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CEDAR RAPIDS — Dixie Wooten is making the most of his latest indoor football opportunity.
Under Wooten — a former quarterback, Cedar Rapids Titans offensive coordinator and two-time head coach — the Iowa Barnstormers (6-2) have already surpassed their win total from last year’s 4-12 mark, their second season in the Indoor Football League.
“Just dedicated to each other,” Wooten said after the Barnstormers outlasted the Titans, 31-25, before 3,468 fans Saturday night at the U.S. Cellular Center. “They fought for each other no matter what … and pulled us out for a victory.”
The Cedar Rapids offense found no traction early in the first half, as two missed Michael Georgetti field goals and a Brion Carnes fumble on fourth down kept the Titans off the scoreboard. Iowa capitalized on the Cedar Rapids miscues as quarterback Travis Partridge connected with former Grand View receiver Brady Roland for first-half touchdowns of three, nine and 19 yards.
A first-half shutout was avoided when Cedar Rapids defensive back Tony Grimes and defensive tackle Carlif Taylor combined on a fourth-down stop at their own two-yard-line. Carnes directed the Cedar Rapids offense the length of the field over the final four minutes of the half, and his 12-yard touchdown pass to receiver Tre Parmalee pulled the Titans within 21-7 at halftime.
A field goal extended the Iowa lead to 24-7 with 5:25 left in the third quarter. Carnes got Cedar Rapids within 24-19 with nine minutes left with a six-yard TD toss to Connor Hollenbeck on the receiver’s 23rd birthday, then a two-yarder to Franklyn Williamson.
A Partridge seven-yard quarterback keeper pushed the Iowa lead back to double digits at 31-19 with 6:34 to go, and Carnes responded with a second strike to Parmalee that cut the deficit to 31-25 with 2:27 left in the game.
A fourth-down stop by former University of Iowa defensive back B.J. Lowery gave the Cedar Rapids offense the ball back with 53 seconds left, but Iowa stopped the Titans eight yards from the end zone on the game’s final play.
“The guys are practicing hard every day,” Wooten said. “They’re motivated to try to change things up in Iowa. They come out ready for success, they learn every day and they come out and help us get these victories.”
Carnes threw for 194 yards and four touchdowns for Cedar Rapids (1-8), which lost its third game in a row. Parmalee and former Hawkeyes receiver Damond Powell each caught seven passes, while tailback Julian Hayes added six grabs and Hollenbeck tallied a team-high 55 receiving yards.
Partridge finished with 147 yards passing, 33 rushing and four total touchdowns without a turnover for the Barnstormers, winners of four games in a row. Roland collected a game-high eight grabs for 75 yards.
Wooten — who won two games out of 10 as head coach of the now-defunct Bemidji Axemen in 2015 — led the Cedar Rapids offense during a 2016 season in which the Titans won 12 regular-season games, collected the first playoff victory for the franchise and reached the conference title game for the fourth year in a row.
“It was a great thing,” Wooten said. “I was having fun with some of the fans down here and the whole team. We won a lot of ballgames here and I was glad to come back.”
When former Cedar Rapids head coach Mark Stoute left after four seasons to coach the Jacksonville Sharks of the first-year National Arena League, it was made clear to Wooten that the Titans were going in a different direction with their coaching search.
Wooten was hired by the Barnstormers — a franchise with prior stints in the Arena Football League and its offshoot af2 — last August, while former University of Iowa player Marvin McNutt was hired to coach the Titans two months later.
“I think he (Cedar Rapids general manager Chris Kokalis) made a great decision with McNutt and I made a great decision picking the Barnstormers,” Wooten said. “I have great ownership, a great general manager that really just gives me the chance to put a successful product out on the field. I love it down there.”
Michael Custer — who spent four successful years as an assistant in Cedar Rapids — joined Wooten in Des Moines as assistant head coach and offensive line coach. Cedar Rapids was 41-21 with four appearances in the conference title game in four seasons with Custer on staff under Stoute.
“When I’m having a rough day, he comes in and cheers me up, tells me a joke or two,” Wooten said. “He’s a great coach. He helps the offensive line be successful like they are. Having him next to my side has been great for me.”
After losing all three meetings with the Titans last season, the Barnstormers can sweep the three-game series this season when the third installment of the 2017 “Iowa Bowl” concludes May 13 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Cedar Rapids visits the Nebraska Danger (5-4) this Friday and returns to the U.S. Cellular Center May 5 against the Arizona Rattlers, who are in their first season in the IFL after winning five championships in 25 years in the Arena Football League.
Iowa 31, Titans 25
AT U.S. CELLULAR CENTER
First downs 15 17
Rushes-yards 23-82 16-25
Passing 140 194
Comp-Att-Int 15-21-0 25-37-0
Return Yards 0 0
Fumbles-lost 0-0 3-1
Penalties-Yards 4-22 5-44
Time of Possession 30:11 29:49
Iowa 14 7 3 7—31
Cedar Rapids 0 7 6 12—25
IA—Brady Roland 3 pass from Travis Partridge (Kenton Chun kick)
IA—Roland 10 pass from Partridge (Chun kick))
IA—Roland 19 pass from Partridge (Chun kick)
CR—Tre’ Parmalee 13 pass from Brion Carnes (Micha Georgetti kick)
IA—FG 15 Chun
CR—Connor Hollenbeck 6 pass from Carnes (kick failed)
CR—Franklyn Williamson 2 pass from Carnes (pass failed)
IA—Partridge 7 run (Chun kick)
CR—Parmalee 9 pass from Carnes (pass failed)
Rushing — Iowa: Travis Partridge 10-33; Rasheed Williams 9-32; Keshaundas Spence 2-14; Ryan Balentine 2-3; Cedar Rapids: Julian Hayes 8-22; Brion Carnes 8-3.
Passing — Iowa: Travis Partridge 15-20-0-147; Ryan Balentine 0-1-0-0; Cedar Rapids: Brion Carnes 25-37-0-194.
Receiving — Iowa: Brady Roland 8-75; Ryan Balentine 3-47; Lucas Hefty 3-18; Rasheed Williams 1-7; Cedar Rapids: Connor Hollenbeck 4-55; Tre’ Parmalee 7-52; Damond Powell 7-43; Julian Hayes 6-42; Franklyn Williamson 1-2.
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