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Grand Rapids game a battle of unbeatens

By JOHN C. COTEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 22, 2001


Running their records to 5-0 with wins against Detroit and Chicago, respectively, last weekend, Tampa Bay and Grand Rapids set up the Arena League's game of the year. The league's unbeatens square off at 3 p.m. Sunday on TNN.

"There's only two unbeaten teams left, and we have been pointing to this game for some time," Rampage quarterback Clint Dolezel told the Grand Rapids Press.

The Rampage is coming off a 54-52 victory Saturday against expansion Chicago in which it needed a last-second field goal by Brian Gowins.

The game was another close one for a team that is living off narrow escapes. It has beaten Indiana 60-59 in overtime, Milwaukee 50-42 and Carolina 41-38.

"Maybe we had the thought of playing Tampa Bay in the back of our heads (against Chicago)," Dolezel said.

Tampa Bay has not had the same trouble. It held Detroit to zero points in the second half in winning 41-14 Saturday, and it has won its past three games by an average of 28.

Storm coach Tim Marcum said he plans on staying away from overhyping the game.

"I tell you what I'm not going to do. I'm not going to make this the ArenaBowl championship," Marcum said. "We'll prepare for it like it's a regular game. There's a lot of football to be played.

"But this is good for the league right now, to have a national TV game with the two undefeated teams."

CLINT BACK: Dolezel was one of the league's best quarterbacks in 1998 and '99, throwing for 161 touchdowns. But in 2000, he spent the season on the practice squad of the Chicago Bears because of a tip from Marcum to friend and then-Bears player personnel director Mark Hatley.

"I tried (to get him out of the league)," Marcum joked.

YES, SIR: Sir Mawn Wilson missed eight months with a hamstring injury suffered in camp with the New England Patriots in 1999, and when he made his comeback last year with the Storm, it didn't take long for Wilson to re-injure the hamstring.

One play, actually.

So it is with renewed enthusiasm that Wilson quickly is becoming one of the Storm's most valuable defenders this season. He has returned two fumbles for touchdowns and has caught a touchdown pass on offense.

"Something had got into him," Marcum said. "The son of a gun is running down, picking balls up, leaping tall buildings in a single bound. He hasn't been the bravest of hearts, to tell you the truth, but he's letting it all go now."

Tenativeness because of the hamstring seems to have evaporated. Wilson made huge hits on kick returner Robert Gordon twice last week, once for what appeared to be a safety but was ruled at the Fury 1-yard line, and he recovered a fumble in addition to the one he ran back for a score.

WOW: Quarterback John Kaleo threw for 141 yards. Receiver James Bowden had two catches for 22 yards. Fullback Andre Bowden rushed for 10 yards. And the Storm wins 41-14?

"That's something," Marcum said, adding that he doesn't recall one of his teams posting a second-half shutout or winning so decisively with such unimpressive statistics.

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