Titans fall to Storm in conference championship

SIOUX FALLS — The Cedar Rapids Titans set an impressive tone Saturday night in the United Conference Championship game against the Sioux Falls Storm by scoring on their opening drive. Sioux Falls entered the game with the Indoor Football League’s top-rated defense, allowing just 35.7 points per game.

But the Titans moved the ball easily to open the game and scored on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Colton Hansen to V’Keon Lacey to take an early 7-0 lead. For the Titans, that trend did not continue as Cedar Rapids lost all momentum and fell 44-20 to finish the season with a record of 9-6.

“We just really started to press after that opening drive,” said Titans Coach Mark Stoute. “Both the coaches and the players did, and when you play a team like Sioux Falls, who’ve been together for so long, that’s not going to work. We talked all week about needing to make plays, and we started pressing and got away from that.”

Saturday was a tall order for the Titans, as Sioux Falls entered the game on a 32-game home winning streak and were in defense of their back-to-back United Bowl Championships.

The opening drive for Cedar Rapids went for 35 yards on five plays, and Lacey’s touchdown catch from Hansen was a spectacular one as he stretched out for the ball and landed outside the boards.

The Titans actually took a 10-0 lead after the Storm fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Rockne Belmonte hit a 46-yard field goal four plays later. From that point, however, the offense sputtered for the balance of the half and the Titans managed just 54 more yards before halftime.

During the Cedar Rapids offensive struggles, the Sioux Falls offense came to life and scored 20 unanswered points. However, it took a bit for the Storm to get going. With just more than three minutes to play in the opening quarter, Sioux Falls had managed just 2 yards of total offense.

Down 20-10, the Titans looked to cut it to three just before the half when Hansen hit Carl Sims for what appeared to be a nine-yard touchdown strike, but an illegal block in the back negated the score.

An area the Titans will probably be scratching their heads is their rushing attack. They entered the game against Sioux Falls as the league’s leading team on the ground, averaging 98.7 yards per game, but managed just 38 yards on the ground against the Storm.

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