By Tom Donelson, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: April 9, 2012
IOWA CITY, IOWA (BASN)
—This weekend, I took a break from the world of boxing and watch a little Arena Football.
Cedar Rapids Titans began their first season in the International Football League, a league based in the Midwest and Southwest featuring teams in city like Green Bay, Omaha, Bloomington, and Sioux City.
For many in the league, this is a chance to continue to play the game they love and maybe, make it to the NFL.
On this evening, Green Bay Blizzards faced the local team, looking to repeat an early easy victory over the Titans in Green Bay.
There is one thing about the Arena football that becomes obvious, it is about offense and it is about accurate passing. It was in the Arena football league that Kurt Warner learned to throw even more accurate pass and improve on his quick release. In a football field that is half the size of a normal football field and even with only eight players on each team; there is still very little room to throw a pass. Cedar Rapids’ Willie Copeland is a 6 foot 3 inch southpaw quarterback with strong arm but still learning the art of nailing passes through narrow window provided by the defense as he occasionally missed open receivers but the Titans defense kept Cedar Rapids in the game. Former New Mexico and Green Bay quarterback Donovan Porterie threw three interceptions with two of them snagged by T.J. Simmons and all three were returned for touchdowns.
In the first half, Cedar Rapids lost their kicker, Mike Polaski, to a freak accident and Cedar Rapids forced Lineman Travis Miller to launch the kickoffs and Cedar Rapids failed to convert on two point conversations in the first half, costing the Titans five points. The Titans turned extra points from the routine to into pure excitement. This turned the nature of the game and Green Bay had already defeated the Titans by 52 points in their first game; so there were no margin of error for the Titans and every point mattered.
Despite the collapse of the kicking game, the Titans stayed in the game and managed to score a quick touchdown before the half ended to be behind by 38 to 31. The second half saw the rise of the Titans as they started the second half by forcing a safety, followed by a Copeland to Bloom touchdown pass. A second interception returned for touchdown by Simmons put Titans up by a 46 to 38 margin.
From that point, Porterie led a comeback and took command of the game. First, he finished a drive by sneaking in for a one yard touchdown and then he followed that drive with a rifle shot to Bryan Pray for a 20 yard score that allowed Blizzard to take the lead. Blizzard’s B.J. Hill intercepted Copeland pass that nailed the victory and Blizzard won their fourth game of the season. The Titans record dropped to 2-3.
Arena football not only provides football players a chance to continue their career but it also provides hardcore fans their football fix.
For Iowa fans, this provides the excitement of football until the Big Ten football season begins and University of Iowa Hawkeyes start their fall season.
(For Iowans, Iowa football is the closest thing to professional football.) Arena football provides elements of professional football to many mid-size towns. For many Iowans, they are within four hours of professional football in Chicago, Minneapolis, Saint Louis and Kansa s City, but four hours drive is not convenient for Cedar Rapid and Iowa City residents to follow their favorite professional team.
As the second half of the game progressed and the Titans build their leads, fans exploded with shouts and cow bells. The arena is small enough that every seat gives the fans close up view of the game and being played in the hockey ring; there were more than enough football players hitting the wall.
While many of the players hail from Division 2 and Division 3 players, there are players like Defensive Lineman Xzavie Jackson played for Division 1 teams like Missouri and Green Bay featured players who came from Arizona and Purdue. Arena football is that link from the college ranks to the professional ranks, a minor league system that allows some players to mature and find their path while allowing others to keep participating in the game they love. Arena football is the league that dreams are made of for players and a connection to the NFL for fans.