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CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids Titans’ switch to a zone-read offense this season has produced the best rushing attack in the Indoor Football League.
Last night, getting away from their bread-and-butter nearly cost them.
Cedar Rapids tied the game when defensive lineman Jermiah Price forced a quarterback safety with 15.2 seconds left and won, 60-57, on a 37-yard Rockne Belmonte field goal as time expired at the U.S. Cellular Center.
“We talked about it in the huddle,” Price said. “We had just said, ‘Look guys, we got to get the pressure, got to make the play to get this victory.’ And I had been standing outside the entire game, so I took a chance and came inside and it worked out in our favor.”
The Price game-saver knotted the game at 57-57 and gave Belmonte a shot at redemption. The normally-automatic Titans kicker had hit the post with a potential game-winning 20-yard field goal just 14 ticks earlier. After Cedar Rapids took possession following the safety, quarterback Spencer Ohm hit receiver Bryan Pray for a quick 10-yard strike, setting Belmonte up for his game winner.
“It’s all about the next kick,” Belmonte said. “It was my first chance at a time-expiring, game-winning kick and the guys blocked and the rest was history.”
The win was the sixth in a row for Cedar Rapids (6-1).
Ohm was brilliant in the first half, throwing for 178 yards and five touchdowns as Cedar Rapids built a 42-26 halftime lead. Each of Ohm’s touchdown passes were at least 16 yards or more. Receiver Bryan Pray had scoring catches of 27 and 25 yards, while Jefferson Hayes added 16 and 45-yard touchdown grabs. Carl Sims snagged his sixth receiving touchdown this season as the Titans built a 42-26 halftime lead.
“We were just picking them apart,” Ohm said.
But the success did not carry over to the second half, as Ohm struggled to hit targets and the Titans chose to keep firing instead of putting the ball in the hands of their workhorse tailback LaRon Council.
“I made some bad reads, I made some bad throws,” Ohm said of his second half. “I just wasn’t picking everything up that we did in the first half. They did a great job on defense of making adjustments.”
Bemidji rallied behind a new quarterback in Cody Kirby, who faced Cedar Rapids four times last season as a member of the now-defunct Chicago Slaughter. Following injuries to Bemidji’s top-two signal callers and his release from the Nebraska Danger, the reigning IFL rookie of the year threw two long touchdown passes in the first quarter and directed three scoring drives in the third to pull within 49-43. An 11-yard Warren Matthews touchdown run with 6:44 left gave the Axemen their final lead at 57-55 before the final fireworks.
Kirby finished with 292 yards and four scores for Bemidji (3-4).
IFL kick return leader Robert Brown returned one 48 yards for a third-quarter score for the Titans, his second this season.
Council finished with 71 yards rushing and his league-leading 10th rushing touchdown, but credited his line and Ohm with the offensive success.
“Spencer is doing a great job just orchestrating and running the whole thing,” Council said. “And our offensive line, we’ve had a couple different offensive lines start but they’re all playing good, physical football.”
Wide receiver Willie Carter was held out of the game as he continues to nurse a high ankle sprain. Cedar Rapids Head Coach Mark Stoute announced prior to the game that stalwart defensive lineman Xzavie Jackson is still a couple of weeks away from returning to action.
The Titans face the Texas Revolution in each of their next two games – next Friday at Texas and back at the U.S. Cellular Center on May 3.
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