Minor League Sports

Spirited QB competition has Cedar Rapids River Kings set for 2019 home debut

Indoor Football League season begins against the Sioux Falls Storm on Saturday at the U.S. Cellular Center

Cedar Rapids River Kings' quarterbacks Kurt Palandech, left, and Ben Wilkerson throw passes during a recent preseason scrimmage. Either player could start when the 2019 Indoor Football League season begins against the Sioux Falls Storm on Saturday, Feb. 23 at the U.S. Cellular Center. (Photo by Nic Ryder/Cedar Rapids River Kings)
Cedar Rapids River Kings' quarterbacks Kurt Palandech, left, and Ben Wilkerson throw passes during a recent preseason scrimmage. Either player could start when the 2019 Indoor Football League season begins against the Sioux Falls Storm on Saturday, Feb. 23 at the U.S. Cellular Center. (Photo by Nic Ryder/Cedar Rapids River Kings)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Mark Stoute is in no rush to publicly name a starting quarterback.

The coach of the Indoor Football League’s Cedar Rapids River Kings would prefer to leave his Week 1 opponent in suspense.

Based on training camp practices and the game week roster, the decision is between three-year European player Ben Wilkerson and UNLV graduate Kurt Palandech.

“A little bit different guys,” said Stoute, who will lead the River Kings into their IFL season-opening game against the Sioux Falls Storm on Saturday at 7:05 at the U.S. Cellular Center. “Ben is more the physical kid. He can run, he pulls it down. Kurt can run too, as well, but he is more of a touch passer. He makes those touch throws, so they are kind of like two different guys from that aspect.”

Saturday will be the first game since the franchise was sold and the team was rebranded as the River Kings after seven seasons as the Cedar Rapids Titans. Stoute coached the Titans for four of those seasons (2013-16) with a lot of success at home against league power Sioux Falls.

“We’ve got to play our best football, number one,” Stoute said. “We have to play mistake free. We can’t turn the ball over. We have to make the plays that we are supposed to make. … We’re home. We played very well here in the past. The times that we’ve beaten them have all been here in this building. We’re going to use that mystique and that mojo when we get down toward the end to pressure them as much as we can.”

Both of the quarterbacks will be making their indoor football debuts this season. Wilkerson is a 6-foot-3, 220-pound prospect from Division-III Alfred State (N.Y.) who already has three years of professional football experience in Germany and Finland.

“The biggest thing, the adjustment, is just the speed of the game,” Wilkerson said. “The field is more condensed, so reads happen faster, mechanics happen faster, everything is just a little more up pace. It’s fun, though. It is definitely fun.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

This is the first professional venture of any kind for Palandech, who started six games in three years (2015-17) at UNLV. During the 2017-18 academic year, Palandech also played baseball for the Rebels.

The competition in camp between Wilkerson and Palandech has been highlighted by their transition to the indoor game.

“We just go out every day and try to find something to get better at,” Palandech said. “Whether that is watching film and learning a new read or new coverage or getting better chemistry with the receivers, every day we are just trying to find something to get better at. That makes us both better.”

Highlights of the River Kings’ 14-game IFL regular season includes a visit from the defending IFL champion Iowa Barnstormers on March 30, while the Quad City Steamwheelers — who will make their IFL debut this year after moving from the Champions Indoor Football League — will play at the U.S. Cellular Center on March 15.

Cedar Rapids River Kings 2019 schedule

(All Iowa times; home games in CAPS; all home games at the U.S. Cellular Center)

February

23 — SIOUX FALLS, 7:05 p.m.

March

3 — at Arizona, 3:05 p.m.

9 — SAN DIEGO, 7:05 p.m.

15 — QUAD CITY, 7:05 p.m.

30 — IOWA, 7:05 p.m.

April

6 — at Iowa, 7:05 p.m.

14 — at San Diego, 7:05 p.m.

20 — BISMARCK, 7:05 p.m.

26 — at Nebraska, 7:05 p.m.

May

4 — at Iowa, 7:05 p.m.

17 — at Quad City, 7:05 p.m.

June

1 — ARIZONA, 7:05 p.m.

 8 — GREEN BAY, 7:05 p.m.

 15 — at Green Bay, 7:05 p.m.

 

Cedar Rapids River Kings 2019 roster

QB — Kurt Palandech (UNLV), Ben Wilkerson (Alfred State)

RB — Nate Chavious (Sacred Heart), Kalif Phillips (Charlotte)

WR — Rickey Galvin (Washington State), Khari Kimbrough (Mayville State), Jordan Smith (Tennessee Tech), Marquel Wade (Arkansas)

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!

You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.

OL — Javan Christian (Webber International), Linwood Foy (Louisville), Jordon Mosely, (San Diego State) Lenicio Noble (San Diego State), Kyle Saxelid (UNLV)

DL — Eric Banford (Western Carolina), Rafael Lamas (College of the Desert), Isaiah Matthews (North Dakota State College of Science)

LB — Jeff Branch (Presentation), Malik Slater (Valdosta State)

DB — Damante Horton (Washington State), K.J. Jenkins (Jacksonville), Ricky Johnson (Fort Valley State), Travonti Johnson (Central Florida), La’Darius Newbold (Illinois State), Tavion Garrison (Central Arkansas)

K — Henry Nell (South Africa)

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.