Chicago Rush Ground Iowa Barnstormers; AFL Reaches 1,000,000 Fans for 2011

The Chicago Rush recovered from a disastrous first quarter against the Iowa Barnstormers on June 26 to win 58-48 in front of 9,063 home fans, including the one millionth fan to attend an Arena Football League game in 2011.

Rookie quarterback Dominic Randolph connected with wide receiver Charles Dillon for the Chicago Rush’s (10-4) first touchdown of the game with 11:47 left in the first quarter, and teddy bears rained down from the stands as fans supported the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago in the Teddy Bear Toss for the Red Cross.

That was the last warm and fuzzy moment of the first quarter for the Rush. For the next 17 minutes or so, virtually everything that could go wrong for Chicago did.

Trailing 13-7, the Rush appeared poised to tie the score from two yards out, but just before fullback Johnie Kirtoncrossed the goal line, Iowa DL Charles Johnson punched the ball out of Kirton’s hands, and the fumble was recovered by Barnstormers DL Brent Curvey. Quarterback Bryan Lee-Lauduski moved Iowa down the field and hit Jesse Schmidt in the end zone for the second of three first-quarter touchdown connections to put the Barnstormers (3-11) up 20-7.

On the ensuing kickoff by Nich Pertuit, the ball bounced off the crossbar and sailed out to near midfield. Since most of the Rush were down near the goal line in preparation for a kickoff return, it was easy pickings for Iowa DB Chris Felder to recover. A few plays later, and Lee-Lauduski hit Schmidt again in the end zone to make it 27-7.

Somewhere in all of that chaos, Rush defensive back Vic Hall, who leads the Arena Football League in interceptions and tackles, aggravated his turf toe, causing him to miss the rest of the game. As a result, JLB Kelvin Morris moved over to play defense back and wide receiver Derek Lee doubled as jack linebacker for the remainder of the contest.

Wide receiver Reggie Gray was also banged up on a play and staggered off the field. The Rush were already without starting quarterback Russ Michna and 2010 AFL Kicker of the Year Chris Gould in this game due to injuries.

That’s when the Chicago defense got angry. And you wouldn’t like them when they’re angry.

After the Rush opened the second quarter with a touchdown to close the gap to 27-14, the defense stopped the Barnstormers on downs on Iowa’s next drive. After Iowa defensive back Cameron McGlenn intercepted Randolph, Morris intercepted the ball right back. Chicago scored another touchdown to trail 27-20, and Jeremy Geathers and Marcus Waugh executed back-to-back sacks on Lee-Lauduski for another defensive stop on downs on Iowa’s next possession.

Chicago scored again in the second quarter to tie things up at 27-27, and Martin Parker smothered Lee-Lauduski for another sack to end the half, shutting the Barnstormers out in the second quarter.

The Rush used the opening possession of the second half to score again and take the lead, 34-27. On Iowa’s next possession, Morris intercepted Lee-Lauduski for a second time, returning this one 36 yards to the Iowa 13-yard-line. Randolph hit Gray–who had returned from his injury earlier in the game–for a touchdown to put Chicago up 40-27. That remained the score as the third quarter closed with the Rush defense shutting the Barnstormers out for the second consecutive quarter.

After an Iowa touchdown to start the fourth quarter, Jason Simpson lost the handle on the ensuing kickoff, and the Barnstormers struck again for another touchdown to suddenly take a 41-40 lead.

But Gray broke the Barnstormers’ backs by returning back-to-back kickoffs for touchdowns in the fourth quarter–one for 57 yards and one for 55 yards.

Waugh intercepted Lee-Lauduski to kill another Iowa drive late in the quarter, and the game clock expired with Waugh and Lee blasting Lee-Lauduski at the goal line to prevent a touchdown on fourth and goal.

Simpson led the defensive attack with eight tackles, two assists, and three pass break-ups, while fellow defensive back Justin Hannah was right on his heels with seven tackles, two assists, and two pass break-ups. Defensive Player of the Game Morris finished with six tackles, one for a loss, one assist, and his two interceptions. Waugh tallied three tackles, two assists, a sack, and a pick. As Offensive Player of the Game, Dillon racked up 10 receptions for 104 yards and two scores.

Lee-Lauduski threw for 355 yards and six touchdowns but suffered three interceptions and five sacks on the day. Wide receiver Marquis Hamilton had 11 receptions for 122 yards and a score, while Schmidt tallied 11 receptions for 109 yards and his three touchdowns in the first quarter.

Chicago maintains a one-game lead over the Dallas Vigilantes (9-5) in the Central Division and hosts the surging Utah Blaze (7-7) on Friday, July 1.

Iowa returns home to host the division rival Tulsa Talons (6-8) on Friday, July 1.

Who has the coolest uniforms in the Central Division? The Chicago Rush? The Iowa Barnstormers? Go to Area 44 to cast your vote!