ARTICLE

Jared Elmore catches 3 TD passes as the Cedar Rapids Titans edge Sioux Falls, 60-57

Seven total TDs for QB Dylan Favre as Cedar Rapids (3-2) jumps back into the United Conference race by ending the 22-game win streak of defending five-time league champs

CEDAR RAPIDS – The day before hosting five-time defending Indoor Football League champion Sioux Falls, first-year Cedar Rapids Titans receiver Jared Elmore stood before his teammates and delivered a message.

“Enjoy the journey,” Elmore said. “It’s a long season. We’re a bunch of guys from different places, different areas, different backgrounds and we’re all here for one common denominator, and that’s to win and move up. But the main thing to do here for the Titans and for the community of Cedar Rapids is to establish a positive culture.”

Elmore and his mates made sure those words would not ring hollow as he caught a season-high nine passes, three for touchdowns, and Cedar Rapids ended the Storm’s 22-game win streak, 60-57, before 4,156 fans Saturday at the U.S. Cellular Center.

“We had a sour taste is our mouth from the first game (a 54-45 loss at Sioux Falls on Feb. 26),” Elmore said. “We were there, it was just a couple of mistakes and we were fortunate enough to get over some today. Tonight it was just a great team effort, a lot of heart and just togetherness.”

The journey has been an interesting one for the 26-year-old Edwards, Miss. native. Elmore was a late-round baseball draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles out of high school in 2004 before playing collegiately at Holmes (Miss.) Junior College and Southern Nazarene (Okla.) University. Elmore switched to football on the advice of a coaching mentor, and completed his collegiate eligibility as a 2009 first team all-conference selection for NAIA MidAmerican Nazarene (Kan.).

“That was the greatest move I made,” Elmore said.

Following college, a couple of NFL tryouts with the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins yielded no offers, so Elmore assumed his playing days were over. After being away from the game for a few years, Elmore was working at a residential children’s charity in Kansas alongside current Nebraska Danger player O.J. Simpson.

“He just saw me and he knew I played ball and I loved it,” Elmore said. “He is the reason why I got involved. He opened the doors for me to get tryouts and different things. … He’s like a big brother to me.”

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Elmore played alongside Simpson in the Champions Professional Indoor Football League for two seasons and collected 115 receptions for 1,227 yards and 37 touchdowns. This season, both are in the Indoor Football League.

“Probably the biggest surprise coming out of training camp,” Cedar Rapids Coach Mark Stoute said. “We’ve got a 6-foot-4 kid that can run, that can jump out of the building and he’s got hands. … He has the athletic ability to play on Sunday.”

Nine catches gives Elmore 28 for the season, which now leads the Indoor Football League. His 313 yards and nine touchdowns are both second in the league. Elmore continues to provide audible “wow” moments for the home crowd with an array of one-handed catches and mid-air adjustments, which have been a boost to the development of rookie quarterback Dylan Favre.

“I’m glad he’s on my team,” Favre said with a laugh. “He’s making my transition a whole lot easier because he necessarily might not be open, but with his size and leaping ability and ball skills, he’s always open.”

Favre – who was intercepted three times in the previous meeting with Sioux Falls – was spectacular on Saturday. He completed 21-of-26 passes for 190 yards and four touchdowns without an interception, and also ran for 35 yards and three scores as the Cedar Rapids offense hummed from the start of the game.

“Now it’s no excuses,” Favre said. “It’s time to get the train rolling.”

The victory pulls Cedar Rapids (3-2) within a game of 4-1 Sioux Falls for the United Conference lead. Unlike its pair of early-season defeats, the Cedar Rapids defense picked up several key stops to force field goals or stop drives altogether.

“I challenged them all week long and in the locker room before the game,” Stoute said. “We call it, ‘Dare to be great.’ There’s going to come a moment for everyone on this team that on the field, you’re going to have a chance to do something great. ‘Can you step up and do it?’ That was my challenge to them.”

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Linebacker Niko Sierra led Cedar Rapids with a dozen tackles, while former William Penn defensive back Fred Griggs tallied 11, including a diving deflection of a fourth-down pass attempt late in the third quarter with Sioux Falls clinging to a one-point lead at 47-46.

“It was just all five guys talking in the secondary and communicating with the front line,” Griggs said. “Everybody was just playing for each other.”

Three of Sioux Falls’ final five offensive possessions ended without points, highlighted by a fourth-down sack on the first drive of the fourth quarter by defensive back Tim Bennett, then a victory-sealing interception with five seconds remaining by Devin Ghafoor.

“We knew they had to score so I was staying back,” Ghafoor said. “He (Sioux Falls quarterback Lorenzo Brown) threw the ball, the receiver wasn’t looking so I just jumped up and made a play.”

Receiver Ryan Balentine caught four passes for 50 yards for Cedar Rapids, including a 33-yard TD from Favre that gave the Titans a 27-17 lead midway through the second quarter. Tailback Waymon James added a touchdown run.

“The offense is coming,” Stoute said. “It’s the slowest part. It has the most rookies on it, so it’s coming and we’re continuing to get better and better.”

Brown tossed five touchdown passes for Sioux Falls, four to Korey Williams.

Cedar Rapids hosts 1-4 Green Bay next Saturday before visiting Sioux Falls April 9.

Titans 60, Storm 57

AT CEDAR RAPIDS ICE ARENA

SF CR

First downs 14 18

Rushing yards 114 40

Passing yards 104 182

Total offense 218 222

Return yards 168 125

Penalties 6-44 7-35

Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-1

Sacks-yards 1-8 2-19

Interceptions-yards 0-0 1-8

Time of possession 29:58 30:02

Sioux Falls 7 22 17 11—57

Cedar Rapids 6 24 14 16—60

CR — Elmore 6 pass from Favre (kick failed)

SF — Tatum 5 pass from Brown (Syrovatka kick)

CR — James 3 run (Belcher kick)

SF — Syrovatka 41 FG

CR — Elmore 14 pass from Favre (Belcher kick)

SF — Williams 47 kickoff return (Syrovatka kick)

CR — Balentine 33 pass from Favre (Belcher kick good)

SF — Williams 25 pass from Brown (conversion failed)

SF — Williams 5 pass from Brown (Syrovatka kick)

CR — Belcher FG 25

SF — Syrovatka FG 15

SF — Rouge point

SF — Campbell fumble recovery in end zone (kick failed)

CR — Favre 1 run (Belcher kick)

SF — Williams 23 pass from Brown (Syrovatka kick)

CR — Elmore 10 pass from Favre (Belcher kick)

CR — Belcher FG 26

CR — Favre 4 run (conversion failed)

SF — Syrovatka FG 28

CR — Favre 6 run (Belcher kick)

SF — Williams 17 pass from Brown (Brown run)

TEAM STATISTICS

RUSHING — Sioux Falls: Pease 9-42, Brown 8-36, Tatum 4-21, Williams 1-13, German 1-2; Cedar Rapids: Favre 12-35; James 9-6, Thomas 1-0, Balentine 2-(-1).

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PASSING — Sioux Falls: Brown 10-17-1-123, Syrovatka 0-2-0-0; Cedar Rapids: Favre 21-26-0-190.

RECEIVING — Sioux Falls: Williams 5-91, Pease 2-12, Tatum 2-12, Johnson-Farrell 1-8; Cedar Rapids: Elmore 9-80, Balentine 4-50, Thomas 3-27, James 4-24, Watkins 1-9.

A — 4,156.

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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