IFL Preview: Cedar Rapids vs. Storm

For the second consecutive year, Midco Sports Network is your home for Sioux Falls Storm football.

We'll kick off our coverage this Sunday afternoon (Apr. 1), as the defending IFL champions play host to the expansion Cedar Rapids Titans at 2:05 pm.

It's the first of six regular season contests to be televised by MidcoSN, which will also carry any home playoff games.

Surging Storm

The Storm (3-0) have picked up right where they left off last season, thanks in large part to the play of quarterback Chris Dixon.

The IFL's reigning MVP is, once again, putting up ridiculous numbers. In Sioux Falls' first three games, Dixon completed 87-percent of his passes for 856 yards, 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also leads the team with 169 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.

With Dixon serving as the catalyst, the Storm is racking up a league-best 76.3 points per game (Tri-Cities is 2nd with 56.5), while also setting the standard for total offense (381 ypg), passing offense (285.3 ypg), and rushing offense (95.7 ypg).

New Faces

Some of the household names are gone, but it appears their replacements are fitting in nicely.

A couple that you'll want to pay particular attention to are wide receiver Clinton Solomon and linebacker DeJuan Fulghum.

Solomon, a 2nd team All-IFL selection with the Wichita Wild last season, is helping fill the void created by the departure of the franchise's all-time leading receiver, James Terry. He's currently tied with Carl Sims for the team lead in receptions with 18.

Fulghum was charged with taking over for last year's United Bowl MVP, Brian McIntire, at linebacker. According to head coach Kurtiss Riggs, this guy's potential is off the charts. Fulghum was named Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Defensive Player of the Year in his senior season at Texas Southern, and signed with the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent. He's still acclimating to the indoor game, but is already Sioux Falls' leading tackler.

The Road To Cedar Rapids

The Titans (2-1) are an interesting story.

The team was founded in August 2011, with Chris Kokalis serving the dual role of co-owner/general manager. At that time, Kokalis held the exact same title with the now-defunct LaCrosse Spartans. He stressed that the Titans were a new franchise and that this was not a relocation of the Spartans.  Soon after, Kokalis named LaCrosse interim coach Kyle Moore-Brown head coach and signed half of the Spartans roster.

Like I said...interesting.

Sioux Falls Connections

Kokalis continued to fill out his roster with experienced IFL players, including four that played for Sioux Falls last season: WR James Terry, LB Brian McIntire, DB Jovan Jackson, DB T.J. Simmons.

The Titans struck a deal with the Storm on Dec. 16, sending DE Jeremiah Price and DB Marcielle Surrell to Sioux Falls in exchange for Terry and Jackson.

The deal made quite a splash at the time, but has only seen mixed results on the field. While Jackson has performed well, Terry has been a major disappointment (4 rec., 14 yds, TD) in Cedar Rapids. It's not that he's not still a really good receiver, but with JT still living/working in Sioux Falls full-time, the six-hour commute has made things difficult.

With that said, Terry's much-anticpated return to the Storm Shelter isn't going to happen, at least not yet. Despite the fact that this game is in Sioux Falls, Terry's name does not appear on the Titans 21-man roster. That means he will not play on Sunday. Sorry to disappoint you.

While I'm at it, McIntire will also be missing. He hurt his knee--early reports were torn ACL and MCL-- in last week's win over the Chicago Slaughter. He's done for the season.

My Best Guess

Now that I've all but destroyed our "happy homecoming" storyline, I think we have to consider this game for what it is. Aside from the new name and a couple familiar faces, Cedar Rapids seems an awful lot like the LaCrosse team we saw last season. The Storm won that game 77-10.  I don't see this one playing out much differently.

The Titans two wins are against teams with a combined record of 3-6, and they're averaging an IFL-worst 32 points per game. Their defense is formidable (39 ppg), but you have to consider the competition. The toughest test to date resulted in a 64-12 loss at Green Bay on Mar. 9.

My Pick: Storm 74, Cedar Rapids 20

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