Minor League Sports

Kurt Palandech throws 5 TD passes as Cedar Rapids River Kings earn first win of IFL season

Run game, opportunistic defense help offense thrive in 65-48 win over San Diego

The Cedar Rapids River Kings defeated the expansion San Diego Strike Force, 65-48, in an Indoor Football League game at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Saturday, March 9, 2019.
The Cedar Rapids River Kings defeated the expansion San Diego Strike Force, 65-48, in an Indoor Football League game at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Saturday, March 9, 2019.

CEDAR RAPIDS — First one in the books. First-year quarterback Kurt Palandech threw for 143 yards and five touchdowns without a turnover as the Cedar Rapids River Kings earned their first victory of the season, 65-48, in an Indoor Football League contest against the expansion San Diego Strike Force before 1,270 fans Saturday night at the U.S. Cellular Center.

“Everything was working well,” Palandech said. “We had our offensive line doing a great job and really established that run game here tonight. It makes my life in the passing game a little bit easier. Credit to the guys up front and keep looking forward to doing that next week.”

Palandech also ran for 59 yards at nearly 10 per rush as Cedar Rapids totaled a season-high 178 yards on the ground. Tailback Nate Chavious led the way with 76 yards and three second-half scores, while Rickey Galvin added 33 yards on six attempts.

“We knew we could attack this team up front,” Chavious said. “They were a little smaller and we got to it. … That balance is huge. Just keeping the defense is honest. We only have three linemen, so some teams will bring a few extra guys into the box. In this game, it is hard to run the ball against that. But having Kurt and our receivers, they are always producing. … It is great to keep the defense and it ends up helping me out.”

Palandech directed touchdown drives on each of the first four River Kings offensive possessions. The former UNLV quarterback connected with receiver Jordan Smith for first-quarter TDs of 6 and 14 yards, then extended the Cedar Rapids lead to 21-10 with 8:58 left until halftime with a 30-yard scoring strike to veteran receiver Marquel Wade.

“He is coming along,” Cedar Rapids Coach Mark Stoute said of Palandech. “He is growing strides, leaps and bounds every week. He is getting better and better. The sky is the limit for that man. He can pull it when he has to run. He is very smart. He is cerebral. He kind of sits there, doesn’t get flustered too much. He has been doing a great job.”

Wade added a thrilling 8-yard TD reception with less than a minute to go in the first half when he fielded a short right toss from Palandech at the San Diego 11-yard line, juked a couple of defenders, reversed course to the left and sprinted to the pylon for a 28-17 Cedar Rapids lead.

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The Cedar Rapids lead was as large as four TDs at 55-27 early in the fourth quarter thanks to a defense that produced both a fourth-down stop and two turnovers. Defensive back Tavion Garrison led the way with nine tackles, while veteran Ricky Johnson intercepted his first pass of the season, recorded five tackles and broke up three pass attempts.

“Any time we get a turnover, that is a plus for us,” Johnson said. “If we get turnover, we keep ourselves ahead of the game and the offense gets a chance to come on. If they score, we always stay ahead, that is big for the defense to get a turnover. And we got two tonight.”

Defensive back Travonte Johnson recovered a third-quarter fumble.

The point total was the highest in three games this season for Cedar Rapids (1-2), and the win was the first since the franchise was rebranded as the River Kings after seven seasons under the Cedar Rapids Titans moniker. The Titans won just four games over the past two seasons.

“We’re young, so my main focus this week was to bounce us back,” said Stoute, who coached the Titans from 2013-16. “We really put an emphasis on running the ball. We wanted to be able to run the ball. … We worked hard on that and the guys really executed well.”

Bruising tailback Kalif Phillips scored two TDs in the second half, one on the ground and one through the air.

First-year kicker Henry Nell converted a short fourth-quarter field goal.

Cedar Rapids will host the Quad City Steamwheelers this Friday at the U.S. Cellular Center. Quad City (1-1) is a first-year participant in the IFL after moving from the Champions Indoor Football League.

“They will enjoy this one for a couple of nights and then it is back to work,” Stoute said. “Quad City is very much like us. They are a veteran team, but they do run the jet plays and the misdirection plays, so we really have to get tuned up and coached up on how to handle that from a defensive point of view.”

Indoor football

AT U.S. CELLULAR CENTER

Cedar Rapids River Kings 65, San Diego Strike Force 48

San Diego 10 10 7 21—48

Cedar Rapids 14 14 20 17—65

SD — George Moreira 1 run (Ernesto Lacayo kick)

CR — Jordan Smith 6 pass from Kurt Palandech (Henry Nell kick)

SD — FG Ernesto Lacayo 31

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CR — Jordan Smith 14 pass from Kurt Palandech (Henry Nell kick)

CR — Marquel Wade 30 pass from Kurt Palandech (Henry Nell kick)

SD — Julian Stafford 1 pass from Derrick Bernard (Ernesto Lacayo kick)

CR — Marquel Wade 8 pass from Kurt Palandech (Henry Nell kick)

SD — FG Ernesto Lacayo 24

CR — Kalif Phillips 4 run (run failed)

SD — George Moreira 12 run (Ernesto Lacayo kick)

CR — Nate Chavious 1 run (Henry Nell kick)

CR — Kalif Phillips 28 pass from Kurt Palandech (Henry Nell kick)

CR — Nate Chavious 2 run (Henry Nell kick)

SD — Derrick Bernard 33 run (Ernesto Lacayo kick)

CR — FG Henry Nell 21

SD — Marques Rodgers 33 run (Ernesto Lacayo kick)

CR — Nate Chavious 1 run (Henry Nell kick)

SD — Julian Stafford 40 pass from Derrick Bernard (Ernesto Lacayo kick)

RUSHING — San Diego: Derrick Bernard 2-36, George Moreira 11-26, Marques Rodgers 1-5; Cedar Rapids: Nate Chavious 12-75, Kurt Palandech 6-59, Rickey Galvin 6-33, Kalif Phillips 2-8, Jordan Smith 1-2.

PASSING — San Diego: Derrick Bernard 14-32-1-175; Cedar Rapids: Kurt Palandech 13-17-0-143.

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RECEIVING — San Diego: Julian Stafford 4-75, David Carter 4-56, George Moreira 4-22, Marques Rodgers 2-22; Cedar Rapids: Marquel Wade 6-51, Jordan Smith 5-50, Kalif Phillips 1-28, Rickey Galvin 1-14.

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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