Rampage Come Up Short vs. Blaze
In a game that they really needed to win, the Grand Rapids Rampage started out flat and struggled on offense for most of the game. They finally got it together in the fourth quarter but came up on the short end of a 63-56 loss to the visiting Utah Blaze.
After the Rampage tied the score at 7-7 early in the first quarter, the Blaze scored 28 unanswered points before Grand Rapids ever made it into the end zone again. Several times during the first half, Rampage quarterback James MacPherson had trouble with the snap from center. One lose ball was picked up by Utah linebacker Kelvin Morris, who ran the ball in for an easy touchdown from four yards out. Grand Rapids was behind 42-14 at halftime.
The two teams traded scores throughout the third quarter but Grand Rapids was remained down by at least 21 points. Then, in the fourth quarter, things finally began to go Grand Rapids’ way. Early in the final quarter, the Rampage defense forced the Blaze to turn the ball over on downs. Wide receiver Kenny Higgins finished the ensuing Rampage drive with a one-yard touchdown run, bringing Grand Rapids to within 14 points of Utah.
On the next Utah dive, Rampage linebacker Jermaine Lewis intercepted a pass in the end zone and brought it out to the five-yard line. From there, MacPherson capped off the drive by scrambling four yards for a touchdown to cut the Utah lead to just seven points.
The Blaze answered with a touchdown grab by wide receiver J.J. KcKelvey and Utah was back up by 14. With under a minute to play, MacPherson scored his second rushing touchdown of the game, scrambling 15 yards to the end zone with just 26 seconds remaining on the clock. Grand Rapids attempted an onside kick, but the ball was recovered by the Blaze, who ran out the clock to preserve the win.
For Grand Rapids, quarterback James MacPherson completed 24 of 33 passes for 295 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for two scores. Wide receiver Cole Magner caught nine passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns.
After the game, Rampage head coach Steve Thonn talked about the effort his team gave.
“To come out and play like that (in the first half) it was very disappointing,” Thonn said. “We just shot ourselves in the foot and put ourselves in a deep hole. There were some great things in the second half, the effort was great and we almost had a chance to win the game, but the bottom line is we put ourselves too far a the hole. We’ve got to win games.”
With just three games left in the regular season, Grand Rapids needs to put together a couple of wins if it hopes to have any chance of making the playoffs, something the team has not done since 2003.
The Rampage (3-10) will play their final home game of the season next Saturday night when they host the Colorado Crush at the Van Andel Arena. Kickoff is set for 7:00. After that, Grand Rapids will be on the road for the final two weeks of the regular season. First they will travel to Ohio to take on the Columbus Destroyers (June 14) and then to Louisiana for the regular season finale against the New Orleans VooDoo (June 21). The game against the Columbus Destroyers will be available over the Internet on AFL Net.