Minor League Sports

QB Kurt Palandech, OL Kyle Saxelid bring offensive chemistry to Cedar Rapids River Kings

Former UNLV teammates reunited in Cedar Rapids, which hosts the Iowa Barnstormers on Saturday

Cedar Rapids River Kings quarterback Kurt Palandech (14) takes a snap while offensive lineman Kyle Saxelid (75) prepares to block during the second quarter of their Indoor Football League game at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids River Kings quarterback Kurt Palandech (14) takes a snap while offensive lineman Kyle Saxelid (75) prepares to block during the second quarter of their Indoor Football League game at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — When he played quarterback at UNLV, Kurt Palandech had offensive lineman Kyle Saxelid protecting his blind side.

After signing with the Cedar Rapids River Kings, Palandech picked up the phone.

“Once I found out I had a great opportunity here in Cedar Rapids, I heard we still needed a lineman,” said Palandech, who will quarterback the River Kings in an Indoor Football League game against the Iowa Barnstormers at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at the U.S. Cellular Center. “I heard Sax was still playing and I knew the route of going to the (Canadian Football League) was still his goal, so I gave him a call to see if he was still trying to play. … He seemed excited about the opportunity and a couple of phone calls later, we ended up matching up again. So it was great to have a familiar face around and an excellent player.”

The 6-foot-8, 305-pound Saxelid is in his second season in the IFL. Last season, he was signed by the Nebraska Danger just six days before they fired current Cedar Rapids Coach Mark Stoute after a 4-1 start was followed by a six-game loss streak. Six days after he was released by Nebraska, Saxelid was signed by Stoute and the River Kings.

This season, his chemistry with Palandech has helped the rookie quarterback be among the league leaders in passing yards (541) and touchdowns (12) through four games. Palandech’s running ability (145 yards, two TDs) is no surprise to Saxelid.

“It helps me a lot because I know that there is a guy back there who is going to get the work done that needs to be done,” Saxelid said. “I love playing with Kurt because he is a true dual-threat guy. You may not see it, but this guy has got some wheels and it is good to know that if anything breaks down up there, he is able to get out of that pocket and make a play. For the O-line, it is just nice to know that that is a possibility back there.”

Saturday, Cedar Rapids (1-3) will play the first of two consecutive games against the in-state rival Iowa Barnstormers, who are undefeated (3-0) and the defending IFL champions. Earlier this month, the Barnstormers held Green Bay to just three points in a decisive win.

“It just comes down to executing,” Palandech said. “They are a great team. They won the championship and their defense is solid. We have just got to go out there and execute our game plan and eliminate the mental errors.”

After Saturday, the two teams play again on April 6 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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