Rampage Get Back into the Win Column
In the only Thursday night game on the entire Arena Football League schedule this year, Grand Rapids (3-5) took the lead early and held off a late rally by the Blaze to snap a three-game losing streak. It was the first ever meeting between the Rampage and the expansion Blaze (3-5).
The Rampage had a total of six turnovers in the game. They recorded two interceptions in the first quarter and two more in the second quarter, which resulted in 24 points for Grand Rapids.
Rampage WR/DB Josh Bush scored the team’s first touchdown of the game on a 16-yard pass from Chad Salisbury. Bush then proceeded to run the length of the field and handed the ball to a fan sitting in the stands. In the second quarter, Bush intercepted a pass from Blaze quarterback Jason Gesser. Once again, he ran over to the same spot in the stands and handed the ball to another fan. What was up with that?
"That’s just a couple of guys who I know," Bush said after the game. "They’ve really been on my side. They’ve really been loyal fans to me, so I had to give them each a ball."
Trailing 38-21 at halftime, the Blaze attempted 4 onside kicks in the second half of the game. All of them were recovered by Grand Rapids.
"The guys knew that, in order to keep pace with the rest of the American Conference, this was a must-win for us," said Rampage head coach Sparky McEwen. "We game planned for (Steve) Videtich, the (Utah) kicker. It was really important that we came in and were prepared for him. He’s highly known in this league for his onside kicks and we knew coming in that we were going to see four or five. We worked hard this week, we put the extra time in and the guys executed."
As the fourth quarter began, Grand Rapids was up 52-28 and it looked like everything was going their way. The Rampage then intercepted their fifth pass of the game. This time it was WR/DB Timon Marshall who recovered the ball near the goal line as Gesser’s pass bounced off the nets. He brought the ball out to the 3-yard line, but fumbled as he was being tackled. WR/LB Tom Pace of the Blaze recovered the ball. Utah scored a touchdown one play later on a three-yard run by FB/LB Kevin Clemens, making the score 52-35.
With just over a minute to play, and trailing by 10 points, the Blaze tried one last onside kick, but it was recovered by the Rampage at the Utah 12-yard line. Grand Rapids then ran out the clock to preserve the win, even though Utah had outscored Grand Rapids 21-7 in the fourth quarter.
The Rampage had better not get too used to home cooking, however, since their next two games will also be on the road, at Chicago on March 26 and at New York on April 1.
Rampage quarterback Chad Salisbury was named Offensive Player of the Game. He completed 19 of 30 passes for 231 yards, six touchdowns and had one interception. WR/DB Josh Bush caught just three passes for 36 yards, but all three were touchdowns. He also had an interception and was named Defensive Player of the Game as well as the Ironman of the Game.
Next Home Game
The Rampage will return to the Van Andel Arena on Saturday, April 8 for a 7:30 game against the defending ArenaBowl champion Colorado Crush. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Net.
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.”