Football.”