THE SECOND ACT: Rampage set to return to field after 21-month hiatus

WEBSTER CITY – Twenty-one months after it disbanded, the Midwest Rampage will rise from the ashes and get back to work on the gridiron this Saturday at the Webster City High School.

The Rampage didn’t expect to return after it closed up shop in July of 2012, but the itch to play quickly crept up on many of the veterans and a slew of familiar faces return to the fold.

With a roster of 28 players, the Rampage (0-0) will kick-off the 2014 season against the Eastern Iowa Liberty (3-3) at 2 p.m. There is no admission charge.

“We’re all very excited to get back out there,” Rampage spokesman and veteran middle linebacker John Elkin said. “We’ve been practicing now for two months and it’s time to play a game.”

Members of the Southern Plains Football League, the Rampage are making the switch from 11-man to 9-man football this season. The field will still be 100 yards in length, but will be narrowed to 40 yards, similar to a prep 8-man field.

Has the shift been difficult to grasp? Elkin says no.

“Obviously we haven’t played a game yet, but the transition hasn’t been hard at all,” he said. “Nine-man was just a better fit for us because we’ve got a smaller roster now than we’ve had in the past and our league is actually a better fit for us because there’s less travel.”

A total of 19 former Rampage players are back, including local veterans Dan Schaa, Tyler and Cody Mosbach, Ross Haren, Caleb Bonjour, Corey Stuhr, Brian Miller and Travis Hurt.

Matt Girdley takes over as the head coach and offensive coordinator. The coach of the Burlington Express in 2013, Girdley is a native of Fort Dodge and played alongside several of the Ramage players with the Manson Eagles in 2008.

Girdley also brought along several players from the Express, including quarterback Tyler Kibbee. Kibbee played college football at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, as did Rampage team member Nick Plueger, who led the nation in tackles two years ago as a senior at BVU.

Plueger and Haren will share the backfield responsibilities.

Elkin says his hope is that the Rampage will bring enjoyment to the community.

“We’re bringing football back to Webster City and all of our home games, including the playoffs, will be free admittance,” he said. “We’re just providing another event for fans that enjoy the sport and it’s free.”