Grand Rapids wins "One for the Road"
With the score tied 7-7 in the first quarter, the Rush tried an onside kick, but Rampage WR/LB Clarence Coleman recovered the ball on the Chicago 14-yard line. Grand Rapids went on to score 10 unanswered points and led 17-7 at the end of the first quarter. The Rampage increased their lead to 24-12 at halftime.
After shutting out the Rush in the third quarter, the Rampage had a commanding 26-point lead and led Chicago 38-12 going into the fourth quarter. That’s when the Rush began to make a comeback. Two quick Chicago touchdowns at the start of the fourth quarter trimmed the Rampage lead to 38-26, but Grand Rapids countered with a pair of Peter Martinez field goals and a touchdown run by FB/LB Travis Reese in the fourth quarter to hold off the Rush and preserve the win. Chicago actually out scored Grand Rapids 28-27 in the second half, but it was too little, too late for the Rush.
"We knew that a Hohensee coached team is not going to quit," said McEwen. "We knew they were going to fight us all the way to the end. We had one extra day of work (this week) where we just worked on onside kicks. I told the guys to expect five or six onside kicks, so we were prepared for that kind of ending."
As it turned out, the extra practice paid off. Chicago attempted five onside kicks in the game and the Rampage recovered all but one of them.
Grand Rapids has now won two of their last three games with one game remaining on the season. It is clear that Coach McEwen still has a ways to go in rebuilding this team to the glory days of winning the ArenaBowl in 2001. Perhaps next year, he will have the Rampage poised to post a winning record and even compete for a spot in the playoffs.
The Keys to Victory
You could credit Rampage quarterback Michael Bishop for his 15 completions on 26 passing attempts for 169 yards and four touchdowns that he had Sunday on his 29th birthday as a reason for the win in Chicago. Or you could point to the play of the Defensive Player of the Game, Rampage DS Damon Mason, who had several pass breakups and an interception in the game. But you also have to give credit to NBC for once again pulling the Rampage game from their broadcast schedule. Grand Rapids has never won a game that was televised on NBC and this was the second game this season that one of their games was pulled from the schedule. The other game was back on February 27 against the Columbus Destroyers. Grand Rapids won that game, too, 66-57.
Other Game Awards
Rampage FB/LB Chris Avery was named Ironman of the Game and Chicago OS C. J. Johnson was named Offensive Player of the Game.
Meeting a Legend
This was my first trip to Chicago to cover a Rampage game. I arrived at the All State Arena early so I could familiarize myself with the place prior to the start of the game. As I wandered through the bowels of the arena, I saw him. A living AFL legend. Chicago Rush head coach Mike Hohensee. The man who threw the first touchdown pass in AFL history during the league’s first game on June 19, 1987 as the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Gladiators. Back then, the league was made up of only four teams and the regular season consisted of just six games. There were so many questions I wanted to ask him, "What was it like playing in the early days of the league?" "Did you ever envision the league achieving the kind of success that it has?" "What was it like to play in the first ArenaBowl?" I shook his hand and introduced myself. Then I asked him the one burning question that had consumed me from the moment I walked into the arena, "Can you tell me where the Rampage locker room is?" He was very nice and directed me right where I needed to go. Wow, what a Rush!
The Rampage take on the Los Angeles Avengers (10-5) this Saturday night. Kickoff is set for 7:30 and the game is scheduled to be televised live on Fox Sports Detroit.
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.”