By Mike Condon
CEDAR RAPIDS - In a game where both teams traded blows all night, the final two knockout shot were delivered by the Cedar Rapids Titans.
Former Cedar Rapids Washington standout Travis Rhone scored on a 2-yard run with 51 seconds remaining on a fourth-down play, sealing a 52-40 victory Friday night over the Chicago Slaughter before a capacity crowd of over 4,000 fans at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.
The victory moved the Titans to 2-1 while Chicago fell to 1-3.
Cedar Rapids led from start to finish, but the Slaughter made it interesting in the second half, twice getting the ball with a chance to go ahead only to see the Titan defense stand tall.
"I'm so proud of the way we hung in there tonight," said Titans' Coach Kyle Moore-Brown. "I told them that football is a 60-minute game and we had to play a full 60 minutes to get this win."
The victory did prove costly for Cedar Rapids. Linebacker Brian McIntire went down in the second quarter with a knee injury and didn't return.
"It's tough losing a guy like Brian," Moore-Brown said. "He's done for the year. "It looks like he tore his MCL and ACL. We're praying for him."
The Titans jumped out quickly, building a 14-0 lead on a fumble recovery by newcomer Antuan Bloom, who scooped up a Rhone fumble at the goal line and a 1-yard shovel pass from Willie Copeland to former Northern Iowa receiver Johnny Gray.
Chicago rallied in the second quarter and actually had a chance to grab the halftime lead. But Jamil Abdullah picked off a Perry Patterson pass in the final minute and the Titans capitalized when Copeland found another newcomer, Eric McCain in the corner of the end zone with 9 seconds left in the half on a 5-yard pass to give Cedar Rapids a 30-20 lead at the break.
The Slaughter inserted former Illinois quarterback Juice Williams to start the second half and he led a pair of scoring drives, but was also sacked in the end zone for a safety as the Titans clung to a 39-34 lead after three quarters.
Cedar Rapids got a big special teams play to score early in the fourth. Chicago was forced into a 61-yard field goal attempt that was short and hauled in at the back of the end zone by T.J. Simmons. He weaved his way 58 yards through Slaughter defenders for a score to make it 46-34.
Back again came Chicago, cutting the deficit to six on a Daniel DuFrene score with 8:27 left. The Slaughter held and took over with yet another chance to go ahead. On a fourth and four play, Patterson, who was re-inserted at quarterback, was sacked by Xzavie Jackson with 1:24 remaining, setting the stage for Rhone's clinching score.
Moore-Brown was impressed with the play of new receivers Bloom and McCain, along with the kicking of Mike Polaski, playing in his first game since coming off the injured list.
"I'm just trying to find the right mix of guys who want to do what I am trying to teach them," Moore-Brown said. "Those guys all did a great job tonight. We did what we had to do to get the win."
The Titans hit the road next week, playing Saturday at Sioux Falls.