CEDAR RAPIDS — In a league that has largely been dominated by the Sioux Falls Storm, the Iowa Barnstormers have staked their claim as the best team in the Indoor Football League.
Last year, the Barnstormers won their first IFL title. This season, they are off to a 4-0 start.
“It’s all about the players,” third-year Iowa Coach Dixie Wooten said before the Barnstormers routed the Cedar Rapids River Kings, 41-20, in front of a season-high 1,486 fans on Saturday night at the U.S. Cellular Center. “They let me coach them hard, so they buy into the program and that is all it is about. We go to practice hard. We make sure we put these guys in an opportunity where they can be successful. When they see a little success, they buy in and it makes coaching a little easier.”
A two-time IFL Coach of the Year, Wooten is a former IFL quarterback. After a short stint as the head coach of the now-defunct Bemidji Axemen, Wooten spent the 2016 season as an assistant coach with the Cedar Rapids Titans under Coach Mark Stoute, who led the franchise to its only playoff win that season.
Stoute returned this season after a two-year absence to coach the rebranded Cedar Rapids River Kings.
“I took a lot from Coach Stoute,” Wooten said. “He was all about doing things the right way, making sure the guys were first and understanding everything that you have to do to be successful. The way I run things now is a big part of Coach Stoute. I wouldn’t be as successful as I am without him.”
After the 2016 season, Stoute left Cedar Rapids for a job with the Jacksonville Sharks of the National Arena League. Wooten was hired by Iowa, where he is 25-6 in three seasons.
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“He’s done a great job,” Stoute said. “As an organization, they have been one of the top-flight organizations going back to the AFL days and they have continued that now that they are in the IFL and it is great to see him have the success that he has.”
Despite the 1-4 start to the season for Cedar Rapids, Wooten predicts good things for the River Kings now that Stoute is back in town.
“It was great,” Wooten said. “Cedar Rapids was struggling and I knew when he came back, the whole atmosphere was going to change. He is a great coach. He is a great person. Everybody loves him and when he came back, I knew Cedar Rapids was going to have a great leader here.”
Cedar Rapids and Iowa will play again on April 6 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
AT U.S. CELLULAR CENTER
Iowa Barnstormers 41, Cedar Rapids River Kings 20
Iowa 7 10 10 14—41
Cedar Rapids 3 7 0 10—20
CR — FG Henry Nell 22
IA — Daquan Neal 6 run (Nathan Criswell kick)
IA — FG Nathan Criswell 35
CR — Drake White 8 pass from Kurt Palandech (Henry Nell kick)
IA — Daquan Neal 1 run (Nathan Criswell kick)
IA — FG Nathan Criswell 35
IA — Daquan Neal 13 run (Nathan Criswell kick)
CR — FG Henry Nell 21
IA — Jamal Tyler 1 run (Nathan Criswell kick)
IA — Ryan Balentine 3 pass from Daquan Neal (Nathan Criswell kick)
CR — Kalif Phillips 1 run (Henry Nell kick)
RUSHING — Iowa: Daquan Neal 12-58, Jamal Tyler 5-6. Cedar Rapids: Kurt Palandech 10-50, Nate Chavious 7-31, Kalif Phillips 1-1.
PASSING — Iowa: Daquan Neal 14-17-0-124. Cedar Rapids: Kurt Palandech 12-23-1-105.
RECEIVING — Iowa: Ryan Balentine 10-90, Connor Hollenbeck 3-23, Jazeric Peterson 1-11. Cedar Rapids: Jordan Smith 4-35, Drake White 4-32, Nate Chavious 2-21, Marquel Wade 2-16, Kalif Phillips 1-2.
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