Rage head for Savvis Center and conference quarterfinal against Cincinnati
It's been 16 long weeks without a break, a regular season record of 10 wins and 4 losses, a perfect 8-0 at home, a less than perfect 2-4 on the road, a week off to regroup, and just now, says Rage Head Football Coach Mike Wyatt, "the fun really begins, but so does the pressure and the intensity. It's the football you play for all season, the chance to win a title, to be champions, to take it all. It's not just enough to be here, it's time to step up and grab the brass ring."
Welcome to the NIFL playoffs!
The River City Rage begin the chase for the 2005 Indoor Bowl title on Sunday, July 10th with kick-off slated for 6pm at Savvis Center in downtown St. Louis. The Rage opening round opponent will be the Cincinnati Marshals, a team The Rage have defeated twice during the 2005 regular season, but a team Wyatt says "finished up strong, beating two playoff teams in their last two games, so they come in pretty hot." The Marshals finished with a regular season mark of 8-6 and have the NIFL's premier running back in Rayshawn Askew, the league leader with 1,415 yards on 215 carries and 31 touchdowns on the ground. Askew is also third in league scoring with 198 points on 33 touchdowns overall.
The Rage are coming off two tough losses on the road, ending the regular season on a down swing, but according to Wyatt, "our offense outscored Dayton in the second half of our game up there, putting 40 points on the board. The team is refreshed and refocused after a week away from football, and the guys know what's at stake. We've worked too hard to let this thing get away, and we'll come out fired up and playing in front of home fans at Savvis will make a difference, I'm sure, on Sunday."
It's an old football adage, you've heard it before and it goes something like this: It's difficult to beat a good football team three times in the same season. But the River City Rage will attempt to do that on Sunday and have the Marshal's number so far.
Game One: Rage vs. Marshals, Saturday, April 2nd at U.S. Bank Arena
The Rage came into the game at Cincinnati after an opening night win at Family Arena the week before against the Fayetteville Guard. Down by an early 13- 0 score, The Rage stormed back to take a second half lead. Rayshawn Askew was a virtual scoring machine for Cincinnati, scoring his 6th touchdown early in the fourth quarter to put the Marshal's in front 46-42. With 12:26 to play in the fourth, Rage All-Star wide receiver Hurtis Chinn caught a 2 yard scoring pass from quarterback Clay Groefsema. Jerry Lakin's P-A-T attempt was wide left, and River City held a precarious 48-42 lead. The teams were scoreless for the next 10 plus minutes, when with 1:49 to play, Rage running back Sha-Ron Edwards scored on a 7 yard touchdown run to put the game out of reach. A 7th TD by Askew rounded out the scoring and The Rage held on for a 55-53 victory. Rage running back Sha-Ron Edwards, an All-Gateway Conference selection out of Illinois State, in his first game as a Rage player, gained 74 yards on 17 carries and scored 3 touchdowns. Quarterback Clay Groefsema was a stellar 22 for 31 through the air, good for 216 yards and throwing for 3 touchdowns, the longest a 49 yard strike to Hurtis Chinn.
Game Two: Rage vs. Marshals, Friday, June 10th at Family Arena
The Rage capped a perfect 8-0 regular season home record by defeating the Marshals 75-54 and winning the Atlantic East division title. The Rage were on track all night long, scoring on 9 of 10 Red-Zone chances, and racking up 24 First Downs. And the defense rose to the challenge of stopping Rayshawn Askew, who gained a mere 18 yards in 10 rushing attempts with no touchdowns. The biggest offensive weapon on the night for Cincinnati was quarterback Brett Dietz, who completed 34 of 50 passes for 376 yards and threw for 7 touchdowns. One of his favourite targets was wide receiver Tobias Deans, who cradled 11 receptions, good for 146 yards and 3 touchdowns. Two other receivers making their presence known that night were Johnell Wyatte (7 receptions-91 yards-3TD's) and Jeff Jourdan, who caught 6 passes and Askew, who hauled in 7.
The Rage were led by Sha-Ron Edwards with 18 carries, good for 97 yards and 4 tD's. Quarterback Clay Groefsema was 14 for 19 for 109 yards and 5 touchdown passes. His favourite receiver on the night was Hurtis Chinn, who had 7 catches for 63 yards and 2 TD's. All-Star wide receiver Scott Pingel, the NIFL receptions leader in 2005, hauled in 5 passes, good for 41 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The Cincinnati Marshals come in to Savvis Center on Sunday hoping that the third time is a football charm. The River City Rage hope to begin the road to the final, elite goal that was outlined by Head Football Coach Mike Wyatt at the beginning of the season. The quote "Nothing short of a championship will be sufficient for this team in 2005" looms larger now than it did when Wyatt said it in early March. It's first game and championship goal to go, and beginning Sunday night, time for the River City Rage to punch it in!!
Sunday's game will be broadcast over 1380 ESPN Radio and audio-streamed on both the Ragefootball.com and ESPN websites.
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